I have a Spotify playlist called “Endorphins.” As of today, it contains more than 200 soft rock love songs/somebody-done-somebody-wrong songs. These songs take me somewhere pleasant and calming. I’m sure you have a playlist that does the same for you.
Similarly, you may also look back on a previous workplace the same way I look at my playlist. Perhaps you remember an office where you once felt wanted, needed, and even praised. There are good reasons to feel sentimental when someone or something makes you feel valued.
But unlike my playlist, which is harmless, sentimental feelings toward a workplace aren’t always good news for your career. Never should such feelings drive your job search or your career choices.
Many of us are sentimental about our ex-anythings — friends, loved ones, and yes, even jobs. For a period of time, these may have been the best things in our lives.
The company you used to work for might have been the place where you cut your teeth. It was good for you at the time. Maybe now your sentimental feelings have you wondering if you should return as a boomerang employee.
But returning to old workplaces doesn’t always work out. LeBron James and Dwayne Wade worked together twice on the basketball court. One time was hugely successful — the other time, not so much. We as basketball fans bought in for a moment, but they weren’t winning like the old times. They had to part ways.
Are you, as a job seeker, ridden with sentimentality? If so, you may be derailing your own career path. You may be headed down a dead end because your feelings are getting in the way of making clear decisions for the good of your career. You can’t build a career on the way you used to feel.
Unsure if sentimentality has infected your career journey? Consider the five ways it may be harming you:
1. Sentimentality Distorts Your Perception of Reality
Just because you received several promotions and did some memorable work doesn’t mean the company is still the right place for you. A lot can change.
Instead of relying on fond feelings, check in with your old employer. See what has changed about the organization overall and your former position in particular. Make career decisions based on what the company really is, not on what you remember it to be.
2. Sentimentality Makes You Confuse Relationships for Results
You’re friendly and hold great conversations. You built great friendships with the people you used to work with.
But did you really accomplish much in that role? Try to write out a clear list of concrete accomplishments to see if the job was really as good for your career as you think it was.
3. Sentimentality Comes and Goes
The feelings you have about that old job may not last, and you should never make career decisions based on what your mood is at a given moment.
Step back and soberly dissect each aspect of that old job. Did you really love everything about it? Or are you letting sentimentality cloud your judgment again?
4. Sentimentality Doesn’t Account for How Much You’ve Grown
It took me years to swallow something one of my mentors taught me: “Never do your old job.” We’re supposed to outgrow our old positions as we progress. You can’t produce more value for employers if you never move beyond your old job.
5. Sentimentality Hinders Rational Judgment
When we’re facing challenges at work, we have a tendency to romanticize our old jobs — but we probably had problems there, too. Romanticizing rarely helps us understand the situation or address the issues at hand.
Your job search strategy must rely on facts as much as possible. I will admit that elements of emotion and faith may enter the equation, but a strategic approach requires a foundation of truth.
Relying on the way it used to be is not good intel, and it could misguide you. Instead of letting sentimentality guide your career, try to put yourself in a clear, objective mindset. Make the choices that are best for your professional journey — not the choices that your fickle heart urges you to make.
Mark Anthony Dyson is a career consultant, the host and producer of “The Voice of Job Seekers” podcast, and the founder of the blog by the same name.