Connection is what holds us all together. You’re connected to your friends, your family, even your favorite bands and TV characters. Connection is what also keeps you winning on the job. When your connection is strong, you do your best work. You give your best effort. Without that connection, work can become meaningless; you start to feel burned out.
Not everyone is connected in the same way to their work. Some of us feel a deep connection to the mission of the company: what we do here matters, and I want to be a part of it. Some of us are connected to the work we’re doing as individuals: I love my role here and I love feeling successful. I’m challenged and working on stretching my skills and goals every day.
Some of us feel a connection to our team: these are my people. We’re here for each other and I want to help them succeed as much as they want me to succeed. This group is an important part of my social life and my chosen family.
Some of us are lucky enough to work for a boss for whom we feel a deep connection. This is someone who has mentored me, invested in me, believes in me. We’re a team, and I would follow them wherever they go.
It’s a great thing to feel a strong connection in one of these ways; it’s very rare to feel all of them. But if you don’t feel any connection to your company or its mission, to your team or to your boss, you’re not likely to stay long where you are. And that’s okay; if you don’t feel a connection, it’s not likely you’re doing your best work there, either. It is probably time to move on. We knew a manager once who said this to every staff member at some point: “It’s okay to love this job and stay. It’s also okay to dislike this job and leave. What’s not okay is to dislike this job and stay anyway.”
It can be harder to connect to people, places, and roles that aren’t a good fit for us. It’s inevitable that you’ll run into bad managers, selfish or lazy teammates, and companies without a soul. Sometimes, there’s just no spark on either side.
That doesn’t necessarily make them (or you) bad or wrong; you’re just not right for each other.
When that happens, especially early in your career, you have choices. One choice, one we see often from young workers, is to walk away. Quit early and mark this experience up to bad luck. There’s always another job waiting around the corner.
The problem with walking away is you walk away with very little information. You don’t know if the company was the problem – or you were. You don’t know if it could have gotten better with time. You don’t know if you could have made a difference. You don’t know what could have changed if you’d asked. You don’t know if you had the courage / guts / grit to stick it out. You haven’t learned much from the experience.
You also have the choice to stay but resent it. You can put in your time while looking for a new job. You can join the “quiet quitters” who do only what they’re told and watch the clock most of the day. You learn a little more about yourself this way, but most of it’s not good; you learn how much mediocrity you can tolerate and learn what wearing out your welcome feels like.
You also have the choice to bring your best self to a bad situation. On every mediocre sports team there’s a dedicated superstar who lights up the field every chance they get. We can name a dozen great players who never won the ultimate trophy because they played for bad teams or coaches or owners. But we remember them because they brought their best effort every day and tried to learn from the situation they were in. They learned what didn’t work, how not to treat people, and how to grow their own skills and manage their emotions because they didn’t have a lot of support. They learned what they were made of, and they learned what made a team great. Most of them, we hope, went on to roles later in life where they used these skills and that wisdom to build a second career that provided everything they needed.
And the final choice is to leave – hopefully well-informed – with a desire to find a place that is the best fit for you. Where your connection points are stronger, and you feel more fulfilled in your career. There are sometimes when a change is needed to provide the next step in career development. We have helped hundreds of people reach their full potential with a career change and we pride ourselves on being able to identify the key connection points that make the next job meaningful and rewarding.
You have choices, wherever you land in your career. What choice will you make?
We would love to hear from you!