Personal Core Values

Have you ever heard this sentence: “We liked you a lot, but we just don’t think you’re the right fit for our company.”   Odds are high that the recruiter / hiring manager making that statement is referring to their view of how well you might fit within their company culture.  While many times this reason may be a catch all bucket disguising other assessments, many companies define their culture with organizational values, and the individual may not think you quite line up with them.  Words like:  integrity, innovation, accountability, creativity, etc., with associated phrases defining them, are used as organizational values.

As part of the process to ensure you’re the right “fit” with a company, you should be aware of what your personal core values are and then link them to the organizational values of the company with whom you’re interviewing.  Personal core values are words / phrases that are foundational and fundamental to your belief system.  Ideally, these core values guide you when making decisions and help govern your behavior.  

I’d suggest using Scripture to help you establish your core values. I believe the Bible is the source of all truth, and many verses can help us shape our core values.  Proverbs 4:23 tells “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.”  I believe establishing and using personal core values when making decisions is essential to shaping your character, and as a Christian, helps you stay grounded on Biblical principles that you want to use as filters for your worldview.  Within the Crossroads framework, you’ll find more about this is Step 2, Aptitude.

Core values are different than your needs, wants, behaviors, and beliefs.  I’d suggest that they not be too broad (i.e. health, family, faith, etc.), and that you give yourself some time to develop, refine, and define them.  I’ve revised mine several times, and I found that the more I worked on them, the easier it became to settle into the five words / phrases that help define who I am (character).   For example, one of my values is authenticity – being real all the time.  Another is stewardship – paying blessings forward.   

Here’s an exercise that can help you get started. With a friend or two, give yourselves 60 seconds and write down all the words you can think of that might serve as core values.   When that timeframe ends, each of you share with the other the words you wrote down, and if you hear a good word you like from your friend, write that one down for yourself. Ideally, over a week or so, capture as many words as you can, and then narrow the list down to 3-7 words.   After that, write down some brief phrases to define the word in a way that works for you.  

Knowing who we are at our core helps us determine our “fit.”   Know your core values will also give you more confidence to be diligently seeking an organization that fits you, not just waiting to hear from someone else as to whether you fit it.  

Dave Sparkman currently serves as the volunteer Crossroads Career board chair and local ministry leader. He is also the founder and managing director of Spark Your Culture, a corporate culture consulting firm. Prior to that he worked at UnitedHealth Group, a Fortune #5 public company, serving in the role of Chief Culture Officer. His unemployment experience came from the implosion of Arthur Andersen, where he served as the West Region Managing Partner, People.

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