Competent career planning is generally understood to rest on a tripod of interests, skills or abilities, and values. Interests and skills or abilities have a long assessment history; assessment of work values has only recently emerged. One of the original assessment tools is Donald Super’s Work Values Inventory (WVI).
Generally speaking, work values can be defined as the qualities that people seek in their work, occupation, or career. In contrast, interests may be defined as the activities through which valued qualities are realized. For example, valuing independence may call for one to be interested in managerial activities.
Super’s inventory was devised originally as a research tool in the Career Pattern Study of the late 1940s. After extensive further development, the inventory was made available to the profession in 1970, though by 2000 it was virtually out of print. It assessed 15 values, such as achievement, prestige, esthetics, and economic returns, using a five-point scale to rate the importance of each to the respondent.
The Revised Edition
Super’s Work Values Inventory-Revised (SWVI-R) is currently published exclusively online as part of a comprehensive career planning system. In this edition, three scales, Altruism, Esthetics, and Management, were dropped owing to their conceptual similarity to scales on its accompanying interest assessment. Scales were lengthened to five items each, but the five-point rating scale was retained. New norms were created from samples of 5,000 each of male and female inventory takers from middle and high schools and postsecondary institutions distributed among 21 states in the United States. Scale reliabilities and intercorrelations were found to be similar to those of the original edition, although factor analysis revealed only two factors, “intrinsic,” such as independence, and “social validation,” such as lifestyle.
Super stated the WVI was to be used to assist in the choice of an occupation as well as a work setting. The revised edition does not fully endorse this position, on the grounds that a single occupational family may not be homogeneous with regard to a single type of work. For example, there are strong rewards for an individual who highly values a high income in an assortment of contrasting occupations. For example, high income and rewards can be achieved in such occupations as rancher, pharmaceutical researcher, advertising executive, university president, business executive, or comptroller, but these occupations vary significantly in their job content.
With individuals who are about to enter the workforce in their chosen interest, the SWVI-R would be effectively employed to help evaluate the potential of a given job or employment opportunity.
A resource for exploring occupations in the framework of work value orientation is the O*NET Work Importance Locator Master List. It contains from 75 to 100 jobs and occupations at five educational levels that are a response to each of six general values that correspond to certain clusters of SWVI-R scales.
- Allport-Vernon-Lindzey Study of Values
- Crystallization of the vocational self-concept
- Work values
- Super, D. E. 1970. Manual, Work Values Inventory. Boston, MA: Houghton-Mifflin.
- Zytowski, D.G. (1994). A super contribution to vocational theory: Work values. Special Issue: From vocational guidance to career counseling: Essays to honor Donald E. Super. Career Development Quarterly 43, 25–31.