Defining Your Core Values


I’ve been at my current in-house role for six months and recently I started thinking about my core values. But what are they? At the heart of every company are core values, that pinpoint what matters most to the company, which defines how they run the business.

Core values aren’t just for organizations. Everyone has them, and they can go by other names such as “morals”, “principles”, or “standards”. It’s all in the same family. As freelancer, my values were a lot less apparent, because I was living and working by them every day without any resistance from coworkers or managers. Since I’ve become an in-house designer, I’ve come to realize that values play a really important role in how good a fit you are and how happy you will be at said company. When the values aren’t aligned is when you start to feel unfulfilled at work.

To avoid feeling unfulfilled,  you must be honest with yourself and upfront with what you stand for. When you’re at the initial interview, it’s not a one sided “please oh please accept me because I need a job, any job, so that I can make rent”  situation. A lot of people feel that they have to sit there and say whatever they think the employer wants to hear to convince them that they are worthy of the job, when in fact it should be more like a first date. Both parties should be assessing the match, asking thoughtful questions to test the waters and see if it’s a mutually good fit.

Defining Your Core Values

So I did a little soul searching and I’ve thought about my past experiences both in-house and freelance and wrote down my own core values.

  • I thought about jobs I’ve had where I felt good and energized to come into work. I wrote down my title and my responsibilities and who I worked with on a regular basis.
  • I also thought about the jobs where I felt most unfulfilled. I wrote down the same information as well as any people or events in particular that really contributed to a negative experience.
  • Lastly I thought about all the clients I’ve worked with and wrote down the best and the most challenging. I thought about how we communicated, and what the expectations were, how much direction they gave etc.

After all that, I distilled each down to one or two words. For example:

” At [insert company name] I was a jr. designer. I worked under  [ insert manager] and I worked primarily on [insert key responsibilities], but sometimes I helped out on [insert other roles]. what I really liked about that job was that my manager took the time to really give me good feedback. I feel like I learned a lot from her, which gave me the tools I needed to move forward in my career“.

” At [insert company name] I was a production artist, working mostly by myself. I had an art director who checked in once a day, but I was pretty much left on my own to meet my deadlines. This job wasn’t very fulfilling because there wasn’t any creative freedom, nor did I feel like I was truly making a difference. On top of that, my deadlines were very difficult to make, which resulted in my staying late a lot and missing out on quality time at home.”

“While working with [ insert client name ], I felt stressed out all the time. This client would email me every day asking for new changes, which lead to a lot of extra work. I think the reason why I didn’t feel fulfilled working with this client was because the client did not trust me to provide them with the best solution, and thus art directed me into a corner. I lost my creative freedom and felt the lack of respect from the client for my time and my professional judgement.

” While working with [insert client name], I felt excited and happy to work with them. Not only were they equally  excited to be working with me, but they had a really great product and were passionate about what they did. They dedicated themselves to [insert value] and everything they did stemmed from that.”

Boiled down, that looks like this:


I spend a lot of time trying to develop new skills and mastering old ones. More than anything, I want to continue to grow as a designer and as a human being. I want to see new things, solve new challenges, and meet people that bring something positive to my life.

What this means for me is that I look for a job that wants to primarily hire within whenever new positions open up. I want to work with a team that is interested in collaborating, sharing what they know and contributes to the growth of their employees. This also means that I’m not a good fit in a place where little collaboration is had, where I’m expected to sit at my desk for 8 hours and just do the work in front of me, with little chance or time to learn new things.


I have come to really value being authentic with yourself and your customers. I want to practice what I preach and I believe companies should do the same. To me this means, being honest about what you value and living up to that. If a company truly values being environmentally conscious, but doesn’t make efforts to recycle their paper, buying eco-friendly inks, or installing occupancy sensors to save on energy, then they are just talking the talk.

What this means for me is that I look for a company that says they value their customer and always put their customers needs first, and they prove it by dedicating themselves to good customer experiences on their website or product and take feedback seriously.

Respect & Trust

I value working with people and companies that make me feel like I’m contributing and that my experience and insights are welcome. What this means for me is that I look for positions with responsibility. I like working with people that respect my talents and trust that I will come up with the best solution possible.


As a freelancer, you define your hours. If you want to work into the wee hours of the night and then sleep in, you can because it’s your own schedule. When you work In-house, your hours are defined. I value working in a place that values a healthy work/life balance. This means to me that they are flexible with your hours and don’t micromanage or impose strict rules about working 10-6. They might even allow you to work from home once in a while if you’re sick.

I encourage you to define your own core values so that you can align with others that have similar values. This exercise is really great when branding a client as well. If a company doesn’t know their core values, they can often lack direction or change it frequently.

Here are some other core values that you might adopt:

Users First
Risk Taking
Making Money
Meaningful Work
Excelling above the competition

For more ideas on core valueTake a look at this article on 15 companies and their core values.

  • Another GREAT one Loretta! Again, something I really need to define for myself. I loved your idea of going back to the role’s and responsibilities that you have had now and in the past to define your values. I will be trying this method out, that’s for sure!

    15 September, 2014 at 12:59 pm