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Turn Your Job Into a Values-Driven Career

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Sunday, February 7th, 2016
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You want a career that reflects your good impulses, one that will impart a legacy of caring and values-driven work. Maybe you’re a restaurant manager who wants to organize food drives, or a senior executive who hopes to spearhead a mentoring program for junior employees. Or maybe you simply want to ensure that your company shares your value system—and if it doesn’t, you’re willing to shift to something entirely new. But how? Sean Harvey, founder of New York’s Values-Driven Careers Consulting, explains how to align your values with your career in six purposeful—but not always speedy—steps.

“Don’t rush the process when you’re trying to make a change. Be aware of your impatience. I always ask clients: ‘Are you running away from a job or running toward a new one? Are you trying to escape or intentionally moving in the direction of something new that uses your talents and gifts?’”

If you’re ready to make a deliberate, values-driven shift, here’s how:

Step 1: Clarify your values and intentions. “What do you see as your professional purpose? What impact do you want to make in line with that purpose?” he asks. Then ask whether your job is moving you in that direction.

Step 2: Make the connections to move toward that vision. “What sort of projects, relationships or connections can you make to drive you toward the impact you hope to have?” he asks. Think about the kinds of projects you could take on that might be out of your current scope but could showcase “the essence of you,” he says.

Step 3: Look beyond your office. Not everyone is going to fulfill values during their day job. Harvey encourages clients to “tell a different narrative outside of work that complements what you do,” such as a side business that speaks to their passions, whether that means tutoring or running for charity. Many of his clients have “survival jobs”—those that pay the bills—coupled with outside missions that speak to their heart.

Step 4: Think incrementally. You’re not going to begin living your values through work overnight, and it’s easy to get discouraged. Many of Harvey’s clients take up to two years to make a shift, whether that means leaving their jobs entirely to start something new or integrating a secondary passion with their permanent career. “People tend to want that ‘value career’ instantly, but they’re not ready in terms of schooling, education, experience or networking,” he cautions, such as his client who shifted from a legal career to become a running coach.

Step 5. Be humble. Think about how you’re communicating your story and message; start small, by attending committees, seminars, or workshops. I encourage my clients to let go of that perfectionism,” Harvey says. He uses the example of a banker who wants to run a nonprofit for developmentally challenged children. “Do some real thought-provoking assessments of where you are in your journey. Ask people questions about how they got there. Use your network as a sounding board. Be open to answers. Ask people for help. Start small.”

Step 6. Be true to yourself. In some cases, you might be trying to escape a job that’s not a fit due to a sleazy CEO or a corrosive corporate culture. “Make sure you’re running toward a new goal and not away from something else,” Harvey insists. If you do need to keep that “survival job” and want to confront a wrong-headed policy, leave emotion out of it. “State matter-of-factly, ‘I hear what you say, but I disagree for the following reasons,’” Harvey says. “Some leaders may not be aware that what they’re asking for is really a conflict.” Ultimately, though, if you’re feeling resentful due to a values gap, the anger will creep into your work nonetheless. “You’ll be leaving one way or another anyway,” Harvey says. Best to pave the way with the steps above.

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