When you compare your career to others, convincing yourself that you haven’t done or aren’t doing enough, you may actually impact your own morale and cause a self-fulfilling prophecy.
A burgeoning body of research suggests that low morale and poor self-esteem can negatively affect your productivity which, in turn, can hurt company profits. (Read: It’s bad for business.) Meanwhile, studies show that confidence can actually have a positive impact on your work performance. Confident employees often take more chances, waste less time, require less management, collaborate well with others and don’t shy away from challenges.
And one surefire way to kill your confidence is by constantly comparing yourself to others when, simply, you’re incomparable.
Sure, some healthy competition can give you the kick you may need to set goals for yourself (and tick ’em off!). But incessantly seeking parallels in your and your peers’ unique journeys, frankly, isn’t constructive.
So if you’re looking for a new job, wanting to change jobs, considering a new industry or even diving into your first gig, remember that comparison is futile. Here’s why (and how) to stop comparing yourself while job hunting.
It’s easy to compare yourself to others while job hunting. For example: You see a job advertisement that calls for several years of experience that you don’t have. You may assume that other applicants tick all the boxes, and you may worry that your experience isn’t enough.
But your background, whatever it may be, has equipped you for some position for which other job seekers are not so suitable. After all, you don’t want to be the same as everyone else applying for the job; you want to stand out. Your work and life experiences combine to set you apart from your competition.
So instead of worrying about your differences in experience, highlight and leverage those differences. Reframe your mindset to move from a place of self-doubt to one of self-worth, and use your individuality to your advantage.
You may feel like you’re failing if you haven’t achieved seniority or a certain salary by some preconceived timetable. Maybe you work with younger colleagues in higher positions, or you look at a friend whose paychecks nearly double yours. Regardless, you can’t compare your career with that of a peer who hasn’t had the same trajectory.
Your career path doesn’t have to be so linear. And, truthfully, most people don’t take such conventional routes. In fact, a Bureau of Labor Statistics statement suggests that workers, on average, hold 12.3 jobs in their lifetime. Journalists dub nonlinear career paths a new norm and share how career “themes” may be replacing sequential paths. Chief operating officer of Facebook and author of Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, Sheryl Sandberg, argues that our career paths are more like jungle gyms than ladders.
In other words: You can’t compare where you are with where someone else stands when you took different routes to get there. One route is not better than the other.
Remember that, while work certainly consumes a chunk of our time, we’re human beings not human doings. Your job doesn’t solely define you; you have a life outside of work, as well (even if it doesn’t always feel like it).
Your values, priorities and obligations are all factors that not only contribute to your career success, but that also help you define success on your own terms. If you land a job with an inspiring company with values that align with your own, for example, that may feel like success to you. Someone else may work for a company that pays them better than what you earn but that doesn’t fulfill them quite the same—so who’s to say which one of you is more or less successful?
Success is subjective.
With that all said, it’s important to recognize when you’re not where you’d like to be. But so long as you’re putting yourself out there, asking for what you deserve and doing your best, constant comparison may only thwart your success.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a nomadic journalist, an adventure aficionado and a full-time traveler. After several years as a staff editor in New York City, she now spends her days freelance writing from around the world. You can follow her journey on her blog, HerReport.org, and find her work on AnnaMarieHoulis.com.