News & Events

The Enemy of Any Job Search


Employment & Learning

“Not again! Mary received an invitation to an interview with a Fortune 500 company. John, remember him? He accepted a job offer in Hawaii, where he always wanted to go. And Kate got promoted only a year after being hired! Meanwhile, my own job search seems to be a disaster. I think to myself that all good positions are already taken. I am never going to be a faculty member. Sigh.”

These are the stories you might hear when comparison, not healthy competition, fuels a job search. While it can be good to know whom you are up against in your quest for your dream job, if left unchecked, constant comparison can make an already stressful situation more nerve-racking.

On the one hand, knowing where we are relative to other members of society helps identify areas for improvement, create a more positive self-image and helps us gain insights into unfamiliar environments. On the other hand, habitual comparison with those who we judge to be better off than us may lead to an intense buildup of envy, jealousy and a fear of missing out.

Pick your reference points wisely. When we compare ourselves to people we think are better off than us, we feel inferior and resentful. If we do the opposite, we end up depending on others to be lesser, cutting off potential allies. But if you compare yourself to people with the same background or experience as you, you may instead find someone who can serve you as a resource or an inspiration.

Using comparison during a job search is tempting, because it can uncover valuable data to help you outrun the competition. However, you should consider that this approach is likely to generate bias, because we never know what really happens in the minds and lives of others. Plus, what works for one person doesn’t guarantee it will work for you, because each person’s life is filled with distinct experiences and skills.

Owning your authentic story is what ultimately leads to the best employment match and also greater job satisfaction. Thus, my last piece of advice is to cultivate your inner truth and don’t forget to compare apples to apples, not apples to elephants, even if the elephants would not mind eating them for breakfast.

Information on our job search programs at the YWCA Employment and Learning Centre can be found at: Employment & Learning

This article was adapted by Shaylyn White. You can view the full original article by Irina Filonova and Inside Higher Ed here: