Research Paper By Isabel Monreal Pinaud
(Life and Career Coach for Students, CHINA)
The importance of values clarification in student career coaching
Milton Rokeach (1973) defined a value as
an enduring belief that a specific mode of conduct or end-state of existence is personally or socially preferable to an opposite or converse mode of conduct or end-state of existence.
Values are who we are, not who we want to be or who we think that we should be. They are the things that are important to us, the foundation of our lives. They are profoundly held principles that guide our different choices and behaviours and influence our emotions. When our values are regularly honoured, we experience higher levels of happiness, purpose and satisfaction.
Students are asked at a young age to make crucially important decisions about their future, choosing majors and career paths. Yet they often do not have the self-knowledge and experience of the professional world to make such choices. Using core values to take these important decisions gives the young people more certainty that the path that they have chosen will be good for them and that succeeding in the envisaged studies and getting their dream job will give them happiness and fulfilment.
It is not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are. Roy Disney
Values serve as a basis for establishing life goals and are considered as critical factors in guiding career choices and work life. Values are addressed in major theories of vocational psychology, including work values in Super’s lifespan, lifespace theory (1957), Martin Katz (1969) theory of career choice based on values, Holland’s (1997) RIASEC personality types, in the theory of work adjustment (Dawis & Lofquist, 1984) and in Lent, Brown and Hackett’s social cognitive career theory (1994) to name a few.
From the theorists cited above, the following can be gathered:
- the values held by individuals are the sole criterion or at least one important criterion for making informed career choices
- the values of individuals are influenced by or interact with a number of variables, including culture, self-efficacy, needs, interests and stage of development (i.e., crystallisation of the values)
- it is possible to relate values to specific occupations and work environments.
- It is possible to make individuals aware of their values and to assist them to prioritise them.
Someone with core values of creativity and challenge may seek out a company with the value of innovation, others with strong values of justice, fairness and equality may envisage careers in law, law enforcement or perhaps human rights organisations. Those for whom learning and development are important values may choose a career in education, coaching or mentoring.
“Work in or create an organisation whose values align to yours and you will thrive, not just survive”
When choosing a career it is essential to understand the fit between an organisation’s values and the coachee’s values to ensure that it will provide an environment in which he/she will thrive and not one in which they will struggle to survive. However it is not always easy to know if an organisation with a defined set of organisational core values is actually honouring them in its culture, systems and processes and in the behaviours of its staff.
The process of understanding our values is difficult for all and in particular for students who rarely know themselves well. Therefore coaching can be beneficial for values clarification, the coach asking questions and providing scenarios, allowing clients to examine and articulate their values in a safe and encouraging space. Putting values at the centre of the student career coaching process is an effective way of achieving results and will make a positive difference to students throughout their lives. For instance values will provide clarity and self-awareness which is useful in the interviewing process for universities and jobs but also later on in life, values will also help them set their goals, manage their emotions, make decisions and take action.
As coaches, the key challenge for us is to help those we coach to understand and live by their core values in order to achieve the happiness and success that is right for them. Lindsay West
Below we will examine ways to explore values with the clients as well as how to guide them in the prioritisation process, this process is extracted from the book Coaching with values from Lindsay West and Co-active coaching (3rd ed) 2011 by Henry Kimsey-House, Karen Kimsey-House and Philip Sandahl. Finally an example of a structured career values workshop for a group of students will be presented, as explained by Michael Staub in A Values Clarification Workshop for Undergraduate and Graduate Students. It is based on Keller’s (2009) model of a value-exploration workshop for undergraduate and graduate students and incorporates Brown and Ryan Krane’s (2000) five critical components for a successful career intervention.
This technique explores a person’s values using a coaching questioning process. It will enable the student to establish his/her 10 top core values. Ask the client to think about each aspect of their life (you can use the wheel of life if necessary) and ask the following questions, digging deeper each time. It is important to reveal the deepest layer of values. Ask the client to choose the word that resonates the most with him/her and is the most meaningful. The client should clarify what is the most important for them to be happy, not something that they aspire to or something that they feel socially obliged to be.
Powerful questions to help values clarification include:
What do you value in …..relationships, at school/university, … etc
What does …. money/health… give you?
