Career hacks for over-50s: How to find a job you love by knowing what your values are
March 4, 2015 | By:

In an extract from his book How to Get a Job You Love, John Lees reveals why the work we do should be aligned with our values and beliefs, with practical exercises on how to discover yours

Jobs for over 50s. Job you love. Florist. Photo from Stocksy

We all take our values to work with us, says author John Lees, so being clear on what yours are is important

How to Get a Job You Love. John LeesThe most demanding question you’ll ever face if you see a career coach is not ‘What are you going to do next?’ or even ‘How are you going to get it?’, but How are you going to decide?’ Most people secretly believe that the answer will just come along if they take a test, read a book, or sit at home long enough with the curtains closed and think really, really hard.

The trouble with most of the careers advice we receive as young people is that it revolves around the question ‘What do you want to do when you grow up?’.

A more authentic decision might be about what kind of person you hope to be. So, many people, particularly those taking a more spiritual view of life choices, say that the most important thing to consider is who you are, not what you do.

Others will say that it’s self-indulgent to focus on the individual, and more practical to focus on the work that is actually available.

The answer, I believe, is like so many of the most important truths in life, a matter of holding conflicting ideas in your mind at the same time, as the Three Career Circles make clear (made up of knowing, doing and being).


If you are considering a complete change of career it’s worth thinking carefully about the kind of topics you would like to read or talk about while you are at work.

Understanding the knowledge angle of work is also an insight into your motivation, both now and in the future, because it treats each job as a learning curve. Most roles are interesting in their first few weeks or months, but whether a job is intrinsically interesting in the long run is often about how much you will continue to learn and grow.


The activities that take up most of our waking hours have a strong influence on our effectiveness, the outcomes our work generates, and the way people see us.

Remember that word ‘occupation’? A job is what ‘occupies’ our time and attention.

Skills are powerful reinforcers of self-esteem and are the best way of making our values tangible in the world by getting things done. Skills need refreshing and updating, but more than anything else they need to be used. Using only part of your skill set, or using skills you really don’t value very much, can lead to long-term demotivation and cynicism.

Being (and valuing)

The question of ‘being’ is not just about the personality you were born with, but also a big clue about values. During life we also build up a sense of what is important to us. Some of those things are clearly demonstrated through the things we choose to learn about under the ‘know’ heading, but others are deeper still.

Think about the causes or charities you support (whether with time, money or sympathy). What issues energise you? What makes you angry?

Values: the bigger picture

We all take our values to work with us. Your values are expressed in work through the tasks and outcomes you find interesting and meaningful. Sometimes this is on a macro scale: you’re interested in what your organisation contributes to the world.

For others, values are expressed in relationships at work and the way colleagues are treated. Ultimately, you will be more motivated in work situations where the organisation and your colleagues share most of your values.

Values, in the simplest terms, are words which describe principles that you want to live out. Values often describe positive behaviours, for example, ‘doing the right thing’; ‘treating others as you’d like to be treated’. Sometimes it is easier for us to recognise our values when we are confronted with behaviours we don’t want to see, for example: ‘not reneging on your promises’, ‘not having to lie to customers’.

Exercise: discover your values

Values provoke strong feelings, and we often have a sense of what is important or true for us. This can be especially noticeable when you are faced with doing something that conflicts with your values.

Start a notebook page to write down the answers to the following questions. Use the following question sequence to identify your values. Share the results of this with someone you trust and who is interested in your development.

Find people you admire

1. Think of people you admire. Who are your role models? Who do you respect most?

2. What is it about these people you admire? (Think of how they live and work, not just what they’ve achieved.)

3. Write down one or two words which sum up each person, using the grid below. (Some words to start you thinking: modest, risk-taking, self-sacrificing, entrepreneurial, caring, creative, brave, honest, challenging, encouraging, ethical, reliable, consistent.)

Then consider your family members, colleagues, friends, mentors and famous people and write a list of words describing how they live and work. Look at the list, and work out what qualities and attitudes you admire most in other people.

You might want to think about people whose behaviour you find unattractive. What qualities and attitudes in others do you dislike? What behaviours and attitudes don’t you admire?

Then, think about how you want to behave at work, given the choice and how you want your working life to be remembered after you’ve retired.

Look at all the positive values you have recorded above. Highlight the five or six words that matter to you most. Now you have a working list of your values.

Prioritise your list. This list will help you to identify if a job or an employer matches or conflicts with your values.

This is an extract from How to Get a Job You Love (2015-2016 edition) by John Lees (McGraw Hill Education). To win a copy of the book, like our Facebook page and share the Find a Job You Love post