Career & Finance

How to Use Career Competition to Your Advantage


Your co-worker just landed a big promotion. And, as much as you want to join in on the celebration by grabbing a slice of that breakroom ice cream cake and offering her a hearty, “Congratulations!”, you’re feeling too jealous to even move away from your computer screen.

Jealousy usually isn’t a pleasant emotion. We’d all much rather convince ourselves that we’re the bigger people who can swallow our pride and support and celebrate other people’s successes. But—let’s face it—that can be tough to do.

Why? Well, because careers are competitive. And, it becomes all too easy to see someone else’s success as your own failure—regardless of whether or not they’re in the same position or industry as you.

Competition is inevitable in your career, and I know that the pressure of that can be crushing at times. However, instead of letting competition freeze you in your tracks, there are a few ways you can shift that unavoidable element into something productive—something that actually helps to push your career forward. Here’s how.

1. Drop Your Resentment

First things first, you’ll want to check those feelings of resentment at the door. Of course, it’s natural to feel a little spiteful when you’re matched against someone who’s trying to achieve the same thing in his or her career.

However, it’s important to remind yourself that the people you’re competing against are really no different than you: They’re aiming for success just like you are. It’s not a personal attack against you, and their motivation and drive really doesn’t deserve your frustration.

So, keep your emotions in check. Otherwise, you’ll have a pretty difficult time leveraging competition effectively.

2. Remember Collaboration Over Competition

Yes, a certain level of competitive drive in your career is expected—and perhaps even encouraged.

But, all too often we become so consumed with clawing our way to the top, we end up seeing competitors where we should see collaborators—which means we’re all missing a valuable opportunity to learn from others.

We often become so consumed with clawing our way to the top, we end up seeing competitors where we should see collaborators.

This concept rings especially true when it comes to your own co-workers. Yes, ultimately you’re matched up against each other to compete for those next steps in your careers. However, it’s important to remember that—the majority of the time—you’re actually on the same team. You’re working toward shared goals for your department and your company as a whole.

I’ll be the first to admit that switching your perspective in this way can take some getting used to (especially if you’re in a notoriously competitive field). But, you’ll likely be surprised by how much this new outlook impacts things for you.

3. Learn From Your Competitors

Tying into the point above, have you ever taken time to think about how much you could actually learn from your competitors? Spoiler alert: It’s a lot.

Yes, maybe that co-worker landed a promotion before you. But, now you can use her experience to benefit yourself. Take note of the things she did to achieve that milestone—did she spearhead a big project? Has she worked there for a certain number of years? Can you ask her about her experience to find out more about the steps she took to get there?

There’s no denying that watching someone achieve the things that you want can be disheartening. But, switch the script and use it as a learning experience—rather than an exercise in frustration.

4. Focus on Yourself

In some cases, intense competition can be incredibly motivating. However, more often than not, it usually ends up being a huge distraction. We become so concerned with what everyone else is achieving, we neglect to pay adequate attention to our own progress.

As tempting as it might be to keep tabs on everybody else, a much smarter move is to stay zoned in on yourself. Think about a marathon runner: They typically don’t start races in the hopes of being the first to cross the finish line. They don’t concern themselves with everybody else’s pace. Instead, they set off hoping to beat their own personal bests.

As tempting as it might be to keep tabs on everybody else, a much smarter move is to stay zoned in on yourself.

It might seem a little unnatural to view your career the same way. But, that outlook can be helpful and—ultimately—much more fulfilling.

Competition is inevitable in our careers. For some people, constant competition only serves as a disheartening distraction. But, it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way.

Implement these four tips, and you’ll use career competition to your advantage—rather than letting it take advantage of you.

What things do you do to use competition positively in your career?