Professional jealousy has been around since the beginning of human society—the hunters probably envied the gatherers, and the gatherers felt as though the hunters had it made. We all have access to the finest comparison tool in human history: the internet, and it shows us the most glamorous moments of other people’s lives—the promotions, the exciting new gigs, the first-class travel, and their work perks.
Jealousy can be helpful, but when we deprive it of oxygen and don’t talk about the way it makes us feel, it can mutate into something terrifying. We’ve been through a tough period where many of us feel like we’re lucky to have a job at all. It seems spoiled to feel a swell of envy when your colleague, and not you, gets a new and exciting opportunity. You should be celebrating his or her success, right? But when those feelings take hold, you’re Melville’s Captain Ahab, and all you can think about is your white whale.
These days I’m pretty satisfied with my job and feel like I’m forging a real career that could lead to better positions in a relatively short amount of time. But I didn’t start seeing real progress in my career trajectory until I stopped obsessing about others and focused on myself. If career envy is an issue for you, here are some tips to work it out.
Obsession wastes energy and time.
When you get angry, you rant. It doesn’t solve the problem and all that churning and analyzing only drains you. Inevitably, your boss will catch you off guard and instead of rising to meet the challenge, you’ll hand in only meh work because you’re just too tired or frustrated to concentrate. Keep the focus on being great at what you do.
If you say it, it must be true.
Many people like using mantras because they’re a positive way to modify behavior. If you say “I’m smart and capable” to yourself enough times, you’re eventually going to believe it. Well, the same principle holds true for negative self-talk like “I’m stupid and Karen is smart.” And you project those feelings out into the world, so then everyone else starts to believe it, too.
Nothing compares 2 U.
We falsely assume that because someone else is farther up on the food chain that their ideas are better. When I finally crawled out from underneath my own self-consciousness, I realized that doesn’t always hold true and it turned out that I did have good, original ideas (or at least ideas that my bosses liked enough to make them feel like semi-critical projects). It was a stepping stone.
One man’s tedium is another man’s jumping off point.
One of my co-workers was given an opportunity that included working alongside key upper management and getting a lot of credit for doing what is actually very little hard work. I would’ve killed for the career exposure, but my coworker actually detested the assignment. They found it tedious and time-consuming, leaving them very little time for the parts of their job that they actually enjoyed.
There is still time.
I say this to myself at least three times a day. It doesn’t always feel like it, especially if you’re stuck in a rut. But, there is still time to work hard and realize your dreams. Success doesn’t come all at once. One of my favorite sayings is: “Hustle comes before success.” We want what we want when we want it, but that doesn’t mean we deserve it even if we think we do.
The road to career satisfaction isn’t always about the big changes, but about pivoting a little bit to find the pieces that you don’t have. Find the things about your job that you’re into, that give you that spark. Focus more on those and less on the career trajectories of friends and coworkers. Be supportive of the success of others. You might be surprised to discover that your friends and coworkers envy your job!