The Iceberg Illusion and Why Career Comparison Sucks
I know many professionals find that comparing themselves – their performance, their results, and their career trajectory – to others’ helps keep them sharp. They use it as a gauge of how well they’re doing or where they want to be.

I’m not a fan of comparison, even though I catch myself doing it on a regular basis. Comparison erodes self-esteem (who’s “better?”) and it disconnects you from your sense of self (full of “should”).

Here’s why comparison is such a flawed concept in my world: I see resumes, every day, where my clients are doing similar jobs, but the backstories – how they got from there-to-here – are totally different. I have yet to discover the one-size-fits-all, secret formula to career satisfaction.

Everyone interprets career satisfaction differently (I know, weird, huh?) And every single client who has left a job and taken a risk by not having the next one lined up, has had a different motivation for doing so.

Maybe you’ve experienced this type of comparison? Ryan was rolling along with his job search until he heard that a former colleague, who wasn’t even looking, had landed her dream job with little effort. Urgh! He was happy for her, but he couldn’t help but do a teeny, tiny bit of comparison.

He started with the typical questions like “How did she do it” and “What did she do that I haven’t done?” These could have been productive queries – but they quickly deteriorated to “Why can’t I be that lucky?” “I’ve paid my dues – when do I get a break?” His self-confidence took a dive and his job search got off track. I get it.

A few months ago, I was chatting with a new career coach, who was lamenting that she didn’t have any clients. She was mystified as to why, after building her website, letting her connections know she was now coaching, and writing a few blog posts, she didn’t have a single client.

I thought about everything that goes into building any business or landing a new job. The visible stuff that others see (raising your visibility, putting yourself out there through networking) and the invisible stuff (the rejection, the self-doubt, the persistence when you hit a roadblock) that few see. It’s all a part of success – and frankly, why I think we should celebrate others rather than compare ourselves to them.

That’s why the Iceberg Illusion is the most perfect image of success. EVER.

I’m not going to cheerlead you and tell you how important it is to rally and get back on track. I just want to remind you that can choose to look at success differently. Hang in there and appreciate that every rejection, every resume revision and every networking appointment is contributing to your success.