Do you compare your career to others (virtual or actual) and feel discouraged?
You believed you’d “succeed” in your chosen profession.
You earned a degree or two to prepare for this success. You acquired some workforce experience along the way.
But now, as you send (or have been sending) out those resumes, covers and interview, you can’t (or haven’t been able to) get 1 job offer.
You look around and others are getting jobs easily. Some are advancing in their careers through promotions.
And, you wonder:
How are they getting these jobs, and I can’t land one? How are they advancing in their careers, and I’m failing?
Why Comparing Careers is Destructive
Thing is: this type of comparison leaves you hurt because you feel worse than others.
Here are the words of Dr. Lloyd Thomas, a licensed psychologist, in his Coloradoan article:
“. . . As adults, when we compare ourselves to others, it is usually to evaluate ourselves as “worse than” or “better than” or “equal to” other people. When we measure ourselves against others, it causes us psychological harm.”
Destructively comparing yourself to others isn’t the thing to do, if you want to navigate unemployment with serenity.
In reality, you’re less peaceful when you dwell on these things. You might even find yourself depressed when comparing.
Below, I’ll present 4 more reasons why you should stop comparing your career to other people’s careers.
Reason #1. Comparison Leaves You Dejected and Miserable.
When you fall into the comparison trap, you see everything bad in yourself. Because you see everything good in others, however, you: keep up with people’s advancements, salary increases, and other accomplishments, in destructive ways.
You feel inadequate because others have jobs and incomes.
And, when you feel inadequate, you walk around dejected and miserable. You see yourself as a failure and feel you’re not good enough.
Comparing your unemployment with someone’s employment leaves you shorthanded—every time. Truth is: the grass isn’t always greener.
You think the lives of those employed are better. But, you forget some are in jobs they don’t like. Some wish they had the opportunity to explore and change career paths.
This is why you must keep a proper perspective when looking at others. You only see what’s on the surface.
What’s presented on the surface doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Doesn’t mean you’re not good enough to achieve such things at the right time.
So, don’t bog yourself down by these things.
Reason #2. Comparison Brings Shame.
You deal with it in unemployment: the shame of not having a job. You know it’s at work because you think: “I’m a failure who just can’t secure a job offer.”
You see: society values employment. It’s considered a good thing.
Unemployment, on the other hand, isn’t valued. It’s considered a bad thing.
You’re expected to land and maintain employment (as well as excel).
Because you hang tightly to this expectation, shame results when you fall short in meeting it. You wonder why you’re the only adult who can’t secure a job.
Truth is: it’s harder to land a job nowadays. You find yourself out of work longer than expected. But, there’s no need for shame.
Don’t walk around miserably because you fell short. Don’t believe you’re inferior to people with jobs because, contrary to popular belief, your value doesn’t come from your employment status.
Rid yourself of your unemployment shame (i.e., feeling worthless and useless), resulting from societal expectations.
In his article on shame, Nathan Heflick, a psychologist lecturer at the University of Lincoln in the United Kingdom, says:
“. . . When you live an authentic life, and are true to your values, you are less likely to feel shame. This is opposed to living a life where you do and think what you believe others want you to do, or live your life pressured into doing things.”
From this point on, I encourage you not to look at others thinking they have it together in their careers and you don’t.
Own your unemployment instead. It’s not the end of your career.
Reason #3. Comparison Takes Your Eyes Off Your Own Journey.
You already know society’s (career) timeline for adults, right?
Graduate from high school.
Go to college.
Graduate from college.
Get a good job.
Work hard and succeed.
By the time you reach the age of 30, you’re expected to be a hard-working professional in your chosen profession.
Here’s something I personally learned, however: things don’t always work according to society’s timeline. And, you shouldn’t feel bad about it, either.
Interested in knowing why? Because everyone has their own unique journey.
When you focus on what’s going on in the careers of others, you miss what’s going on in yours. You feel left behind and believe there’s no way to catch up.
I encourage you to focus on your journey. Please don’t get caught up in the journeys of others.
Don’t fall into panic mode believing you’ll never accomplish anything (else) in your career.
You will. Your time will come.
So, keep your eyes on your own career. And, in the meantime, continue to better yourself, professionally and personally, while transitioning.
Reason #4. Comparison Prevents You From Moving Forward.
I’m over 30 and unemployed. I have not one job prospect.
What’s wrong with me?
She has “the perfect job” and makes decent money.
Will I ever reach this point in my life?
Please pay attention to these destructive thoughts, capture them, and align them with truth.
Why is this important?
Because these thoughts lead to you beating yourself up mentally and emotionally. They affect your feelings and behavior, preventing you from moving forward.
It doesn’t stop there, though: you’ll display a negative projection in your job search. Here’s Dr. Thomas’ (referenced above) take on it:
“When we conclude ourselves to be less significant than others, we behave in ways which invite others to treat us accordingly.”
You feel you have no chance of succeeding when you focus on the success of others compared to your failure. And, you become inactive because you think you don’t measure up.
You must remember: You have your own (life and) career journey. Don’t dwell on where other people are right now.
Journey through the path laid out for you. Keep in mind this fact: you have something valuable to bring to a prospective company.
