How do you decide what you’re looking for in an optometry job, if you don’t know what you want in your life, or even what you stand for? That’s where the values checklist comes in.
What’s the first assignment you were given in your practice management class in school? If you even had one, it probably involved writing a personal mission statement as it relates to your career. While well-intentioned, the execution was likely poor. The problem is twofold.
- The mission statement it is written early in the curriculum. It is typically written too early for students to suhave anything but a superficial understanding of the career and how they fit into it.
- There is not enough emphasis put on the dynamics of the process. It is presented as a static document to be followed until the end of time. At least that was how it felt. What you end up with is a set of generic statements of what young students think should be on a mission statement. And, it usually ends up buried in a series of subfolders, taking up space on your hard drive, never to see the light of day again.
An exercise that can be much more helpful – especially early in school – is completing a values checklist or values assessment. By shifting the focus from career to personal values it becomes – well - personal. The subject shifts from “my patients, office, employees” to “my friends and family, my health, myself.”
It sounds pretty selfish, doesn’t it?
It’s supposed to be. The results are much more powerful when the process involves something you are intimately familiar with: yourself. Interestingly, as you start your list, you will overestimate how much you understand about yourself and underestimate the difficulty of improving that understanding. Don’t get discouraged. The more you do, the easier it gets.
Which brings us to the second aspect of the process; it’s a process. You’re not going to hit a home run on the first try.
After the first few drafts, you may reach a point where you are happy with the result. You may be able to treat and extend to an annual review, which is probably optimal. But, any serious life event – job change, death of a family member, birth of a child, etc. – warrants a reexamination. As long as there is an understanding that the list is not static but a document that is ever evolving.
If you want to do the quick and dirty version, you can make your own list. Either way is better than doing nothing!
The list doesn’t have to be long. Pick five to seven bullets. That way, you’re forced to narrow things down and make your statements potent. For some of you, it may be easy to draw up a list that encompasses all of your values quickly. That’s great.
For those of you sitting and staring at a blank word document; reverse engineer the problem. Instead of trying to come up with statements about your values; think about your deal breakers. List the things you won’t compromise on. Maybe it’s your family. Then the first item on the list might be “Family first. Be the best husband, father, mother, daughter, uncle, sister, etc. through kindness, love, empathy, etc.” Come up with a couple more and you automatically have a quick checklist to run through before making any major or minor decision.
Obviously, there is likely never a true answer as a job that allows you to provide ample financial support to your kids may also reduce the amount of time you actually get to spend with them. It isn’t perfect. But, it’s a starting point to get you thinking about the important aspects of a decision rather than getting caught up in insignificant details or insignificant decisions. Picking one color of carpet for the bedroom over another is likely not going to compromise any of your five core values. Stressing out about for a month is probably not worth your time.
Lack of grammatical structure and clichés notwithstanding, I have a quick reference guide to check how my behavior aligns with what I have decided is important. Binge watching Game of Thrones is probably compromising points four and five, and possibly one, if I’m on the couch eating ice cream. But, if it’s my buddy’s favorite show and I committed to hanging out, then so be it, because I’m fulfilling point three. Items can be contradictory, like in the last example, but at least it allows me to see what I’m gaining and giving up in each instance.
At this point you’re asking, “What does this have to do with finding a job?” If you’ve read The Simple Guide to Jobs after Optometry School – do it now if you haven’t - the first item is to define your life goals. It’s the exercise that will influence all your of career choices from that point forward. The article you’re reading right now is the step before step one.
The value checklist helps you determine what your goals are. The two lists may be similar but are not the same. The checklist involves ideals you aspire to and life goals are actionable items that can be achieved in order to meet those ideals. Writing down “be happy” as a life goal isn’t going to get you very far (more on life goals later).
By doing both the value checklist (or values assessment) and life goal analysis, you can see how well what you want out of life is aligned with what in life is important to you.
That doesn’t mean you can’t make it work, but it forces you to recognize the reality before it’s too late. The value checklist helps you physically get down what you think is important. It primes the pump when it’s time to define the life goals.
So make your checklist, or, better yet, complete the CovalentCareers values assessment, and then define your life goals. Some of the items might be very similar. That’s okay. Be honest with yourself. There is no wrong answer. Game of Thrones can be its own item. Get something down and revise often. You’ll be much better for it.