You can tell a lot about an organization by their values. The best matches are made when values align. If you are career searching, and are looking for meaningful work, there is no better place to start than by identifying your core values. Would you rather deliver exceptional work or is it more important to reach the project deadline? While a simple statement, it can radically change your employment experience from one that feels good to an everyday battle. Life is better when your personal values mesh with your company’s. If you value self-actualization, you might not fit into a traditionalist company. If you value fun, a team who focuses on rigor and long hours won’t be your dream position. Fear not if you don’t find a 100% match but rather a fierce complement; the strongest teams are built on diversity. Each unique mindset brings different experience. Abl Schools intentionally seeks a wide range of diverse backgrounds to make sure multiple viewpoints are represented in the product.  

To identify your values, grab a piece of paper and 10 minutes of time. What makes you happiest? What “drives” your work? How do you hit your “flow”? What work and personal accomplishments are you the most proud of? How are you most satisfied? For each of these questions, identify in both your career and personal life what you are doing and who you are with when you experience them. What other factors are present? If your proudest moment wasn’t the time you received some amazing award for a project you poured sweat equity into, and instead it was the recognition your team received for a small project everyone worked together on, guess what - you’ve just identified a key value. Perhaps teamwork matters to you over competitiveness or being the best.

Try to identify 5-10 core values in no particular order, combining any that go together easily (independence and fun could be adventurousness!). Now prioritize them. Focus on your first two. In choosing between challenge and support for example, would you go your own to do something no one else has ever accomplished, or would you seek stability in smaller challenges that keep you close to your network? Compare each one until you have them in a priority order.Do the highest values make you proud? Would you stand by them even if you were in the minority? You’ve found them if the answers to both questions are “yes.” Adjust as necessary.

Your first four or five values are the ones you’re going to want to prioritize in looking for a good organizational fit. Different companies will look slightly different with the same values, and similar companies may choose different values. You can also read a lot into a company based on how they present their values. Dropbox has five values, mostly centered on teamwork and work quality, but the fifth is a picture of a cupcake. Everyone loves cupcakes - but what does it mean? It represents a fun office. This is so unique - we all love cupcakes and who doesn’t want fun - but just the graphic instead of words is indicate of how outside the box Dropbox thinks. That’s a very informal and super-creative atmosphere. You should know immediately from the way they speak whether you’d fit in there or not. At Thumbtack, a platform that builds local economies by connecting locals with tasks to complete with professionals seeking clients, one value is “Go!” and two others are “[k]now our customer” “[m]ake each other better.”

Now that you’ve identified your core values, you’ll have a clearer sense of your direction and at which companies you truly belong and can provide value to - and don’t forget, you want a good match because the right company builds you as much as you build their product.