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How To Avoid Comparing At Work

How To Avoid Comparing At Work

We all do it – we snoop at the lives of celebrities, at the holidays of our friends, at the incomes at our loved ones,’ and to be honest, a lot of the time the green-eyed monster is at play, ensuring we feel especially negative about our own behavior and situation. This particularly strikes in the workplace where we often struggle to avoid comparing our work skills, abilities and goals, as well as how far we’ve come in comparison to our co-workers, often leading to a mental game of one-up-manship that satisfies no one.

So, if you’re stuck in this vicious cycle of jealousy, comparison and negativity, check out seven of our best tips for to how to avoid comparing at work, and begin to break the pattern of negative comparison with our advice for the workplace.

1. Be clear about what you want.

We go to work to earn money to live, but we also go to work to help fulfill a vision of what we want in our head. Our specific goals, dreams and aims. All of these can be extremely useful in the fight to avoid comparing at work. Your work and your journey are all that you should focus on, not if those dreams stack up compared to your co-workers.

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Keep your vision clear about what you want out of work and out of life. Make a vision board; write it all down; keep a journal; or whatever you need to keep moving forward. Make sure you break things down into manageable areas so you can actively work towards them, but always keep your eyes on the work horizon so you can keep moving forward and avoid comparing at work. As the indomitable Eric Taylor from “Friday Night Lights” once stated, ‘Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.’ A better sentiment can’t be formed, really.

2. Be humble and grateful.

You can never go wrong with being grateful and humble for your life. It’s always a sure-fire to help you avoid comparing at work. No one likes a bragger or a show-off at work and let’s be honest in this economy, it’s pretty fantastic to have a job at all, given the still-large unemployment rates around the world following the recent economic downturn and recession. Being humble and grateful is a solid way towards avoiding comparing at work.

Be thankful for the job you have, even if it’s one you don’t particularly want at the moment, and let that shine by working hard and focusing. You can make something positive out of almost every situation, and staying humble, staying ambitious and staying grateful for all you have right now, is one of the most effective ways in avoiding and resenting your co-workers.

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3. Become friends with co-workers.

There’s an old saying about keeping friends close and enemies closer; but I prefer the one that talks about trying to be friends with everyone. After all, how can you compare and compete with someone you consider a friend? Friendly, helpful, supportive rivalry is one thing, but actively electing to put you and your co-workers at odds with each other is not only stupid, it’s destructive and detrimental to your career.

Strike up conversations with co-workers, talk and discuss work – but not only work – and just generally be a fun and positive person to be around. Why? If you want to avoid comparing yourself to those around you, building up these positive relationships makes it significantly more likely that you’ll be happy for them when they succeed and you’ll have a supportive, warm network around you for those achievements and those failures. Plus, helping and supporting each other is what we should all be doing anyway, right? Making more friends rarely has a downside, so go ahead and head for the water cooler with your cubicle mate.

4. Have a great ‘outside’ life.

One of the most vital things you can do to avoid comparing at work, is to have a full and varied life outside of the office. Jobs can too often dominate our waking thoughts and processes and extend into all aspects of our lives. The resolution to all this is to make sure that when you step out of those doors, you’ve got a vibrant and exciting life waiting for you.

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I’m not suggesting everyone goes out dancing and skydiving every night – I’m a classic introvert so that sounds exhausting to me – but have plans that make you excited, happy and fulfill you somehow. Take an art class, go on dates, have a pajamas-and-Netflix party with your best friends, do whatever you like but ensure that you’re doing it for you and you’ll avoid comparing at work all that much more.

5. Take on side projects.

Known as the ‘side hustle,’ taking on extra, side projects can be both fulfilling and a fantastic way to avoid comparing at work. You and your co-workers might be closer than you are to your actual neighbours at times, but that doesn’t mean you have to follow the same paths together and achieve the same milestones. Point in fact, you can always look to new side projects and extra work and responsibilities to help avoid comparing at work.

If you see a project or an avenue at work you’re interested in, then go ahead and sign up for some fun extra duties that will not only enhance your resume, but also ensure that you get to do interesting stuff outside of your assigned duties. You might even build up a bit of a speciality which is sure to set you apart from your co-workers and help stop you comparing at work. After all, we all have our different paths and journeys.

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6. Appreciate your unique standing.