What is important in this aspect of your life?
What does doing this hobby/activity give you?
What is important about it to you?
Are there any other aspects of your life that you would like to focus on that may give us some other values?
Another way of helping students reveal their values is by asking them about defining moments and significant experience in their past, experiences that they found particularly rich and fulfilling. This can be a little less abstract for younger people who do not know themselves that well.
What are the highlights of your life, times when you felt particularly well?
Describe them to me
What was happening? Who was there?
What were the values that were being honoured in that moment….. and what else ..?
Negative emotions often reveal values which have not been honoured. Look at times when the client was angry, frustrated or upset. Point out to the coach that upset moments or moments of distress are likely to signal that a value is being suppressed. This is often useful when working with a client with low self esteem.
What are some particularly difficult times that you have experienced in your life?
What made you/makes you angry/sad/frustrated?
Always encourage your client to find the positive opposite value.
Help the client select the final top 10 values.
Which of these values resonates most with you? Which is the stronger word?
Another way of understanding values is by using a pre-defined list of values to choose from which makes it quicker than the questioning technique. Ask the client to select the values which resonate the most with them.
Which of these values are most important to you?
Which words resonate most with you?
Consider if that value was missing how much would that matter?
Consider how fundamental each value is to your happiness and fulfilment
When the client has identified around 15 values then ask them to select their core 10, the most important from the ones selected.
Visualisation and comparison
Prioritisation given to values may vary over time and according to circumstances such as major life experiences and external influences.
In order to help the client to prioritise the 10 top values identified with one of the previous methods , list the 10 top values down the left hand side of A4 page.
Then tell the client to visualise himself at a train station with two pieces of luggage in front of him/her. Tell the client that you will tell him/her which labels are on each piece of luggage and that he/she must choose which luggage they want to have with themselves on their journey. The train is about to leave so they must choose fast.
One piece of luggage says (insert first value) the other piece of luggage (insert second value) which do you really want to have on your journey?
Mark the one that they choose.
Then read out the first value with the third value and ask them to choose and mark down the answer.
Then read first with fourth value and so on down the list. Then compare the other values following the same process with second and fourth, second and fifth and so on.
Number the values win priority 1-10 so the one with the highest tally that was chosen the most is the number one priority. Rewrite the list following the priorities identified. Ask the client to reflect on them.
“Post it” method
Write each value on a post it note. Ask the client to arrange the post it notes vertically down an A4 page and rearrange them into an order with the most important value at the top of the page to the least important at the bottom of the page.
Rewrite the list following the priorities identified and ask the client to reflect on them.
Once the student has identified and prioritised his/her values they can refer back to them when they undertake their career decision-making later on in the coaching process and see if they think that their occupational choice will honour these values. Also they must examine if some values will not be honoured but could be honoured outside of the workplace. They must also see if their career choice goes against some of their values. How does that make them feel?
A values clarification workshop for undergraduate and graduate students in a group setting
Students must choose a major, identify career fields, learn job search and interview skills. Generally the coaching career process looks at values, interests, personality and skills. Greater knowledge of the student’s values helps them reach greater clarity of his or her vocational self-concept and career options.
The workshop is designed for students who are seeking assistance with self-exploration and career decision-making. It is a series of self-exploration exercises designed to teach students how to incorporate work values into making career choices. It is important to specify that it is not for students seeking job search training skills (i.e. resume writing, using online job search tools, etc).
Participants are requested to complete quantitative values and vocational interest assessments before the 1st session. These include :
- the Minnesota Importance Questionnaire( Round’s henry, Dawis, Lofquiest and Weiss, 1981)
- Super’s Work Values Inventory - revised (Zytowski, 2006)
- Values scale (Nevill and Super, 1986)
- computer assisted career guidance system such as DISCOVER and SIGI.
- Self directed search (SDS: Holland, Fritzsche and Powell)
Introduction of the facilitator and participants.
Discussion about the importance of maintaining a safe and confidential space throughout the workshop. It is also helpful to incorporate an ice-breaker, establish an online discussion board to be used throughout the four sessions and to encourage the students to share their reactions to the different exercises .