What to Do Instead: 3 Alternatives to Comparison.
I hope I’ve convinced you: comparing your career to others’ careers isn’t a wise thing to do. So, I’ll present 3 alternatives for your consideration.
I must warn you: They’re centered on mental and emotional changes.
You’re equipped to capture every thought, including those stemming from career comparison. So, when you find yourself falling into a comparison state, you can do the following:
#1. Change Your Negative Thoughts and Actions.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the negative thoughts, stemming from comparisons.
You might’ve doubted your professionalism and ability to excel.
You might’ve felt behind. You see many people doing great things, and you’re between jobs.
You might’ve questioned your rejections when you’ve given your best presentation on paper and in person. Why can’t you get hired and succeed like others?
Here’s the thing: these thoughts do nothing to fuel you onward. They’ll negatively influence your mood, if you don’t make changes.
Pay attention to them. Take them captive. Replace them with truth.
Why should you? Because they’ll make you sad.
But, it doesn’t stop there. They’ll also affect your actions.
If you don’t believe in your ability to excel, for example, then you’ll stay stuck in your job search. If you think you’ll never make money again, then you’ll never explore every opportunity.
So, I encourage you to make changes to your thoughts and actions. Shift your perspective. Have faith.
With faith, you don’t deny the reality of unemployment and its effect on your career.
What happens is: you believe things will work out for good, regardless of the unwanted resume gap(s). This perspective has helped me tremendously in the difficulty of unemployment and career.
#2. Accept and Embrace Your Career Journey.
Although there might be similarities, no two journeys are alike. Some of us experience detours early on in our journeys but please believe:
Your journey is taking you where you need to go in your career.
I’ve had two major detours and setbacks in my planned career: caregiving and long-term unemployment after serving in this role. I’ve been on an unsuccessful job search ever since.
My original career path was thrown off course. I hadn’t made these experiences part of my career trajectory.
How will I convince employers my skills developed as opposed to rusted in caregiving?
How will I explain the length of my unemployment to those in hiring positions?
How will I get their attention, without them judging me with their unemployment biases?
I had no idea, and it bothered me for a while. But, with the passage of time, something happened.
I decided to start a blog to encourage and educate others in similar situations, based on how I’d been positively transitioning through unemployment.
With the founding of Serenity Amidst Frustration, I created an opportunity for myself. I’ve come to enjoy article writing and have learned many new skills through blogging.
While I’d expected to well into a public service career by now, things didn’t happen as planned.
It took some time, but I’ve come to accept my professional journey.
And, I encourage you to accept and embrace where you are in your career—setbacks, detours, and all. Stop comparing your career to others and focus on your own.
Yes, your unemployment season has lasted longer than imagined. Still, move forward courageously with excitement of what’s in store for you.
Figure out your strengths and talents, if you haven’t already.
Know and own what you’ll bring to the table.
Determine what you’ll like to achieve professionally and stay focused.
If you focus on your value, then you’ll move forward, without any comparisons. This will happen because you won’t doubt the following: there’s still room for you to succeed as well—at the right time.
#3. Be Grateful for Your Accomplishments.
One of the best ways to get out of the comparison trap is by practicing gratitude.
Discontentment results when you look at the accomplishments of others. It shows you’re not content with your success. Gratitude, on the other hand, puts a focus on your accomplishments to date.
Remind yourself about your achievements.
Think about the compliments you received in past roles and jobs.
Think about the people you’ve helped along the way.
Be grateful for what you’ve done as opposed to what you haven’t done yet.
But, don’t stop there.
Practice gratitude for everything good in your life: health, strength, family, shelter, food, clothing. Whatever blessings you have, think about them and give thanks to God.
Gratitude will totally shift your perspective. Believe me!
It’ll help you overcome the negative behavior, discussed above. It’ll also empower you in this transition.
The temptation to compare your career journey to others abounds in unemployment. Upon seeing the accomplishments of others, discouragement comes.
Comparing careers, in this way, however, is destructive.
It leaves you miserable, shame, and stagnant. It leaves you blinded to what’s going on in (and where you can improve) your journey.
Here, I’ve provided three alternatives to comparison: change your negative thoughts and actions, accept and embrace your career journey, and be grateful for your accomplishments.
These alternatives will help you to avoid feeling bad about your career setbacks. They’ll help you keep a proper perspective in your career journey as well.
As I close, I’d like you to consider the words of Dr. Judith Orloff, UCLA Psychiatry Professor and Author of Emotional Freedom, in her Huffington Post article on comparison:
“In a spiritual sense, comparing your path to another’s is comparing apples and oranges. Why? Your life is explicitly designed for your own growth. Every person you meet, every situation you encounter, challenges you to become a stronger, more loving, and confident person.”
If you’re comparing and feeling discouraged, then it’s time to make some changes. Taking care of yourself while unemployed is a must. And, this includes staying away from harmful activities, such as the comparison game.
P. S. Do you have additional alternatives to comparing your career to others? Feel free to share your thoughts by sending an email to SerenityAmidstFrustration@gmail.com with the following subject line: Re: Comparing Careers.