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The comparison trap can kill your career

By Jana Angeles | 14 February 2020


It can be easy to compare ourselves to other people in this day and age where social media is flourishing. While we see all the glitz and glamour that people post about their careers on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, we should avoid focusing on what we don’t have and be grateful for what we do have when it comes to our career.

It’s true when they say we’re our own harshest critic and it can be difficult to push through our weaknesses and focus on our strengths altogether. 

Perhaps your upbringing has given you the unrealistic viewpoint of reaching for perfection or you carry the weight of finding the “next big thing” when it comes to your career because you’re never content with staying in one place.

The comparison trap can kill your career if you make decisions based on what your peers are doing. It’s worth taking a step back and realising your own goals and owning it instead of feeling bogged down that somebody else has your dream career. 

Only make comparisons on your progress

young man looking at a distance and smiling

Sarah Pendrick on Entrepreneur writes, “When you take care of yourself, you are better prepared to take care of others.”

Self-care is a priority when it comes to your career progress. With the physically and mentally-taxing effects of job burnout, it’s easy to lose sight of your accomplishments without feeling like you’ve failed. 

One of the best ways to better care for yourself when it comes to your career is to reflect and look back at how much progress you’ve made. What would your past self like to tell you? How do you think they would feel to see you where you are now? If you don’t think that they’ll be happy with how you’re progressing, make decisions that will help you advance your career with greater confidence and strength

When we start focusing on the positive aspects of our job, we become less receptive to our own weaknesses and make the conscious decision of working on our strengths instead. The only comparisons you should be making are not from other people but on the progress you’ve made for yourself. 

Referring to Pendrick’s statement above, by taking care of ourselves, we become prepared to take care of other people and avoid being part of the comparison trap because eventually, we realise that everyone is on a path of their own. 

Don’t let social media chip away at your confidence

Masekela Mandela writes on Grits & Gospel, “Train yourself to ignore the noise and keep grinding away. The absolute worst thing that you can do to yourself mentally is to compare your life with the social media personas that are being presented to you on an everyday basis.” 

It’s true when they say comparing yourself on social media is a thief of joy. It can even give you the mentality that the grass is greener on the other side, when in reality, you already have the grass right in front of you. As Mandela writes about the social media personas people tend to present online, we forget that what we see may not be a true reflection on what they’re actually going through. 

Victoria Halina from Noteworthy - The Journal Blog writes a piece on the psychology behind why people post on social media and what she shares is interesting.

She says, “It all ties in with the idea of keeping up appearances, and painting a picture to the audience that compose of our friends lists and beyond. Individuals can choose information that they post, and keeping up a certain online identity increases self-esteem, but can mask our true personas.”

We’re all guilty of worrying about what others see when we post about ourselves online. We want to post about our dream job and what cool events and activities we’re doing that are part of the journey, but we’d never actually share what was happening behind the scenes.

While there are people out there that showcase their best days at work, you don’t know what’s happening behind the scenes because what you’re seeing is only on the surface level. 

They could be dealing with office politics that may create a toxic workplace or have a boss that isn’t the best to work with. What you see on social media isn’t an accurate picture on how a person is progressing in their career; all they could be showing is their highlight reel. 

Comparing yourself to other people isn’t productive

wasted time concept

Ronda Suder from TopResume writes, “It's human nature for us to compare ourselves to others, but doing so in this way doesn't improve our status, make us better people, or secure our happiness. In many cases, it does the opposite by making us feel bad about ourselves.”

Suder touches on a great point that making comparisons is counterproductive and not the best way to go about things when chasing career success. When we start to see other people achieving their dreams, we may be feeling a sense of career envy and it can even put us in a place of disappointment if we’re not careful. 

While it’s natural to make comparisons, it also makes us less motivated to chase our own dreams and goals when the weight of other people’s accomplishments make us feel less worthy in achieving the things we want in our career. 

The comparison trap can not only take away our happiness but it’s also not a productive way to use our time. It can cause delays in accomplishing our career goals. 

Here are some suggested ways that can help you be more productive and start making moves when it comes to your career path:
  • Keep a journal: whether that be an online or physical one, making note of your career dreams can help you keep track of your progress. Having a journal means you’ll be able to document your thoughts and the current situation of your job. You can also keep tabs of your achievements and have it available for reference when you start to lose motivation towards your goals.
  • Study a course: if you want to boost your skills and knowledge, studying a course can help you focus on completing a qualification and develop your career. If you’re looking for a more flexible way of learning, Upskilled has online courses in business, community services and IT. Courses generally take 12 months to complete and can be fitted into your schedule of work and personal commitments.
  • Focus on one goal at a time: when you have several goals you want to achieve, it can be overwhelming to decide where to focus on. It’s important that we don’t spread ourselves thin and try and put effort into the goals we’ve set but instead, focus on achieving one goal at a time. This is because when we put our efforts into one goal, we produce the results we want when we give it at all. 
It’s normal to feel like you haven’t achieved all the things you’ve desired in your career. In fact, as we get older, our career path becomes more refined when we age so it’s important that we still appreciate the learning opportunities and experiences we get to do in our professional lives. 

Everyone is on a different journey and we must remember that not all of us can find success in an instant. It takes work, commitment and a dash of luck to get to our desired destination, so it’s important not to be overly critical over what you haven’t achieved and be grateful for what you’ve already accomplished.
 
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