Values in action

15 years into my career, I’m working very differently from how I was as a new grad. And yet now I can see that my values have informed both ways of working (there just wasn’t a Successful Graduate course to help me articulate them at the start). Let me use myself as an example.

As a grad, my dream job was being fundraising manager for a major performing arts company in my hometown. I had completed an arts degree and a business degree, and sought out volunteering opportunities in the offices of a range of local arts companies during my college holidays. Fundraising is challenging, and though I knew I had the right soft skills and attributes for this area, I naturally didn’t yet have the hard skills you can only gain through direct experience in this field.

So I was prepared to start in an administration job in any arts company…except there weren’t any available at the time. In the end, one of the companies I volunteered at offered me a part-time administration job, and I found ANOTHER part-time administration job in a smaller arts company. Ideal? Not really. A start? Absolutely!

Each day I’d work four hours at one office, then walk across the river to work four more hours in another office. I learnt a lot about how both workplaces operated, and only 6 months later, was offered a full-time fundraising assistant job in the larger organisation – because my employer had now had the opportunity to see I had the potential to learn all those job-specific skills. I was on my way.

What has this got to do with values? Well as a grad, what I really wanted was to gain as much experience as possible as soon as possible. And in order to be successful in this pursuit, I can now see that I drew on things I believed were important in that situation: flexibility, variety and self-dependence.

I made fundraising manager at 25, and by 28 was looking for my next challenge. I worked for a few years in a youth arts role (where both my hard and soft skills I the arts were sufficiently transferable, but I had to learn on the job about working with youth) and then for a few more years in an international student inclusion role (where my hard and soft skills with youth were sufficiently transferable but again, I had to learn on the job about international relations). And then I got itchy feet.

In my next performance review, my manager asked me what motivated me. And of course I said: flexibility, variety and self-dependence. My values. From that basis, and given my mid-level seniority and range of experience, we worked together to trial flexible 9-day fortnight working hours and a wider variety of projects, designed to keep me engaged by my role for another 12 months. And at the end of that period, I felt I was in a personal position to prioritise my remaining value – my self-dependence.

I’ve now been a freelance contractor across the cultural and education sectors for three years. Just like being an employee, contracting has its advantages and disadvantages, but foremost it offers flexible working conditions, a variety of clients and a LOT of self-dependence. My values have served me well so far.

So what drives YOU?

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