Many who know me - either through this blog or personally - know that I've been spending some time recently thinking about careers, personal visions / brands, etc. and what directions I should be driving my own career in. Part of the thought process revolves around values. An ideal career should be centered on personal passions and values, and personal values should also line up with any corporate values in the organization. Your values define the way you work and are part of your belief system. Knowing your values is crucial for making career decisions, because it helps you recognize whether you and a particular position or organization would make a good match.
I don't think most people ever bother to think about what their values are - you can certainly have a successful career without ever documenting them, but I have found it interesting to dig into mine.
I've learned that one of the best way of learning what your values are (sometimes values are so ingrained that you can miss them) is to pay attention to what pisses you off - chances are that if something bugs you, that it is violating one of your values. For example, I am extremely annoyed by unfair situations (whether it's a bad referee or an improper award doesn't matter). I'm also bothered by people who are unaccountable for their actions. Looking from the other direction tells me that fairness and accountability are important values to me - and they are.
Now that I've been paying attention to things I value, I notice some of my other values in different contexts. Last week, I was discussing management issues with a colleague, and he gave me some advice: he told me that I should spend more time trying to get meetings with high level test managers across the company. He said I didn't really need an agenda, just an excuse to meet with them so they would know who I was. While I understand that "playing the political game"' can be important sometimes, this didn't seem like a good use of my time. My only real annoyance in this situation, however, was that my colleague didn't realize that I have more connections with senior test managers than just about anyone else at the company. However, what I learned about my values while thinking about this conversation was that one of the biggest things I value is accomplishments, whereas my colleague valued connections. I take an immense amount of pride in taking on hard problems and coming up with solutions. I like to get things done - it's a big part of who I am, and something that drives me.
Different people, obviously, have different values. For me, understanding my own core values has already done a lot to help me focus on my own projects and career plans.