One of my most popular posts on Write Change Grow is titled – Does it Feel Like Everyone is Moving Forward – Except You?
I think all of us feel we are standing still, while everyone is else is moving forward at some point in our lives.
It can be an awful feeling, but it’s something we can work on from both an emotional and practical standpoint.
Because we can be plagued with feelings of not moving forward, I thought it would be helpful to drill down and look at the different areas of our lives where we sometimes feel this way.
Today we are looking at how we feel about our careers.
Below are some of the specific reasons you might feel like everyone is moving forward in their careers except you.
People make more money
Money can be a big factor in why we feel like everyone is moving forward in their careers except us.
Our friends might make a LOT more money than we do and it can be intimidating (if we allow it to be).
Let’s start by taking a look at some general assumptions we often make about money.
- People who earn more money are happier
- People who earn more money are less stressed
- You have to earn a certain amount of money to be happy
- People who make lots of money love their jobs.
Reading through that list you might have thought – I know that assumption is not true – but here’s the thing, when comparison kicks in or we are feeling vulnerable we don’t always run with what we know to be true. We ditch logic and fall back on assumptions.
Earning a lot of money doesn’t mean you are happier. Earning a lot of money may come with a bucket load of stress, long hours and responsibility. Of course not earning enough money to support yourself or your family could see you facing the same issues.
Making a lot of money doesn’t mean that you love your job, it could mean you are doing something you hate because it pays well.
Money is not always our key incentive for taking on a role. A lot of people take lower paying jobs because they are passionate about helping people and being of service. A lot of what we do in our professional lives is not just about money, it’s about how work makes us feel.
However you look at it, there are always going to be people who earn more or less than you.
People around you are getting promoted
You are working hard, doing a great job but other people in your company seem to be getting promoted before you.
It can be frustrating.
While timing may have a lot to do with people being promoted over you, there may be other factors to consider. For starters are you taking risks? By taking risks, I mean putting your hand up for special projects or taking a secondment to another area or generally doing work that gets you out of your comfort zone.
Then of course there is the office politics side of things. Yep the person who gets promoted might be the one who sucks up to the boss or pretends to be someone they are not. It could be the person who shows one face to the senior management and a completely different (usually unpleasant) one to the staff. The person being promoted could be the one who flat-out lies a lot of the time. I would love to believe that these people don’t get ahead but let’s get real, they do. You have probably seen this yourself.
The thing is you don’t want to be that person. That’s not the way to get your promotion. You will get your promotion based on skills, hard work, integrity and being brilliant at your job.
If your particular company is so toxic that only the first option is an option, they perhaps it’s time to look for a company that’s a better fit and a better place to work.
People are changing careers
I’ve been a personal/executive assistant for a big chunk of my working life (which believe me has been a long time!)
Occasionally, I see one of my earlier PA colleagues and find out that they have changed careers and got out of the assistant game. There have been times when I have felt a twinge of comparison. There have even been times when I’ve had a little that should have been me moment!
Before social media was a regular fixture of our lives, we’d hear about what people were doing in their careers via good old-fashioned conversation and the odd school reunion. Now all you have to do is check Linked In and Facebook to discover someone’s new career.
Just a note about Linked In and resumes – life sometimes looks good on paper but doesn’t always translate to what is actually happening in our careers. You might have a fabulous looking Linked In profile but not be happy in your chosen professional or your profile might have what some people consider red flags (gaps in your work history for example) but these events might represent some of the best things that have ever happened to you!
You feel like you are the only one looking for a job
With more companies hiring employees on fixed term contracts, a lot more people are looking for jobs at any one time than you might think.
If you are looking for a job, I promise you – you are not alone.
Job hunting can be a little soul-sucking, particularly if it goes on for a long time and you are facing financial hardship but it’s important to stay optimistic, focused and confident.
Hang in there, put your best self forward and remember you are not alone.
People around you are better educated
A good education can definitely help in building a great career. No doubt about that!
It might also mean that you have an expensive degree and not end up where you wanted to be career wise. The education component alone might not be enough to get you where you want to be.
The whole school thing is interesting for me at the moment. I’m currently looking for another admin position, which means I’m filling in forms (both online and in person) that ask me where I went to school. But here’s the thing, I left school after grade 10 when I was 15. I did a year at the local TAFE doing a secretarial course and have been working ever since. School was 35 years ago! Where and when I went to school hardly seems relevant, compared to the amazing amount of knowledge and experience I have gained working since then.
It’s the weigh up between education and experience.
In saying that, I do realize the forms are designed as a one size fits all proposition, so fair enough.
Having a degree (or two) will definitely matter in a lot of professions (doctor, lawyer etc) and I realize getting these things is not cheap, easy or quick.
There are also a lot of professions where learning doesn’t always have to be about degrees and certificates. Self-study, technical books and online courses provide a wealth of information and learning.
The important thing is to never stop learning. Always be curious.
You hate your job
You might hate your job and be thinking to yourself that everyone else loves theirs! This is another one of those nasty assumptions that gets us into trouble.
I wrote a post about what to do if you hate your job recently so make sure you check it out if you’re interested.
Of course this one can be flipped on its head as well, you might assume (there’s those assumptions again) that everyone hates their job and therefore it perfectly okay for you to hate yours as well.
This simply isn’t true.
Don’t let people hating their job drag you down into the same trap.
You are not progressing at the rate you want
This can sometimes be about timing. Timing is such a vitally important component of life, yet one we sometimes have little or no control over.
Sometimes it’s about being in the right place at the right time. Then there are the moments when our timing is completely off.
It’s about recognizing opportunity and being open to change. It’s about being flexible in our thinking. If you are too rigid, you could miss out on opportunities that will move you forward.
