When I started out as a new employee, I started with eight others. All nine of us had just graduated from undergrad and were all starting in the same marketing program. All of us were starting at square one.
The nine of us remained relatively close to one another and stayed in touch. Because of this it was easy to see what each of us was doing to stand out. Some people would set up coffee meetings with executives, others would create networking events, and others would simply do their job to the best of their ability. As a result, a natural thought process appeared:
should I be doing what the rest of the group is doing?
Since we were relatively close, it also made it blatantly obvious how someone’s career was progressing. Though we all started at square one together, that did not mean we would all progress at the same trajectory. Some people got opportunities for high visibility roles, while others were doing menial tasks. Some people go promotions while others were sitting there waiting to be recognized for their work. There was no way to steer away from this. Word gets around quickly in an office, especially when it comes to job changes.
When I was in the middle of this all (in my first two years or so), I was so focused on what other people were doing. Was I doing the right thing? Was I showing my manager that I was the strongest employee? Was I showing I can work on different kinds of projects? The reason I was so focused on these types of questions was because I was comparing myself to my peers. It was so easy to compare to one another since we started at the same time. All of us had goals of moving up quickly, but the reality was we all wouldn’t.
Like I mentioned, these comparison are easy to make. It is like comparing times for a 5K race. Everyone’s timer starts at 0:00:00, but everyone’s timer ends at different times. While it may seem like you have to win and have the best 5K time: it is OK for everyone to be different, especially when it comes to work. No two people have identical situations or priorities. How can you compare yourself and your performance to someone who is doing a completely different job or has a completely different set of clients? It is not a fair comparison to make. As a young employee, do not fall into this trap of comparing yourself to others. You will drive yourself crazy and hurt your performance.
Everyone moves through life at their own pace. You should only be concerned with your performance, your experience, and your situation. You cannot control what other people are doing or what they are working on, so why worry about it?
Once you realize that there is no point in comparing to other people, you get to another important realization:
There is no such thing as being behind at work.
People move up at different times and different speeds. And that is OK. Just because someone from my hiring class moved up before me does not mean that I am “behind.” Who says that getting promoted at a specific timeframe is “normal” or the “right” timing? It is all up to you as an individual. What others do and when they do it has no bearing on you.
So give yourself a break. Stop comparing yourself to other people. Take ownership for yourself and your actions. If you want to get a promotion, do it for you, not because other people are getting them or because you think it is the “normal” time to do so. And please, do not think you are falling behind just because others are moving up. You can use that to motivate you, but do not use that to rationalize your next moves. Work is personal and there is no reason to compare to your peers. It is unhealthy and will drive you crazy. Do you and you’ll be just fine.