Are You Searching for Meaning in Your Career? Developing Connections May Be the Answer

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Laura Berlinsky-Schine2.3k
May 18, 2024 at 5:6PM UTC

Humans are social creatures. This is not just conjecture — research confirms it. A study by Sarah Pressman at the University of California, Irvine, found that the likelihood of dying early is 70% higher for people who lack positive social relationships.

But recent events, most notably the COVID-19 pandemic, have meant weaker social connections and relationships. While remote and hybrid work models have brought about numerous benefits, they have also meant we’re not seeing our colleagues as much as many of us were accustomed to.

At the same time, these connections are important, not only for our career development but for our own well-being. With strong social relationships in our workplaces, we have a better sense of belonging and are more productive. We feel more involved and part of the fray. This, in turn, can improve our work ethic and careers.

Moreover, with so many of us feeling burnt out, developing and strengthening connections could be the answer to our woes. If you’re searching for meaning in your career, this may just be that sense of purpose you’re looking for.

Understand yourself and your needs.

While practically all of us need social connections, humans require different levels of engagement with others to feel fulfilled. You’ve probably heard about this from an introvert vs. extrovert angle — introverts tend to feel exhausted by persistent social engagement, while extroverts thrive on it — but that’s not the extent of it. It’s important to take a hard look at yourself and understand what you really need. What are your goals? How can you not only support yourself but support others as well?

 “If we walk into a social exchange thinking about what we can get out of the exchange, rather than what we can give, we have the equation backward,” Yale professor Marissa King writes in Social Chemistry.

Collaborate.

By connecting with others and socially engaging with colleagues, we don’t just mean going to happy hours and attending parties together. Those connections often take place during and through work.

Find space and opportunities to collaborate with your coworkers. That might mean brainstorming ideas and solutions together, assisting others on a project, asking for help, and so on. When you’re making decisions together, you’re building up camaraderie — even if you’re not working together in the same room.

Recognize and celebrate.

Take a moment to recognize the achievements of others, and celebrate successes, however small. Everyone appreciates being noticed, and when you take the time to commend someone else, it will allow you to cultivate and build your relationships. This, in turn, leads to a better, more solid community — which is the whole point, after all.

Be empathetic.

Finally, show empathy to your colleagues in any situation. You’re struggling, yes, but remember that others are coping with social challenges, too. Even if you feel that someone has been short or even rude to you, take a moment to put yourself in their shoes, and try to imagine what could have led to their behavior. It may have nothing to do with you — they could very well be feeling overwhelmed by personal or work issues.

By being empathetic and supportive, you’re treating others how you want to be treated, as well as strengthening your connection with them. This will help you feel a greater sense of belonging, too, and allow you to see yourself as someone who uplifts others.

By taking these actions yourself, you will not only set an example for others but support yourself and your well-being. Connections are part of the picture, but they are an important one — one that will aid you in your career and your personal life.

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This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.

Laura Berlinsky-Schine is an editor and writer based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab-mix Hercules. She primarily focuses on education, technology and career development. She has worked with Penguin Random House, Fairygodboss, CollegeVine, BairesDev and many other publications and organizations. Her humor writing has appeared in the Belladonna, Weekly Humorist, Slackjaw, Little Old Lady Comedy, and Points in Case. She also writes fiction and essays, which have appeared in publications including The Memoirist and The Avalon Literary Review. View her work and get in touch at: www.lauraberlinskyschine.com.

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