"Promotion or job change alerts on LinkedIn leave me feeling deflated as I compare my career progress to others"

Jun 12, 2022

I think many of us would be fibbing if we said we hadn't been in your shoes (I know I would be).

Let's play out the scenario for a second... You're having what feels like a never-ending week at work. Your 'To Do' list is growing, not shrinking. You just said yes to another project even though you're busy and despite feeling overwhelmed with a million things to do, you find yourself distracted and scrolling on LinkedIn. You've recently set up some LinkedIn job alerts ‘just to see what's out there'. You're met with a new notification:

⁠'Congratulate so and so on their new promotion!' 

What’s the sensation you feel? I’ll guess that at that moment, you experience a tummy sinking 'urgh' instead of a full-hearted ‘great work’ acknowledgment. The comparison of their achievements to yours isn’t, however, anything to do with them but a reflection of how you feel about your own career - though I suspect you know this already.

Before I jump into some advice, I want to share my personal experience with a similar comparison activity.

My LinkedIn comparison 

A few years ago, I saw a LinkedIn post informing me that an ex-colleague had landed a top Director job at one of the biggest companies in the UK. Complete with a confident new headshot, I had a jolt of ‘why not me?’. Her title was more senior than mine; the company bigger in size and reputation - was I behind?

In a frenzy of comparison, I lost 30 minutes of my life browsing her work history since we had worked together, comparing it to mine. This proved futile, of course, and left me with a sense of overwhelm – questioning what I should or could have done differently to progress in the same way - should I be at the same level? Was it right to stay in my company as long as I had? Should I start applying for jobs? (This immediate feeling was followed later by guilt for letting my introspection cloud celebrating her achievement).

As I see it now (good old hindsight), this comparison was a red flag. 

The truth was that I was unhappy with my work situation at the time of this comparison activity. I'd been in my company a few years, knew it inside out, could manage the daily challenges and was largely going through the motions - or as I call 'career sleepwalking.' (Another blog on this soon!). 

As a notorious people pleaser and hard worker with high expectations of myself, I showed up to work and delivered well, but how I behaved had shifted – it had been gradual – but it was there.

Day to day, I continued to put ideas forward but with less enthusiasm. I continued to deliver quality work, but it felt like walking through mud to complete it. I had never been involved in workplace gossip, but I found myself engaging in negative talk with others. This wasn't me, and I stayed in this stewing sense of limbo and comparison for about a year or so.

It would take a few more red flags (comparison being one) that would lead me to stop and look at what was happening and make the shifts to feel happy with my career and journey.

Here is what I’d ask you to consider regarding your comparison specifically - 

What is your comparison telling you?

Comparison is never about the other person, it's about you. If right now, you feel like you've hit a wall in your career and comparison to others is creeping in more and more, ask yourself these questions:

  • Who or what am I comparing myself to most? (let's call it out)
  • What is this comparison making me feel about myself? (sit with this question and really challenge yourself to take note)
  • What is true? (you’re likely telling yourself scary stories about what you are and are not achieving - let’s challenge that evidence)
  • What else am I noticing? (be honest)

These insights will clarify what you're missing, what you want more of and what you want and need. Pay close attention.

Once you block out the noise and listen to yourself, you'll realise that there's been a niggle growing, trying to tell you what's up, but for various reasons (fear, confidence, time), you've not allowed yourself the space to understand what you want. Feelings not listened to will present themselves in some form regardless - comparison being one!

What's in a title, really?

At some stage, we've fallen victim to what we think success should look like. When it comes to careers, it's ingrained in us to believe success looks a certain way - a fancy title, high pay, status, a nice office, certain clothes, all the qualifications. Somewhere along the way, we were led to believe that another promotion, pay rise, or perk to post on social media would get us closer to feeling calm, successful and satisfied. So I challenge you to lift yourself out of comparison and ask yourself - what is success for me? What does it feel like? What is important to me and why? - focus there.

⁠The other side of comparison:

Everyone is navigating something in their work and life, be it confidence, self-belief, imposter syndrome, uncertainty, or overwhelm, as examples. Consider the past and current hurdles that person has jumped to get to where they are and be kind and supportive to your fellow human. The reality is that we're all trying to be the best we can be and stay happy and balanced in the process. I've started to flip my view of comparison - with conscious effort sure, but it's been a game-changer to my self-esteem and motivation. When you see others thriving in their career or business, rather than think, 'that's what I'm not doing,’ see it as a 'that's what's possible for me too.' Reach out to those you compare with and ask about their journey and experience, aiming to learn from them or understand their obstacles. Choose to be inspired!

Some next steps for you to help you tackle where you're at-  

  •  Listen to what your comparison is telling you. 

You've probably known for some time that something needs to change with your job or at work. I describe it as the 'niggle’. That gut feeling, almost knowing that something needs to change. You know you want something more than your current job is giving you but deflecting it, dismissing it, or burying it will only make the feeling that something is missing feel worse.

When you remove distractions and listen to yourself, you'll start to recognise what you want and what you don’t want. You'll also begin to feel clear on what that change needs to be.

  •  Define your version of success

What does success look like for you and WHY? It might be that promotion, that title, that particular path but you have to know your why? Why are those things important to you and your life. Success may not be ‘climbing the ladder’ for you and that’s ok - it might be flexibility so you can spend time with your family or do other projects. It might be a lateral move that sees you doing work that inspires you. Focus on defining your success and happiness.

  •  Set social media boundaries and focus on you

If you're not feeling in a great place with work, being on LinkedIn or any other social media will quickly present comparison and 'doom scrolling.' Every minute spent comparing your path to someone else's is a minute lost on creating your own. You have to get disconnected in order to connect to what you want. Remember, where focus goes, your energy flows.

  •  Celebrate yourself and log the wins

The world is fast and it's easy to see a week at work fly by and feel like you haven't achieved much. You need to start to capture your daily wins, big or small. Read your log at the end of each week and recognise your achievements and the things you have successfully navigated and progressed forward. Doing this will help you build confidence and remind you how capable you are.

  •  Show up from a place of gratitude.

The quote 'remember when you wanted what you currently have' rings true. The world is fast. We are constantly striving for the next thing but take a moment to recognise how far you've come, your unique journey - the challenges you have overcome and the obstacles fought. Stay proud and grateful for all you have learned, what you have and what is to come.

  •  Take positive action

You will continue to feel deflated and stuck if you’re constantly comparing. I see many people fall into 'analysis paralysis' when they’re in this comparison trap. Focus on yourself and take small steps to progress in a way that feels right for you and what you want. Remember (especially my perfectionists out there), you don't have to have a full plan and have it all figured out before taking action. I encourage you to take one small step every day. 

Not clear on what you want next in your career? Know what you want but unsure how to get there? What is one action you can take tomorrow to help you move forwards? Over time, the action adds up and you’ll be where you want to be!

Try these practical tips and place your valuable time and energy in getting clear on what you want, identifying a direction that excites you and taking ownership of your career.

Remember, when you're in your own lane, the path is clear. 

 If any of this resonated with you and you want to talk through a way forward for you, email me at [email protected]

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