October 12, 2011
How professional envy can help your career
We're told not to get hung up coveting the careers of those more successful than us, to stop getting bogged down by what we don't have and focus on building up what we do. However, new research on envy shows that this advice may be misguided.
[Flickr photo by rileyroxx]
Apparently, when we covet the lives of others, we not only study them carefully, but we're more apt to remember the details of what they have and how they got it.
As John Tierney writes in the New York Times, "By paying more attention to these people, we might learn to emulate some of the strategies that yielded their advantages."
So, exactly how does one use the green-eyed monster to advance their professional standing? Herewith, four suggestions:
Research the career trajectory of those your envy. Study their bio online, and if you can, their LinkedIn profile. Read articles about them, interviews with them. Listen to their podcasts and watch their videos. What companies have their worked for? What training and job titles have they had? What professional associations do they belong to? What awards have they won? Where have they published or spoken publicly? What of this can you emulate so you, too, can achieve what they've achieved professionally?
Study their professional philosophy. Does the object of your envy have a favorite mantra? If so, abide by it. See which of their ways of thinking and working you can adopt. Read the industry blogs and publications they read. Go where they go to get inspired. Join the organizations they join. Learn who inspires them, who they envy. Then study the objects of their envy to see what other sage advice you can glean.
Tap them for additional tips. If after doing all the above you still have questions, seek out those you envy. Do they have a blog you can comment on? A newsletter you can subscribe to? A Twitter account? Facebook page? Are they speaking at an industry event you can attend? Teaching an online class? Giving a talk at a local bookstore? Don't be afraid to reach out. They may be more accessible than you think.
Ask a boss or mentor how you can play catch-up. Ask them point blank, What skills does [the object of your envy] have that I lack? How can I go about acquiring them? What education, reading materials, and professional associations can help? What ways of thinking and working do I need to change? If you're serious about being as successful as those you envy, you'll get the experience needed to follow in their footsteps.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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