You are completely unique in the workplace, even if you’re one of a hundred people doing your job. To avoid comparing at work, remember that no one has your unique blend of experiences, histories, and personal position. It might seem like you’re just one little cog in the workforce machine, but let’s face it, the chances of someone having the same experiences, opinions, views and judgement as you is not only unlikely, it’s nearly impossible.

To stop avoid comparing at work, acknowledge your position in the workplace and what you can uniquely bring to your job. You have unique abilities that cannot be replicated and rather than comparing yourself to your co-worker who might excel in one area that you aren’t so good at (spreadsheets, emails, interpersonal skills and so forth), focus on what you can bring to the role and what you can do to bring that to the front of your job performance.

7. Keep working on those work goals.

Keep working, working, working, on yourself. We all have work goals – or at least we should – and working towards them alongside the course of our job is something we should always aspire, something that should always take the place of comparing yourself at work. Just as every person is different, the goals we set ourselves are different. Our aims differ, but they are always our own. We all have our Mount Everest to climb, whether or not the tracks are similar to our co-workers.

Make a big list of the goals you want to achieve and the ones you already have done – put them in straight lines, in shaded bubbles, in brightly-colored Post-Its where you can see them. Cross off the ones you’ve already achieved and put them all somewhere you see everyday like a planner or a diary, so you can keep working towards them, slowly but surely, and always with a view to looking ahead to the future.

Remember that the key to avoid comparing at work is simply to stop comparing your journeys and focus on your goals and your career without thinking negatively about others’ paths.

More by this author

Chris Haigh

Writer, baker, co-host of "Good Evening Podcast" and "North By Nerdwest".

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Last Updated on September 28, 2020

How to Change Careers Successfully When It Seems too Late

How to Change Careers Successfully When It Seems too Late

The wake-up call often comes when you least expect it. Maybe you’re enjoying a relaxing get-together with your old college buddies when someone turns to you and says, “Wow, I never thought you’d become an investment banker. I always thought you’d write a novel!” If this leaves you wondering how to change careers, you’re not alone.

Before you know it, you find yourself remembering your old dreams—and comparing them to the career field where you are now. Life rarely goes according to plan. Marriage, kids, and grandkids often come earlier than imagined—or later.

Maybe you pursued one career path because you were considered the breadwinner, but now someone else in the family is the breadwinner. Conversely, maybe you landed a job, thinking you’d stay for six months, and now you’ve been there for sixteen years.

A recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics pointed out that “baby boomers held an average of 12.3 jobs from ages 18 to 52″[1]. For millennials, who are more technologically apt, that number is likely to be much higher.

As this proves, it’s perfectly normal to change careers and begin a job search even when it seems too late! Steering your way through a career change is part calculation, part chance, and part leap-of-faith.

If you feel stuck and are ready for a career change, take these steps to guide you.

Step 1: Be Mentally Prepared

These points can help you master the psychological aspects of a career change at any age.

Now or Never Is a Fallacy

For most professionals, there is no cut-off age for striking out in a new direction. People do it at all stages of their careers.

If you’ve ever dreamed of leaving a large company to start your own business, you are not alone. Similarly, thousands of entrepreneurs and people working for one-man shops decide each year that they’d like to work for larger organizations.

You’ll find hordes of baby boomers looking for a redo alongside mobs of GenXers and Millennials—especially as the boomers now remain in the workforce longer than their predecessors.

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Your Career Is not a Straight Line From A to B

You don’t have to have your career trajectory completely decided from the start. In fact, that’s an unrealistic expectation, no matter how methodical you are.

People change. Industries merge, morph, and in some cases, disappear. Careers rarely follow the straight and narrow.

Many careers can be compared to journeys—there are the adventurous patches, boring patches, downright scary patches, and the hills and valleys, too. The trick is to try to have a little fun while you’re charting out your various careers.

Don’t panic if you find you need to change your career. It may take some work as you sort through job posts, write cover letters, and pursue your dream job, but you’re up for it.

Career Changers Are Among Good Company

Consider these well-known trailblazers whose careers took a radical turn:

Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.com, studied computer science and electrical engineering at Princeton, went on to establish himself as a Wall Street prodigy, then quit to launch Amazon.com.

Sara Blakely, a billionaire businesswoman, was a fax machine salesperson before creating her signature slim wear line, Spanx.

Jonah Peretti, co-founder of the media sites Huffington Post and BuzzFeed, initially taught computer science to middle schoolers.

