Ask Steve: My Career Is Motivated By Jealousy!

Hello all, it's Steve, and I'm back with another "Ask a Progeek" which may be dangerously close to becoming a series.  We'll see, it depends on what kind of requests I get.  That's a blatant hint, by the way, so send me your delicate personal career problems and I'll talk about them in public (anonymously).

In one of my recent discussions, a progeek I was talking to brought up the fact of jealousy as a career drive and what it meant.  I actually see this a lot, so that mutated into this week's question – "How to deal with jealousy in a career."

Well in a word, it's a bad thing.

Seriously, if jealousy is a major motivator for you, you're going to have problems:

  • You won't be motivated by an actual need to achieve, to use your skills, or enjoy what you're doing.  This literally leads you at the mercy of external motivators.
  • You won't develop your skills properly – they will be based on "beating" someone or "showing them up."  This is likely to develop very narrow skillets.
  • You'll be tempted to sabotage others as opposed to build your own abilities – with all the collateral damage and ethical issues that entails.
  • You'll mess with networking because you won't work on connecting with people – and also you may be kind of an ass to people.
  • You can't give – or receive – proper critiques.
  • You won't see the big picture, so you'll make poor decisions.

So yes, motivation by jealousy?  Bad idea.  It happens to all of us, but if it seems to be a major driver for your career and life, you have a problem – or are going to have one to come.

I think that this is an odd risk for us progeeks because being driven people, we are vulnerable to this, but also being internally driven and a bit eccentric, we're also less vulnerable.  It's a strange thing, really, so I cant say how common it is.

But if you've "got" the green-eyed monster egging you on, how do you deal with it?

  • Realize the above points – Jealousy is often self-defeating and outright destructive when it gets out of hand.
  • Have a sense of humor.  Seriously.  Lightening up a bit about yourself helps.
  • Recognize this happens to everyone period.  It's OK, you can admit it.  The people you're jealous of probably have had bouts of it as well.
  • Go on and admit this and "feel" through it.  Stew in your jealousy and get to know it and then get over it (preferably with a sense of humor).
  • Get in touch with your other motivations as best you can – by doing something you like, etc.  Keep strengthening these connections – fannish/geeky activities are excellent for that.
  • Personal growth.  No, I'm not being silly here, you have to make personal development a goal and work at it via meditation, self-help, exercise, personal exploration, etc.  If you have a habit of that, fixing this is part of it.
  • Have some sympathy towards yourself – we all do dumb things.

Jealousy is a very destructive force, and we can miss its influence or worse mistake it for feelings of righteousness or justice.  In a life, in a career, it's very toxic.

If you need treatment, there's a plan to start with. 

Steven Savage

Ask Steve: Insane Lists of Job Requirements And You

Thanks to our own Tamara Hecht for noting a need for this post – and it's a chance for me to launch an experimental "Ask A Progeek" section (thinking of having it organized both for individuals and in general).

So it happened.  You found your perfect job, or come to think of it in this economy, any job.  Anyway, you look at the list of requirements, which almost inevitably is some kind of insane wish list, and you realize you don't meet them.  Yet, you still want that job and indeed can do it.

What do you do? 

First, let me put your mind at ease – if you think that that entire list has to be fulfilled perfectly, you're almost inevitably wrong.  Except in the case of certain scientific, engineering, and legal requirements, you don't have to fill the list out perfectly.  Chances are that list has been through so many hands no one actually cares that much.

Keeping that in mind, there's three things to do:

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