It’s also about being proactive and seeking out opportunities and not waiting for things to fall into your lap.
You are struggling to get your business started
Perhaps you don’t work for a company but instead work for yourself.
You may have started a solo business, partnership or small business and you might be struggling. You might be having trouble getting customers in the door, finding buyers, securing clients or having problems with cash flow.
While all this is happening, you are reading success stories on the Internet about businesses and their six figure launches and the piles of money they are making.
You read the success stories and you start to compare. You think that everyone is doing better than you are.
I’m here to tell you that is simply not true. You are not alone in your struggle. A lot of new businesses struggle in the beginning. You have to persevere and keep going. You will also need to look at what’s working and what’s not working and change your strategy accordingly.
Now that we have looked at some of the basics on why we feel the way we do, let’s work on turning those feelings around.
Ditch the comparison
Granted this one is not a small or quick topic that can be covered off in one paragraph, it can be quite complex but the sooner you ditch comparing yourself to other people the better off you will be.
The key to stop comparing yourself to others is focusing on yourself (more on that below).
Learn from comparison
While it’s great to ditch comparing altogether, while you are making this transition you want to learn from your comparison.
Learn what comparison is trying to tell you!
When a comparison is triggered, take a closer look at what has triggered it. That’s where true growth can be found. Once we know what our triggers are we can work on them.
A friend of the family is a lawyer who gets paid squillions (okay maybe not that much) but she is paid incredibly well. At one point she was working internationally and I’ll admit it hit a trigger for me. Not because she was a lawyer and not because she was making a lot of money and buying $400 shoes – it was because she was working in cool cities that I would love to work in.
Know what your career triggers are and how to effectively deal with them.
When you get in career comparison mode you need a way to flick the switch so to speak. This will mean different things for different people. It might mean meditating to get yourself back on track, saying affirmations, reciting an empowering quote to yourself, taking several deep relaxing breaths, doing yoga, distracting yourself with something productive and healthy, exercising, having a good laugh or focusing your energy back on yourself.
Understand that comparison is used to sell
Trying to ditch the habit of comparing yourself to other people isn’t helped along by some forms of advertising.
Selling is often based on comparison. It’s all about – you will feel younger, sexier and richer if you buy this car over that one. They want you to believe you will be better than the person who drives the other car.
This form of selling is everywhere. Try not to fall under its spell. Program yourself to pick up on this sort of comparison and tune it out as much as possible. Drinking a particular beer, driving a certain car or owning a particular brand of flat screen television, won’t make you feel better about yourself. Knowing your own worth certainly will though!
Compete against yourself
Competition is a part of work life, more so in areas such as sales and marketing. In sales you have to hit your personal targets but you might also need to beat the sales figures of the person sitting next to you.
I’m the first to admit that I am not a competitive person. For me it’s about beating my personal best.
I took some tests recently and I was initially upset by my results. In reality, I didn’t do that badly. My score averaged out against everyone else’s was quite good. Yet I was disappointed in the result because the last time I took similar tests I got a higher score. I wanted to improve on my earlier score.
We compete for a lot of things when it comes to work but personally I think our biggest competition is with ourselves.
Use comparison for inspiration/motivation
There is a way you can use comparison for inspiration. The people who you admire that are doing well or doing what you want to be doing can help you learn, grow and move forward.
It might mean following someone’s blog and taking action on their advice (in line with what’s best for you, of course) or it might be something more hands on like mentoring. It might mean modelling your career on someone successful. Important note – modelling is not straight copying. You need to add your own personal spark to your career and life.
Be happy for people and believe in abundance
Earlier we talked about people making a lot of money and being promoted and all the other good stuff that can happen in our careers.
I also mentioned how some of those things might not be as shiny and bright as they look from the outside.
An important thing to remember here is that we don’t want to be walking around telling ourselves someone makes a lot of money but they are unhappy, in an attempt to make ourselves feel better about our situation.
This is not about putting other people down to feel good about ourselves.
This is about being happy for people. This is about being happy for other people’s success and not resenting them for it.
It’s about believing in abundance and believing there is enough happiness and career success to go around.
Be prepared to fail
Yep, I mentioned the F word. If you want to move forward in your career you have to be prepared to fail.
This definitely applies if you are thinking of starting your own business but it also refers to work in general.
You might resist taking a new position because it’s too far out of your comfort zone or you might think it’s too risky. In essence you are scared of failing, so you stay safe where you are.
Failing means that you are trying. If you are not trying – you don’t grow. You stagnate and that’s definitely when you are likely to feel like everyone is moving forward except you!
Get the focus back on yourself
All of this comparing, feeling left behind and feeling like everyone is moving forward except you all means one thing.
You are focusing on other people and not on yourself.
This is about YOU.
This is about your career. It’s about what you do for a living. It’s about what you do for a fairly big chunk of your life!
You need to turn your focus and energy back onto yourself.
If you feel like your career is not going the way you want it to then how exactly do you want it to go?
What’s your plan to get where you want to be? What’s your strategy? Do you have your career goals written down? And no your performance review at work doesn’t count! That’s mainly the company’s plan for you. What do you want over the next 1, 5 or 10 years?
You need to be focusing on what you want and on how you are going to make it happen.
If you feel that your career is going really well just the way you want it to – take a moment to truly embrace that and give yourself a HUGE pat on the back. We need to simply acknowledge our success more often, instead of just brushing it off and frantically running onto the next project.
Know what you want and acknowledge your success along the way.
Run your own race
I mentioned this in the first post and I stand by it.
You are unique. You don’t look at the world exactly the same as anyone else. You have your own goals, dreams and career plans.
You have your own fascinating work adventures to pursue.
Your career path is all about you. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. It’s not always going to be easy but it will be one hell of a ride.
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