Work Values are Important in Career Selection

When individuals make a list of some of the important aspects of career selection they often take into account interests and job skills or abilities but overlook work values. Besides knowing the “3 R’s,” there are several important character traits or work values that lead to career success and satisfaction. According to a study published by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, communication skills and honesty/integrity were the two most important traits that employers valued. Developing these character skills are not only helpful in finding a career but also lead to more satisfaction in a career.

Robert Orndoff (2004) writes in the National Career Development Association newsletter (NACE, 2005) that the “Big Two” career development topics found in most K-12 career development plans are Career Exploration and Job Searching. While both topics are important, he emphasizes that there is a third career topic that often gets overlooked —

Developing career skills and character traits that will make students marketable for top colleges and jobs, and ultimately successful in career and life.

Not only aptitudes are important but how well a student’s personality and natural character fits a job is significant and may be more influential than interests and aptitudes in some cases. Character education needs to be part of the career education process. The COPSystem assessments not only measure an individual’s interests and abilities as they relate to occupations, but also measure work values and may be a good starting point in a character education component of a career guidance unit. The COPES helps students define how values relate to occupations by measuring the importance of such work environment preferences as Leadership, Independence, or being Social.

One of the unique features of the COPES is that work values are related to the COPSystem Career Clusters, shown below.

Science, Professional

Planning and conducting research in math, medical, life and physical sciences.

A. Investigative C. Independence P. Reserved
Science, Skilled

Observing and classifying facts in assisting with laboratory research.

E. Orderliness K. Conformity O. Realistic
Technology, Professional

Engineering and structural design in the manufacture, construction or transportation of products.

A. Investigative B. Practical P. Reserved
Technology, Skilled

Working with one’s hands in the skilled trades of construction, installation, repair and manufacturing.

B. Practical E. Orderliness O. Realistic
Consumer Economics

Preparation and packaging of foods, making and care of clothing and textile products.

B. Practical I. Accepting L. Supportive

Activities performed primarily outdoors such as growing and tending plants and animals.

C. Independence B. Practical N. Privacy
Business, Professional

Positions of high responsibility in organization and administration of business.

D. Leadership F. Recognition A. Investigative
Business, Skilled

Sales promotion, marketing and finance in regard to promotion of business.

D. Leadership I. Accepting J. Carefree

Recording, posting and filing business records with attention to detail, accuracy and speed.

E. Orderliness L. Supportive K. Conformity

Language skill in the written and oral communication of knowledge and ideas.

F. Recognition A. Investigative C. Independence
Arts, Professional

Individualized expression of creative or musical talent.

F. Recognition G. Aesthetic M. Flexibility
Arts, Skilled

Application of artistic skill in photography, graphic arts, and design.

G. Aesthetic C. Independence L. Supportive
Service, Professional

Positions of high responsibility in caring for the personal needs and welfare of others.

H. Social D. Leadership C. Independence
Service, Skilled

Providing services to persons and catering to the tastes, desires, and welfare of others.

H. Social B. Practical L. Supportive

Figure 2. Relationship of COPES Values to Career Clusters

Educating students within the framework of Career Clusters can also help students academically by demonstrating the relevance of their education to occupations. According to Kim Green, executive director of the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium, “Career clusters offer great potential in providing a new framework for career education by promoting academic achievement, fostering successful students’ skills, and meeting new accountability requirements in a more systemic manner” (Career Tech Update, April 2004).

As students begin the career exploration process, it is important for them to have sufficient information so that they will be able to identify the most advantageous career possibilities. With the COPSystem assessments, they can learn more about what interests them, identify and build on their strengths, and explore which types of jobs are most compatible with their personality. Using the results from the COPSystem, students are much more likely to have a more complete picture to prepare them for a career.


ACTE (2004, April 28) Career clusters can provide essential link between CTE and academics. Career Tech Update 4, 15. Retrieved April 28, 2004 from

Orndoff, R. (2004). Developing students’ career skills and academic proficiencies while centering on character. NCDA Newsletter. Retrieved August 1, 2004 from

NACE (2005, January 20). Communication skills, honesty/integrity top employers “wish list” for job candidates.