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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

Career Envy: What to Do When a Friend Gets the Job You Wanted

You’re highly qualified. You’ve got a great attitude. People like working with you and aren’t shy about doling out compliments (not to mention glowing references.) So when a cool new position—or promotion!—swings open, you’re eager to throw your hat in the ring. You want the job. You’ve worked hard to prepare for the interview. And you know that you’re perfectly qualified to get it.

But then, for some reason—you don’t.

Instead, the opportunity goes to an industry peer or colleague. Someone you like and respect. Someone you’d even consider a “friend.”

Except right now, you’re not feeling particularly friendly. All you can think is, “Why her? What has she got that I don’t?” The next time you cross paths, you might smile and say, “Hey, congrats! I’m happy for you. You’re perfect for the job.” When in reality, you’re boiling over with bitterness and disappointment.

Which leads to even more negative feelings. Like: “What kind of a person am I, jealously resenting my friend’s success? I’m awful. No wonder I didn’t get the job.”

Sound familiar?

If you haven’t already been on this particular roller coaster ride, someday, you probably will. But here’s the good news: Jealousy doesn’t have to ruin your life, your career, or your friendships. In fact, it can be a powerful motivating force—when you know how to use it.

So, the next time a pal gets an opportunity you wanted, practice these five techniques to make career envy work for you.

1. Accept How You Feel

It’s OK to be disappointed and hurt. It’s OK to grieve the lost opportunity. It’s even OK to shed a few tears. Don’t ignore those feelings. If you squash them down and pretend they don’t exist, they’ll stick around even longer.

Then, when you’re in a safe place (alone in your car or your bedroom—not in the restroom in earshot of your co-workers) try saying, out loud:

I feel ____________________ because I didn’t get the ____________________ I wanted.

You can even try thwacking a pillow with a knotted up towel, for some physical release. Move those emotions through and out of your body. You’ll feel lighter, immediately.

2. Re-brand Your Jealousy (and Give it a New Name)

Jealousy isn’t necessarily a “negative” emotion. In fact, when it stimulates you to challenge yourself and stretch your limits, it can be a profoundly positive force. But jealousy gets a bad rap. So, when you’re feeling envious of someone else’s success, honor that feeling, but experiment with giving it a new name.

Try saying:

I’m motivated by ____________________’s achievements. I’m ready to play a bigger game, too.


I’m inspired by ____________________’s ability to ____________________. I’m ready to develop new skills, too.

Keep experimenting with different words until you find a “re-brand” that works for you.

3. Tune-up Your Self-Worth

Ever think to yourself: “Since she got the job that I wanted, she’s the best, and I must be inferior.” Or something tinged with a bit more resentment, like: “I’m much smarter and more qualified than her, but I’ll never get the opportunities she gets, because she’s better at ‘working the system.’”

Ultimately, those kinds of thoughts all boil down to one harmful belief: “I suck. I’m inadequate. I’m worthless.” Which is completely untrue.

And if you’re feeling that way, it’s crucial to reaffirm your self-worth by talking to yourself out loud, journaling, or going back through old emails and re-reading compliments from your colleagues. Whatever it takes to remind yourself that you have so much to offer.

Try saying:

I am a competent ____________________. I do my job really well.

I am really good at ____________________ and people always appreciate the way I ____________________.

One thing I really like about myself is ____________________.

Saturate yourself with self-worth reminders, especially while you’re grieving that lost opportunity. Think of them like “confidence vitamins.” Don’t skip a dose!

4. Forgive Yourself

Forgive yourself for not getting the job. Forgive yourself for feeling jealous of your friend. Most importantly, forgive yourself for any inappropriate behavior (like saying snarky things about your friend behind her back.)

Drop the guilt so that you can move on, feel better—and do better.

Try saying:

I forgive myself for resenting _________________’s success.
I forgive myself for sabotaging our ____________________.
I release my ____________________ feelings. So that I can move on.

5. Accept What You Can Control—and What You Can’t

You tried to get the job. But you didn’t.

It’s possible that it was due to nerves, lack of preparation, or some other “mistake” you may have made. Or maybe you did a phenomenal job at your interview, but your boss or the hiring manager was simply looking for someone with a different set of skills.

You may never know—and “not knowing” can be hard.

If you want to release jealousy for good, the best thing you can do is recognize that when it comes to your job hunt (and your entire life) there are certain things that you can control—plenty of others that you can’t. In the field of emotional wellness, this technique is called “positive submission.” It’s not about giving up. It’s about placing your focus on things you can change and improve, rather than obsessing over things that you can’t. So, make a pledge with yourself to accept what is—and decide what’s next.

Try saying:

I’m committed to finding a job that makes me feel ____________________.

I can’t always control ____________________, but I can focus on ____________________ and get better at ____________________.

That is all I can do, and that is enough.

I know that it’s easy to read tips on working with jealousy when you’re not feeling particularly jealous—but much harder to put them into practice when you are. So, my last suggestion? Bookmark this post and keep it handy for the next time an unexpected wave of envy washes over you.

Your feelings aren’t “bad,” and feeling hurt, bitter, and angry doesn’t make you a “bad” person. It’s what you do with those feelings that matters.

Photo of upset man courtesy of Shutterstock.