How Comparisons Can Hurt (& Help) Your Career

How Comparisons Can Hurt (& Help) Your Career (image of two trucks)

How do you feel when there is something you really want (a promotion, employment at a particular company) and you see someone else get it?

1. Envy. “I want that dream! Why can’t I have it?”

2. Defeated. “Why bother? They’re probably just luckier than me.”

3. Bitter. “You know, they just get all the breaks! If I had their money/opportunities/life situation, I’d be able to do it, too!”

If the above describes your reaction, you have a problem on your hands, and it all stems from your bad attitude. Honestly, how are whining and being negative going to help you?

THEY DON’T!

While I am not an advocate for “keeping up with the Joneses,” some positive results can be found from looking at someone else’s success. If you have the right mindset, you can find:

1. Inspiration. Instead of being angry, use that other person’s success to spur you on. A target isn’t an impossible dream when you realize that someone made it possible. It can be possible for you, too.

2. Lessons. Folks screw up all the time, and successful people are no different. There can be a lot that can be learned from failure. Sometimes an even better process comes about as a result; sometimes it’s a matter of knowing what not to do. If you can look at someone else’s path and then meaningfully incorporate those lessons into your journey, how much better off will you be?

3. Advice. Most people who are successful do often share some of their secrets. It’s not always for free, of course, but with blogs and other online content, it’s quite easy to get a lot of information. And, if you are able to do something that will help them, there’s a possibility of making a friend who can help you down the line.

A caveat: Make sure that you don’t hang your hat on the exact same accomplishment as another person. Why? Because it’s not always an apples-to-apples comparison when you look at yourself and someone else. Steve Jobs was correct when he said, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”

It’s OK if your success doesn’t look just like your cousin’s or the neighbor down the street. There are likely other factors that have led to their particular outcome. The attributes that come into play for you — opportunities, your knowledge base, your innate talent, your network, the time you put into achieving your dream, what you really want to get out of it — will impact how it all works out for you.

This is your life and your success. Don’t marginalize it with comparisons that are useless. Instead, fortify it with comparisons that benefit the dream.

Image courtesy of NRMA New Cars

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Comments

  1. Jealousy is a natural but foolish state of mind in any situation. But it could be used as motivation to imitate what is good as seen in another person. Love that you state at the end, “…fortify it with comparisons that benefit the dream.” Great post, Mel!

    • Melissa Cooley
      Twitter: TheJobQuest
      says:

      Thanks, Mark!

      Yes, I agree that default feelings can tend to lean toward the self-serving end of the spectrum (“But I wanted that!) It’s up to us, however, to choose a different reaction than the one that comes first. We all benefit in the long run when that choice is made.

  2. It comes down to being honest with yourself.

    If you KNOW you have a problem with jealousy, stay away from watching others progress in their careers. Hide under a rock if you have to.

    But if you like seeing others prosper, it’ll be no problem to learn from their achievements. Assuming that they earned the promotion, position, etc. fair, square and with hard work, a live case study is the best lesson you could encounter in professional development.

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