Don’t Fear the Competition… BE the Competition (Part 1)

CompetitionI’m deathly afraid of insects. Instead of letting a bee flit around me and go on its merry way, I swat at it desperately and irritate it… because I’m scared and intimidated.

My father would constantly tell me, “Leave it alone! It’s more afraid of you than you are of it.”

I didn’t understand this logic, because the mere presence of the insect was upsetting and bothersome to me, and if something feels threatening it’s hard to ignore. In reality, the bee doesn’t care that I am present – it has business to take care of whether I exist or not.

And when it comes down to it, I guess I was just giving it more credit and power than was really necessary. We do the same thing with people.

To Beat Your Competition, Stop Comparing Yourself to Them

People in New York City suffer heavily from ‘grass is greener syndrome’, always thinking there’s something bigger and better to be had on the other side of the fence. As a result we’re scared to death to put our eggs in the wrong basket. I see this most often with dating, but honestly I see it just as bad when it comes to companies hiring quality candidates.

As job seekers, entrepreneurs and individuals, we’re constantly comparing ourselves to any and all of our relative counterparts. We look at the competition and say, “Why did he get the job… I’m just as qualified, if not more!” We look at our colleagues in the industry and say, “Well I could have written that article too if I had time to sit around on my @$% and write.” We look at our fellow entrepreneurs and think, “What’s she doing to get more clients and customers than I am? Clearly there’s something I’m missing in my approach.”

And the Worst Mistake We Make…

Is sitting around, wasting time and energy trying to put our finger on just what we’re missing or where we went wrong, when often times it’s not that simple. Whether it’s a meeting with a prospective client, a job interview, or a date, when the results don’t line up with our initial expectations, we turn the blame inward and wrack our brains trying to figure out what we missed or why we screwed it up. And we wonder who is out there capitalizing off of our supposed incompetence.

The biggest issue my career clients tend to come to me with is wanting to understand why it is they weren’t picked for an opportunity they applied to, and maybe even interviewed for. And I give them my honest opinion, which is “There could be a hundred different reasons… and you will never know.” Now, if any of those potential reasons are glaring red flags on their resume, in their communication, or any other aspect of their job search strategy, well then that’s where I come in to help them understand and overcome those challenges. If there’s anything close to an easy answer to “Why didn’t I get hired?” I will give it to you. However, 9 times out of 10… there isn’t.

And then the work falls on them, which they don’t like – understanding that they’re unnecessarily comparing themselves to their fabricated competition who clearly did or said something they didn’t (I’m being sarcastic here). The other guy may not have done anything different, in fact they may not have even interviewed as well, or had as well written a resume… but they know someone. They used to work with a current employee. They had an informational interview 6 months ago with the president of the company and strategically stayed on his radar by keeping in touch. Or… someone on the team just thought they were a better fit, because they reminded them of their best friend/former colleague/old boss/new girlfriend/the guy they like to drink with after work.

You don’t know, and unless there’s an obvious red flag in your strategy staring you in the face, move on and stop letting it stress you out. There is another opportunity out there for you.

That is never to say that it’s okay to be complacent about your shortcomings, and ignore opportunities for improvement. But there is a big difference between the obvious results of shortcomings, and events stemming from circumstances outside of your control. Your mission is to understand the differentiation. If your resume is terrible, make it a point to have a professional rewrite it. But you can’t go knocking on HR’s door kicking and screaming and trying to find out why they rejected you. You won’t get an answer.


For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Aspyre Solutions! Read Part 2 right here on The Savvy Intern tomorrow!



DanaAbout the Author: Dana Leavy founded Aspyre Solutions, focusing on small business development and career consulting. Her mission is to support creative and socially-conscious small businesses, through career transition coaching and business consulting for creative professionals and entrepreneurs.

Dana has helped hundreds of professionals in advertising, marketing, design and other industries execute effective career plans to find and DO the work they are passionate about. She has presented seminars on navigating careers, transition and work-life balance to several colleges and universities, and her advice has been featured on MSN Careers, Fox Business News, NewsDay,, GlassDoor and Follow Dana on Twitter!



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