“When choosing to work for a company it is very important not to just look at compensation and be wowed by pay and benefits. It is important to stop and observe the company and make sure your personal value system aligns with the value system of the company you’re choosing to work for.”

Value system alignment is important in all aspects of your life. You probably clicked on the title of this piece thinking you’d be reading about romance or love. I could go on and on about dating apps or how to fall in love with your partner, but I will spare you for now. Although value system alignment is most definitely important in romance, it is equally important in the type of work you do for a living.

As a young professional navigating a rapidly changing world, I find myself getting very busy and being pulled in a lot of different directions at work. Navigating large systems is time consuming and a lot of work. It is important to stop every so often throughout your career and assess your surroundings. Recalibrating skills, prioritizing desires and evaluating value alignment is something that is self-managed and you have to remember to stop and take time to proactively do it for yourself. You cannot expect others to do it for you.

The bottom line is that Americans spend a lot of time at work. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2015 individuals spent an average of 8.9 hours working or doing work-related activities in a given day. This is compared to 7.7 hours sleeping and 2.5 hours doing “leisure and sports activities” in addition to 1.2 hours caring for others. Aside from sleeping, this means we spend more time at work than doing other things in our spare time. If we’re going to work a lot, we need to work in an environment that matches who we are and aligns with something we believe in.

Stop and take time to research

Over my career I have worked in a large nonprofit, the U.S. government and a very large Fortune 5 company and I have had a lot of experience navigating complex environments. One thing that has always been important to me is to believe in the work I am doing and to agree with the mission and/or the vision of my employer. It is also very important to me how an organization goes about activating its mission by implementing a set of values.

Working in public and government affairs, I have paid very close attention in my career to value system alignment, specifically as an on the record spokesperson. Going on the record on behalf of an organization it has always been important to me to believe in what I’m talking about and for there to be ethical alignment. I’ve worked in systems that work and those that did not.

I have studied public and government relations for many years in both undergrad and graduate school as well as lived experience. I often watched many of my classmates’ eyes glazing over when talking about ethics and values, and the differences between the two. I never really fully understood the importance of this in my career choice until I was faced with working in a very difficult industry, like oil and gas as well as in tech. When talking about legal issues, community affairs, politics or even general business practices to government and media, in order to be good at my job, I always want to fully believe in what I’m talking about. Fortunately in most my career I chose the right company, but I have also chosen not so well, which present large learning experiences. I would advise those of you looking at career changes or entering the workforce to always stop and think closely about value system alignment not only of the company, but also of the person who is hiring you. It can make or break your job.

When choosing to work for a company it is very important not to just look at compensation and be wowed by pay and benefits. It is important to stop and observe the company and make sure your personal value system aligns with the value system of the company you’re choosing to work for. Although pay and compensation are important to our livelihood, it is very easy to get caught up in numbers. It is also very important to look past pay and compensation to better understand your manager, your team and their history as well. If they offer you their references, most definitely check them. Some of these easy tips can save you a lot of time when you’re thinking about changing careers.

 Review the company’s website and learn about how they characterize their own value system. Usually this is very easy and quick if you go to the “about” section of the company’s website. See if they have their own value system clearly articulated. One way I have seen it done is when a company actually names and refers to their value system amongst their employees. See if this is also present in their social media presence.

One company who does it well is Chevron Corporation, a U.S. based energy company. They operate the company based on “the Chevron Way,” which is a named value system the company refers to to help guide the way they operate and the performance of their people. Another company who does culture and values well is Google. You can see this very clearly in their formal corporate motto “Don’t Be Evil.” Google’s simple view on a very complex business follows their employees throughout all of their business practices and is simply stated with “the ten things we know to be true” laid out in their value statement.

Look for examples in their own self created information about the company. Social media is a good way to gauge examples of value system activation. You can see if the company itself is passionate about how they operate and it gives you an opportunity to assess alignment.

Review external publications

It is very easy to do some quick searches on how media and others talk about certain companies. Look up the company’s key executives and see if they weave in value statements into their speeches, media statements or other stories written about the company. You can tell very quickly if the tone companies use matches what you believe in or not.

Does the company do a lot of corporate responsibility and invest in nonprofits? Do they value diversity? How do they handle complex topics about their industry? It is important to think through a range of questions that you may have in order to understand not only if you are a good fit for the company, but if the company is a good fit for you.

Glassdoor publishes an annual report on “Top Companies for Culture and Values.” The report is based on what current and former employees say about a company’s culture and values. Some of the top companies that make that list are Twitter, Edelman, Southwest Airlines, and Facebook. See how a company’s employees talk about their employer.

Interview key people at the company

Make sure you talk to enough people in the organization to get a feel for how they feel about the company and about your hiring manager. Ask key questions about topics that are important to you. People often get caught up in their own performance to land a job, but they often forget that they are also interviewing the company and their future manager.

Some things I like to know about is diversity and inclusion. Does the company value a diverse workforce with diverse thinking? Another key indicator is if the company promotes women and minorities. How does the company feel about an aging population? What is the average of of years employees are with the company? It is important to spend some time getting to know the people you’ll be working with to see if it is a match. Ask your new hiring manager for references.

When your employees believe in your values, they speak on your behalf

At the end of the day we must ask ourselves what we are contributing to the greater good of the world and what we think our purpose is in life. If we spend a lot of time at our jobs, we should be doing something we love and doing it in a way that matches who we are. Take time out of your busy schedule and think about your current company’s value system. When you walk into your job every morning, are you proud of the work you’re doing and are you proud of what your company stands for?

For the last sixteen years or so, Edelman, one of the world’s largest public relations firms puts out an annual Trust Barometer. They recently put out the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer with some really interesting findings about who people trust when talking about corporations, governments, etc. One of the key findings is that some of the most trusted spokespeople for a company are the company’s own employees, not the executives, not corporate talking heads, but general employees. I highly recommend a deeper read of the Trust Barometer for some other key insights, but I think a simple conclusion can be made that when employees believe in a company who has an aligned value system with their employees, the employees become passionate. Passionate employees make trusted advocates for the company both while they work for the company and when they move on.

It is in the best interest of individuals and organizations to establish strong value systems and to equally assess alignment. So step back and take your time. Work for something you believe in and you will live a happier, more fulfilled professional life.