The following post is an excerpt from my new e-Book series, How to Become an e-Learning Freelancer. The three volumes in the series are designed to be easy-to-use, practical guides to getting your freelance e-Learning career off the ground. Learn more here!
Goals vs. Values
Last week, I wrote about the importance of establishing your own professional goals—and now, with those in place, it’s time to address something just as important: your core values as an e-Learning Designer.
While the goals that you’ve written will help you decide what you want to accomplish as an e-Learning Designer, your core values will help you determine how you do that. Putting your core values in writing is your chance to explicitly define how you want to work—both for yourself and others.
What Core Values Are, and Aren’t
Your core values are a brief list of statements that describe the approach you want to take to your work, and the qualities you will strive for as a professional. Think of your core values as your own personalized professional compass, constantly pointing you towards the work and processes that make you feel the most fulfilled.
As a freelancer, core values are especially important, as they can help you decide the work and clients you want to pursue, and which you should decline.
For example, here is one of my core values:
- Simplicity. My approach to business is to make things simple and informative for my clients. I will strive to remove clutter from my products and processes, until only the essential and useful remains.
After quite a bit of consideration, I decided that simplicity was one of my core values, because I can apply it to both the way I work with my clients, as well as the content that I create for them. For example, when starting a business relationship with a new client, I always write a Statement of Work (the document that specifies what I’m proposing to do for them). As I’m writing each Statement of Work, I test it against my core value of simplicity: Is the document straightforward, and easy to understand? Have I included any unnecessary information that I can weed out? Similarly, when I’m building e-Learning content for them, this core value comes in handy as a litmus test: Have I presented what the learner needs to know as simply as possible? Is there any content that isn’t essential?
What’s important here is that my core values aren’t just a mantra; they serve a functional purpose that allows me to ensure I’m living up to the professional standards I’ve set for myself. This is incredibly important: Your own core values need to be functional ideas that you can use in everyday decision-making. If you’re able to put your values to work in this way—use them as a check-in point for yourself—you know you’ve written strong core values. If you find yourself liking an idea, but can’t come up with a practical example of how you’d use it, that may be a sign that you need to further refine the idea into a working core value.
It’s also important to note here that core values are different than a mission statement or a slogan. Many businesses will publish what they call “values,” but in reality they’re using phrases that sound good for marketing purposes. Consider some of the traditional statements like “quality is job one,” or “the customer is always right.” Both of these ideas sound great, but it would be a challenge to apply them in practice on a regular basis—they represent an intention, which is good, but not a practical idea to live up to.
[This topic continues in my e-Book series, How to Become an e-Learning Freelancer.]