Defining My Core Values

When we first addressed the idea of core values I admit that I was skeptical that they could be specifically defined and acted upon.  Although I knew that many companies have mission statements that define goals and values, it seemed as if too many of these statements contained standard values such as commitment to customers and respect towards employees.  In addition, like many others, I believed that I lived an ethical and respectful life[i], but failed to specifically identify why it was ethical.  At that point, I did not believe that I could identify certain absolutes that guided all of my decisions.  My ability to define my core values changed when I realized that core values are significantly different than mission statements and can have a broader range than trust, ethics and integrity.  Although those values are important to me, the core values exercises[ii] helped me not to select, but to identify Dedication, Commitment and Personal Responsibility; Challenge; Balance and “Pleasure, Play;”[iii] and Environmental Consciousness as the values that guide me on a daily basis[iv].

Dedication, Commitment and Personal Accountability[v]

I have been a member of a number of teams throughout my life.  On these teams, I have learned the importance of dedication, commitment and personal accountability.  In my opinion, nothing is more frustrating than having a team member commit to a task, only to back down at the last minute.  After experiencing this situation a number of times, I realized just how important commitment is to team success.  Similar to being caught in telling a lie, it only takes one incident of not showing up to break your teammates’ (or manager’s) trust.[vi] 

Although I was often not satisfied (and sometimes downright bored) at my last job before graduate school, I did my best to show 100% dedication and commitment to all of the tasks I was assigned.  I constantly reminded myself that the project was important to someone or else it would not have been assigned.  In addition I told myself that if I could successfully complete the tedious tasks, in the future my managers would keep my in mind when assigning more challenging, important, and visible tasks,[vii] and would be confident that I could be trusted to complete the assignments on time and to the best of my ability. 

Finally, I understand that I am completely responsible for my own actions.  I know that I have the ability to succeed in school so I make it a point to thoroughly prepare for each class.  This sometimes results in a lack of balance, but to me failure after inadequate preparation is worse than failure when I have tried my best. 

Challenge

In my educational and professional life I have found that I am more efficient, stimulated, and satisfied when I am challenged.  Between undergraduate and graduate school I was employed at two companies:  a now bankrupt consumer finance company, Titan, and a highly successful real estate development company, Novare Group.  Although I thoroughly enjoyed the industry and my coworkers at Novare, I preferred working at Titan for one reason:  constant challenge.  In February when I decided to leave Novare to attend BC, circumstances forced me to inform my manager earlier than I would have liked.  Although she was excited for me, I was disappointed that she stopped challenging me in anticipation of my departure.  Instead of the continuous learning and development that I had experienced, she altered my responsibilities to include activities such as binder making and photocopying.  In contrast, when I was at Titan, because we were struggling, I was continuously challenged to “put out fires” and to cut costs and create efficiencies.  Although I disliked the consumer finance industry, I was excited for work each day because I knew that my manager understood my desire to learn and would consistently engage me in new projects and challenges.

Balance and “Pleasure, Play”[viii]

My coworkers at Novare Group were extremely hard working and dedicated employees.  The company’s vision of revitalizing downtown areas in second-tier southeastern cities[ix] required constant improvement in the increasingly competitive real estate market.  Because of their desire to achieve the company’s vision, many of them frequently worked late.  In contrast, because I was not very busy towards the end of my employment, I was typically able to leave on time.  Although I respected the core values of the company and the intensity of its employees, I also realized how lucky I was to be able to have some time for myself.  Although their efforts were appreciated and rewarded, my opinion was that the rewards did not make up for the considerable family time that they missed.  As a child, my mother stayed home while my father worked.  Since my father rarely had to work late, we ate dinner as a family every night – a tradition that I have come to value and intend to pursue when I have a family of my own.  These first few weeks of school have reminded me of the importance of taking time for myself to relax and reflect.  I strongly believe that being able to walk away from my work at the end of the day, reflect and then return the next day makes me much more efficient and objective.  If I never step away I tend to miss mistakes I have made and become frustrated.  Being able to take a break or forget about work for a weekend rejuvenates me and allows me to refocus.  While I am not saying that I am not dedicated or that I never want to work late, a priority for me in my next job search will be to find a company and industry that encourages a work-life balance for all employees.

Environmental Consciousness

The last of my core values is one that is not traditional, but is something that is important to me.  Although I am not a hard core environmentalist, I try to avoid wasting resources because of the cost to me, the environment and society as a whole.  I am lucky to live in a country that is clean and safe and where access to food and clean water is easy.  As a result, I try to minimize my impact on the environment by conserving water and gas, trying not to waste food, and recycling whenever possible.  When I moved from New Hampshire to Atlanta, I was under the impression that recycling was a cultural norm.  Sadly, it appeared to me that recycling had not yet been adopted in Atlanta.  I was appalled by the newspapers, office papers, cans and bottles that my Titan coworkers threw in the trash without a second thought.  I couldn’t understand why, in a company was desperately trying to cut costs, nobody thought to print double sided.   In the year that I was there, I successfully converted one person to paper conservation in the midst of good natured teasing.  Now that I am back in New England, I am relieved by the recycling opportunities that are so common here.  Even though this is not a traditional core value, minimizing my impact on the environment is something that is important to me and is something that I plan on considering when evaluating the company and industry in which I choose to work. 

Conclusion

Completing the exercises showed me that my core values are not something that I consciously chose, but something that I have developed and identified through time.  Reflecting on my educational and professional experiences helped me to pinpoint when and how I realized what my core values are.  Now that I have explicitly defined these values I am much better prepared to search for a job, company, and career.  Although I have not yet developed a passion for a specific job or career path, defining my core values has allowed me to understand the types of careers, companies, and industries at which to look.  During job searches in the future, I plan to look not only at the job requirements and salary, but also at the alignment of a potential com



[i]  How (Un)Ethical are you?  M.R. Banaji, M.H. Bazerman, D. Chugh, HBR, December 2003.

[ii]  Identifying Personal Core Values (C. Carpenter, Southern Adventist University),    

     http://www2.bc.edu/~radinr/Administration/Core%20Values%20Exercise.doc, September 19, 2006.

[iii]  Ibid.

[iv]  Managing People and Organizations:  Core Values Slide #3, September 18, 2006.

[v]  Code of Professional Standards, Carroll Graduate School of Management, 2006.

[vi]  The High Cost of Lost Trust, Tony Simons, HBR, September, 2002, Reprint F0209A.

[vii]  Emotional Intelligence:  A New Hiring Criteria, E Noonan, Boston Globe, September 10, 2006.

[viii]  Identifying Personal Core Values (C. Carpenter, Southern Adventist University),    

       http://www2.bc.edu/~radinr/Administration/Core%20Values%20Exercise.doc, September 19, 2006.

[ix]  Novare Group 2005 Annual Report