This post was written by an external contributor. Charlie Duffield discusses the best way to deal with feelings of career envy.
The green-eyed monster: not just to be found in the murky depths of Loch Ness. It pulsates through your brain when LinkedIn informs you of an acquaintance’s promotion and your best friend nabs a pay rise, whilst you remain a penniless intern.
Because once you’ve left the cosy, collaborative confines of uni to fight it out in the real world, even the least competitive individual can feel jealousy curdling in their gut as we all try to weather career peaks and troughs.
It can be frustrating to not reach the same level of success as your peers, when every potential yes leads to a “We regret to inform you…”
Throughout our younger years, we reach key developmental milestones more or less at the same time, but adulthood starts with the realisation that when it comes to career progression, it’s an open field.
Here’s how to deal with the realness of career envy, and leave behind guilt and self-hatred.
Be social-media savvy
In case you hadn’t noticed, the world breeds competition and the added layer of social media is a potent cocktail for a heavy dose of ‘compare and despair syndrome.’
Glossy profiles on LinkedIn cast aspersions of effortless career progression, but these are highly idealised and curated versions of our real work lives. You don’t hear about the hours spent sobbing in the office toilets, months spent in a dead-end waitressing job after getting made redundant, or the degrading remarks from that inappropriate male colleague.
Whilst job responsibilities fit into neat capsules online, no job is truly perfect; even in your alleged dream role, there will still be aspects which are boring, frustrating or difficult – work is still work!
Also, remember that sometimes things don’t go to plan. There can be many false starts, circumnavigations, let-downs and episodes of self-doubt. Next time you find yourself in a social media vortex, remember that on the other side of that online profile is a real life human – flawed, brilliant, sometimes clueless and probably trying their best, just like you.
Delete the apps off your phone for a few weeks and replace time scrolling with some introspection by asking ‘What do I really want career-wise for myself?’
Understand your emotions
It’s counter-productive to suppress feelings of envy or jealousy as they arise. Our emotions are meant to be listened to, and used to guide us through this game of life.
Technically, there is a difference between jealousy and envy. Being jealous is a reaction to the threat of losing something (usually someone), and always involves a third party. For example, you can be jealous of your colleague as she always receives praise from your boss, whilst your work and efforts aren’t recognised.
Contrarily, envy is a response to lacking something, such as wishing you had your friend’s stellar calculus skills. As always, there is a deep biological reasoning for this feeling; as humans we evolved to experience envy in relation to competition for resources.
With greater emotional intelligence, you can begin to unpick the route of your feelings, and turn them into a source of positivity. Often if you feel envious of something it’s a good indication that you want it and should pursue it, e.g. start taking steps to enliven your inner mathematical genius.
Be self-care aware
The truth is that jealous thoughts can be routed in low self-esteem or a long held negative self-perception or narrative that plays in your head.
If you’re jealous of someone, it’s highly likely there’s another person who is jealous of you, too. Seeing a friend succeeding can make us panic that our career trajectory is completely wrong, however you will never be able to replicate someone’s career path exactly – because you are not them.
For lots of careers there isn’t an easily defined roadmap to get from A to B. Don’t underestimate the role of serendipity, of being in the right place at the right time or the luck of meeting someone influential.
Detract jealous thoughts by writing a list of all the things you have accomplished and what makes you unique, and really focus on self-care. Subscribe to shine theory, which states that surrounding yourself with successful people can only be a positive. It’s contagious – when they shine, you shine!
Finally, listen to ‘Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen’ by Baz Luhrmann. Assume his applauded lyrics as your mantra, raison d’être, and call to action:
‘‘Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long…and in the end, it’s only with yourself.”