The coach discusses the goal of the workshop, students share their goals and they are written down on a board. Results-oriented questions can be asked such as “What will you think or do differently at the end of this workshop?”
Students engage in a discussion on what career values are. Keller (2009) defined a value as “a principle, standard or quality regarded as worthwhile or desirable”. Some examples of work values can be provided such as “helping others” “job security” “creativity’ “working alone” and “variety in work”. Distinguish values from interests and skills by describing interests as “activities that you enjoy”, skills as “activities that you do well”.
Then an activity to determine a qualitative assessment of work values is undertaken. Work value cards are placed in a basket and students are asked to randomly choose 5 cards. Then in groups of 4 or 5, students barter their value cards with each other until each participant’s values are consistent with his or her own values. Each student also has 2 blank cards to write down values that are missing. Participants can barter one more time with the missing values. Participants can then share their reactions to the process, identify values that were negotiable and which were non negotiable and how their values changed as they listened to others. They then rank their values from least to most important.
- students describe their work history and internships.
- they indicate values that were and were not fulfilled by these jobs
- they also reflect on the degree of satisfaction with each of the jobs.
Students share reactions and ask questions about session 1 and share results of their homework. The facilitator focuses on the values associated with previous jobs in relation to the degree of job satisfaction and how this can be applied to their current career exploration goals.
A group interpretation of the quantitative values instrument follows. Students prioritise the top five values obtained from the assessment process and write them in a column, then the top 5 values obtained during session 1 in a second column. Areas of overlap are noted and once again students prioritise their values, obtaining a list of 5 to 10 values.
The facilitator provides a group interpretation of the vocational interests assessment.
Then each RIASEC theme is written on large block paper along with corresponding activities, typical occupations and work values. RIASEC themes are Realistic/Investigative/Artistic/Social/Enterprising/Conventional. For further information see Holland’s RIASEC model
The 6 pieces of block paper are placed at different locations around the room and participants are asked to move to the area of the room that contains their primary Holland code.
Students are given a few minutes to talk about how the values and interests are or not consistent with their self concept. Students who believe that the Holland derived theme is not an accurate representation of their interests my move to a different theme. This process is repeated for the second and third theme. The facilitator stresses how values and interests are related yet separate and when assessed together provide a rich representation of how individuals seek out particular work environments.
Finally the facilitator talks about finding occupational information through the O*NET online database for instance which provides values associated with specific jobs and RIASEC types for hundreds of occupations.
- students identify 5 occupations that match their vocational interests assessment results and research the jobs using O*NET. The students should note the knowledge, skills, job values, interests and work tasks for their occupations and consider to which extent their values may be met from each job.
- students should also imagine whether they would be satisfied by the job based on the information presented.
The students begin by sharing insights from the homework activity in small group settings including any challenges experienced.
2 exercises during session 3
- exploring how non work activities can fulfil values
- understanding the role of informational interviews and networking with professionals in the career exploration process
Students can pair off to practice informational interviews.
Homework: students conduct several informational interviews to learn about the job characteristics (values/tasks/people) that are associated with a particular career field.
In this final workshop, students review the homework assignment and talk about their reactions to conducting informal interviews. They share successes and challenges. The workshop concludes by discussing learning outcomes, disseminating additional resources to gather occupational information, planning next steps.
Students are encouraged to break into small groups to discuss what they discovered about themselves and the world of work as a result of the workshop. “Do I have a clearer understanding of my work values” “Do I know how work values are related to career choices?”
We have seen the pivotal role that values clarification plays in the career coaching process for students whether it is during individual coaching sessions or in a group workshop. Values represent the person’s unique and individual essence. They serve as a compass pointing out what is meant to be true to them. The more the clients are clear about their values the easier it is for them to choose their future study path and career and the more fulfilling their future lives will be. However it is important to keep in mind that they should not be considered in isolation, personality type, interests, skills and aptitudes are other traits which should also be considered and need to be part of the student career coaching process.
The role of values in careers. Mark Pope, Lisa Y. Flores and Patrick J. Rottinghaus
The role of values in career choice and development. JoAnn Harris-Bowlsbey
Coaching with values. Lindsay West.
Coaching with values, Lindsay West.
A values clarification workshop for undergraduate and graduate students. Michael Schaub