I was catching up with a couple of friends over weekend brunch when the topic of our jobs came up. Friend A started talking about how she recently got promoted and didn’t know if she could deal with being the new head of department managing a team of 10. Friend B talked about how she’s living out of her suitcase because she’s travelling so much for work to all these cool places like London and Tokyo. Friend C just started a side business that could potential blow up as the next best thing.
Me? Just my regular job with my regular role and regular office.
I wanted to be happy for my friends but at the same time, I can’t help but feel kinda lousy over my own situation. It didn’t help that friends on social media are constantly uploading images of their fun colleagues and trendy offices. And that article about 25 successful people under 25? Hello – could it get any worse?
Seeing or hearing your friends doing so well at their jobs can make you feel like you’re losing out or worst, that you’re not very good at this whole career thing. We don’t blame you; after all, career envy is a real thing described as a “response to another person who has success, skills or qualities that we desire, and involves feeling a lack in comparison to that person” according to a 2011 study.
So what do your more successful friends have that you don’t? The answer will surprise you – nothing. Everyone charts their own career path and how you progress in it is how you make it out to be. In other words, you are the captain of your own career. So if you’re not exactly where you want to be, maybe it is just a matter of time, opportunity or the lack of a certain skill that’s holding you back.
But harbouring on career envy will make you lose sight of everything because being envious of someone else’s career is a time waster. Yups, that’s right – all that time spent feeling sorry for yourself should actually be spent on being proactive to get to where you want to be in your career. Like doing these four things:
#1 Don’t be too hard on yourself
It’s easy to be sucked into envy and feel completely down about everything else, even if it is not career related. That’s the problem when you feel like a failure; you begin to think that your life is a complete mess.
Just because your friend got a promotion and you didn’t doesn’t make you a total failure. Their success isn’t a sign of your failure; both things are completely unrelated (even if it doesn’t feel like that in the first place). Recognise that your feelings of being inadequate are totally unnecessary and won’t help you in your career. Instead think of how you can make it work in your favour, like the next step:
#2 Refresh your career goals
If you’re already sizing yourself up against others, why not make it a motivation instead? Turn that envy around into something that will actually make you move forward in your career.
Refocus your career goals and figure out what it is you’d want to accomplish next. Whether it is updating your resume, talking to your boss about the possibility of more responsibilities or a complete overhaul like a career change, it’s time to have a frank personal evaluation about where exactly your career is going and what you need to do to steer it to the right direction. List down your goals for the next six months and the specific actions you’ll need to make it happen.
#3 Know that there’s more that meets the eye
How do you know for sure that your friend is happy in her new role? Maybe she has a nasty boss or is actually failing to meet her more challenging KPIs. People only share the good stuff, making it seem that all is dandy in their world. No one is going to talk about how bad they are performing at work or how miserable they are.
So take everything you see on social media with a pinch of salt. After all, these posts have been curated to show only a certain side of things. Constantly remind yourself that not everything is as it seems and even if it is really glossier on the other side, it’s more important for you to focus on yourself and your own career, not others.
#4 Give yourself a boost of confidence
The best thing you can do for yourself when facing with a serious case of career envy? Remind yourself that you are doing what you want to do to get to where you want to be. And even if you’re not, acknowledging it right now is a great step forward.
So your career might not be going the way you want – it doesn’t mean you won’t ever get that promotion or land that cool job. Plus, there are other things in your life that are likely going well. Stop being envious and start being grateful; zero in on your strength and channel your confidence to make things happen for yourself.
I did all of the above when fronting with career envy and right now, I’m proud to say that I’m in a good place with my career. It may not be a high-flying role like my friend’s but it brings me the kind of satisfaction I’m looking for right now. And isn’t that what matters most?
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