top of page

Define your values first. Or you may be the person having expensive lunch. (my true story!)

When I was 23 I took a job at a for-profit college. I had a fancy job title, and a nice large office. I wore a suit everyday and took lunches out at restaurants with my friends. The lunches were at the kind of places I really should have been avoiding, because if I had any sense of a budget I would have known I was not making enough money to eat out like that everyday. But it was just what everybody did - so I went along and did it too. It seemed fun - but honestly I was usually still hungry when I got back to the office and didn't want to think about the charge on my back account.

The salary of the job was good for a 23 year old with a new college degree. AND there were promises of paid vacations to exotic islands when I "enrolled" (i.e. sold) enough students.

As my dad would say, "Is the juice worth the squeeze?" Quickly I discovered the answer was a big no.

I lasted all of six months before giving my notice.

What was up with that?

If we don't first define and understand what we value we may likely end up at an unexpected or unpleasant destination.

I have now had 11 years to reflect on that time in my life. The reasoning I keep coming back to is that while the perks pulled me in at first the job was not aligned with my values. And that was the part that would never add up.

There is a current findings that young adults are moving between jobs and other employment more than their parents or grandparents ever did. One finding even discussed that 60% of millennials are open to considering new jobs. It appears that as we look at millennials as a group we see a generation that as a whole is less tied to a particular industry or company when we compare them to the generations that came before them.

So what is this about? I have worked with hundreds of young adults through teaching, clinical work, research, and community service. All of these people are at various stages in getting to know themselves, differentiating from their families, and setting out in the world on their own. I do not believe there is a single answer to why we see millennials moving about and trying on new jobs.

One answer I do come back to though is similar to my own journey. Defining our values helps us find work and fulfillment that is true to who we are and how we want to impact the world.

It took me working a job in sales to know that I wanted something else, more in line with my values. Could it be that young adults are exposed to so many ideas, and so much input that it is even more of a challenge to sort out those values? I do not have a satisfactory answer for that last question. Seems like a good research project someone should take on...

What I do know is that taking some time to define your values can be an immense step forward in clarifying our professional and personal directions in life. We need a set of values so that we know if the life map we are creating is consistent with who we are and how we want to leave an impact on the world.

Defining values starts with reflection.

What do we love? How do we want others to see us? How do we want to feel about ourselves when we finish a work day or when we interact with other people?

For a short time I wanted people to see me as the guy with the fancy suit and the nice lunches. That wasn't really me. It didn't last long.

I clarified and recognized I wanted a career that was enriching to the lives of others. So defining that goal helped me sort out how to get involved in a helping profession.

Defining our values involves getting feedback.

Who knows you well and can give you feedback about your ideas and choices? Who can get honest with about your ideas and goals? I believe we need someone who can really give us gut level feedback about where they see us heading and if that seems like a fit for who we are as people.

Defining and REFINING our values are two different things.

Guess what? We don't always get it right the first time. And I would add, if we believe we got it right the first time we may be tricking ourselves. It is ok if you set on one path and then take a look around and realize it is not where we want to be. Life is like that. We need to define and refine. A person who is 25 is not going to see the world the same way as a 65 year old.

So here are the take-aways my friends.

Define your values

Explore those values to see how they fit with who you are and who you want to become.

How do you want to serve the world to make it a better place?

Get feedback from someone you trust.

Be willing to regroup and change course.

It's more about process - not product.

Be in touch if I can offer any support



bottom of page