About Being Lonely

When do you feel lonely?

I’m not talking about being alone. Some people love to be alone. I spend a lot of time alone because that’s how I decompress and re-energize.

But most people don’t love feeling lonely.

The times and places we feel lonely is different for each of us. But, there is one situation when almost all of us feel lonely.

When we feel like no one understands us.

Guess what?

Not everyone is going to understand what you are going through during your career reinvention.

And it can feel incredibly lonely.

Over the next three weeks, I’m going to share with you three causes of loneliness during times of career transition and reinvention. Here’s the first one.

Leaving the Ecosystem

You’ve decided to reinvent your career. You’re excited. You try to talk to your trusted colleague at work about what is going on but you feel a disconnect that you didn’t feel before. You feel like she isn’t that interested in where you are headed, even though you want her to be as excited as you are.

Here’s the thing. Offices and teams are ecosystems, like a terrarium.

The people in them relate to you within the conditions of the ecosystem. They see you as the VP of Marketing or as their lunch buddy and they know what that means in relation to them. In your mind, you are transitioning out of a role and towards something that you are excited about.

But your colleagues don’t know where to put you anymore. They are staying put. They will continue to live within the terrarium. If you are no longer going to be a part of it, they have to figure out how to function without you there.

This feels lonely. It’s why often, when people leave jobs, valued relationships built at work never quite feel the same again. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. I have life-long friendships that started at a job I left 20 years ago.

My advice? Give yourself and your colleagues some time after you leave to settle into the new reality. Then reach out to the people who you miss and meet up for one-on-one lunches. Get a feel for whether the relationship has legs outside of the ecosystem.

Next week we’ll talk about how to deal with the loneliness when no one is looking for you.

Kirsten Bunch