Be Ready to Take on the Naysayers

Expect plenty of advice—usually of the discouraging kind—from friends and family when they learn that you’re exploring a career change. Those you know best are often the most vocal in trying to thwart your plans.

Be prepared to field a flurry of pessimistic conjecture and doomsday scenarios. Know, though, that when your loved ones question your judgment, they’re not necessarily doubting your talent but trying to look out for your wellbeing. Stepping out of your comfort zone will make anyone close to you uncomfortable.

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Keep in mind that pessimists avoid the unknown, while optimists invite new challenges. Above all, believe in yourself and follow your instincts. Don’t let your fear of change paralyze you from seeking out your new career path.

Project an aura of enthusiasm, energy, and passion. You’ll find it’s contagious.

Step 2: Be Proactive

These tips can help you master the practical aspects of changing careers at any age.

Take Baby Steps

Ease into your new direction. Start building the skills you’ll need to make the switch.

Find out what skills you will need, and do whatever it takes to add them to your skills arsenal. Make the time to invest in additional training.

Start by devoting a half-day each week to your new pursuit until you’re ready to confidently make a move.

Clearly define where you want to go and what you’ll need to do to get there. Take an inventory of your strengths. Read trade magazines, and study up on industry trends.

Volunteer

Charitable organizations are often looking for volunteers to help them with their outreach, social media, and engagement. You can show up without the requisite skills and learn as you go in a fun, convivial, low-pressure environment, which will help you expand your experience and skills.

Take Online Courses

Today, LinkedIn and many other providers offer online courses in everything from accounting software to time management to mastering Excel. For extra credit, see if you can find classes that award online badges for completing each course.

Don’t be shy about adding these certificates to your online profile. Keep your profile fresh by adding more and more skills to it.

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Take a Temp Job

Depending on your field, it may be possible to freelance at a company where you learn on the job.

Remember that you can’t just show up at a potential employer’s claiming you have the skills. Taking a temporary job that allows you to polish your skills is proof that you’re serious about your career change.

Network!

Build a family tree of contacts. Explore beyond the main branches of your work acquaintances, industry groups, and social contacts. Join your alumni organization. Tell everyone.

Ask friends and friends-of-friends to meet you for coffee to explain what it is they do and tell you which skills you’ll need to succeed in your chosen field[2].

When you want to learn how to change careers, start by networking!

    If you have friends or associates with ties to the organizations where you want to work, ask your contacts to make an introduction. The majority of today’s jobs are found through one’s own networks. When jobs open up, companies invite informal recommendations from internal and external channels.

    Step 3: Take It Online

    This last step can help you master the online aspects of a career change at any age.

    Develop an Online Presence in the Field of Your Dreams

    Reconfiguring your online presence will be a critical step in your career change. Fine-tune your digital identity to reflect your new direction, tailoring your profile to the role and industry you’re after. Include keywords that are relevant to the industry so that recruiters can find you.

    Craft a clever personal statement that states your interests, your values, and your dreams. Once you’ve zeroed in on your message, also pick and choose which outlets make the most sense for it.

    Will your personal statement resonate on LinkedIn? Or is it highly visual—making it a better fit for Instagram?

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    Polish your sites until they gleam, then get active so others take notice. Add insightful content to your social media pages that goes deeper than the information on your resume, such as commentaries on something taking place in your newly chosen field.

    For more on how to build an online presence, check out this article.

    Final Thoughts

    Americans spend 1,800 hours or more each year working. That’s nearly one-third of your life, and it goes without saying that your job satisfaction and career goals have a great bearing on your life’s happiness barometer.

    Set out to intentionally pursue career satisfaction, looking for opportunities to fine-tune your working life so that you find fulfillment.

    If playing the piano is your personal bliss, could you meld your love of music with your clinical psychology background and find a job using music to promote healing? Perhaps there’s a foundation that would fund you in a multiyear study.

    Or, if you’re a movie buff for whom every encounter has the makings of a screenplay, why not sign up for an evening class and see if your years of writing advertising copy could morph into a career move into the film industry?

    Achieving your career change successfully will occur when you mentally prepare, take a proactive approach, and mine your personal and online networks. The pay-off will be in a life well-lived in a successful career.

    More Tips on How to Change Careers

    Featured photo credit: Jason Strull via unsplash.com

    Reference

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