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Work values, defined as the perceived importance of various job characteristics, have been shown to help shape individual career choices and outcomes.

Research suggests there are marked differences in these values and motivators across generations (Glass, 2007; Sullivan & Baruch, 2009; Cennamo & Gardner, 2008).

For example, Generation X and Generation Y (or Millennials) have an entirely different view on the world of work than do previous generations, typically known as Baby Boomers and Traditionalists.


What do career assessments measure?

Career assessments are often used to measure work values and help individuals translate these to meaningful work. Perhaps most notable of these assessments is the Super's Work Values Inventory, developed by Donald Super and colleagues in 1968.

Research for the Super's Work Values Inventory identified 15 work values that appeared to be common across the majority of people and, after further review and research by Donald Zytowski (emeritus senior director of research for Kuder), included 12 values in the assessment.


Work values can differ from generation to generation.

Generation X and Millennials have grown up in a vastly different world of work than Traditionalists and Baby Boomers. They have been surrounded by technology, immediate access to information, and instant communication.

Recent generations have come of age during significant social change, such as the legalization of gay marriage, as well as economic and political upheaval.

As a Kuder research fellow, I have the privilege of working on a team with Dr. Jerry Trusty, Dr. Hoi Suen, and Deborah D. Lee to evaluate the work values in the Super's Work Values Inventory-revised to ensure that they continue to reflect the values of recent generations.

There are several phases to this project and Dr. Trusty and I coordinated the first by organizing focus groups in multiple states.

During the focus groups, I talked to many different people about what they value in their current work and what they picture valuing in their future work.

Focus group members also spent some time discussing their opinions on Super's original 15, particularly the revised 12 work values: which of these resonate strongly and which of these may miss the mark?

Focus groups were conducted across various ages, such as high school juniors and seniors, college freshmen through seniors, and recent college graduates newly employed in various fields.

It's been a fascinating experience to hear young people talk about what gets them out of bed for those early morning classes and what makes them feel motivated throughout their workdays.


The Kuder research faculty works to ensure the meaningful measurement of work values.

The focus group stage of the project recently concluded and our interactions with participants helped Dr. Trusty and I generate a list of common themes among the values discussed.

For the next phase, Dr. Hoi Suen and Deborah Lee will be using this information to create a work values survey that can be widely distributed.

This step is important because it will allow us to ensure that Kuder can continue to provide meaningful measurement of work values and deliver high-quality career guidance tools for all clients.

Based on my experience, individuals of recent generations really do see the world, and the world of work, through a different lens than those who came before them.

I've enjoyed the chance to hear their perspectives and I look forward to seeing the next-generation work values assessment that evolves as we work to continue the legacy of Donald Super's and Donald Zytowski's pioneering research.

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About The Author

Kristen Carnevale

Kristen Carnevale is a doctoral candidate in the counselor education program at The Pennsylvania State University. As a Kuder research fellow, she works closely with Dr. Jerry Trusty to reevaluate Super’s Work Values Inventory-revised. In this role, she coordinates and manage ... read more