After I graduated college, I shared an apartment with two roommates, who were also friends. We all worked in the same industry, but for different companies. At the end of the day, we’d often eat dinner together and talk about our jobs. After a month of this routine, I started to get frustrated. My friends loved their bosses, and left the office hours before me. Their time outside of the standard business hours was respected, whereas I was forced to deal with after-hour calls and emails from my difficult supervisor. My workday was full of stressed-out employees and unhappy clients; I’m not sure they even knew the meaning of the word stress.
It didn’t take long for me to start resenting them. In spite of our comparable educations, GPAs, and training, I was the only one stuck with what I perceived to be the short end of the stick.
My jealousy was real, but I knew I had to put a stop to it before I lost two of my close friends. If any of this sounds familiar—you’re working your butt off while your BFF coasts, never once staying at the office past 5 PM from what you can tell—and, like me, you care about salvaging your relationships, read on for tips that’ll help you do just that.
Don’t Assume You Know Everything
Just because someone tells you about his amazing workplace and constantly posts pictures of company retreats tagged with “#joblove,” it doesn’t mean he isn’t working hard or navigating some challenging issues himself. We tend to post our highlight reel on social media, rarely do we showcase our struggles. If you find yourself wracked with jealousy after pouring over your friend’s Facebook posts or Twitter feed, consider taking a brief social media sabbatical. You may need time away from your online life to figure out your career issues and if it’s best for you to stick it out or move on.
Sometimes, our conversations are modeled after our social media presentation: You may think your closest friend has shared every single detail of her enviable job with you, but you don’t know everything. How could you? And anyway, who’s to say that even if you switched places with her, you’d be satisfied. Maybe you’d struggle to connect with the boss she clicks with, or you'd find fault with the team’s brainstorming process. Think about what you say about your job versus the complete reality. The hours are a bitch, but you’re meeting goals, and people are starting to notice.
Do Look at the Long Game
After a long week of dealing with your chaotic job, maybe you find yourself craving some alone time, even if that just means catching up on laundry and sleeping in. You’re afraid of being labeled “the party pooper,” for bowing out of Friday night festivities, again, but you mentally (and physically) need a break. You owe yourself that much.
Communication is key in this situation—tell your friends that you feel overwhelmed (and overworked) and won’t be making it out. If they’re understanding, try scheduling activities that you can commit to without sacrificing your much-needed self-care. It can be as simple as weekend grocery-shopping dates, watching an hour of Netflix and drinking a beer, or even working out together.
Comfort yourself and come to terms with your minimalist social life by looking at the long game—a few weekends recovering during a stressful period of your professional life is temporary. Ideally, your current career is setting you up for your dream job. Sometimes that’ll mean having to buckle down and put most of your time into work, whittling down your non-essential activities. Just make sure that all your efforts won’t lead to burnout.
Don’t Be a Martyr
Maybe you’ve caught yourself straight-up complaining about your job, and maybe you’ve finally been called out for it. Or perhaps your style is to talk about how hard you work and how demanding your job is compared to everyone else’s. Now you’re not just a person with a negative attitude, you’re also a martyr.
If you catch yourself about to one-up your friend when he tells you that he just put in his first 50-hour week, take a deep breath, and tell him, “Nice, sounds like you’re killing it!” Resist the urge to scoff and remind him that you’ve been pulling 80-hour-weeks for months.
Another way to pull yourself up out of the pity party you’ve thrown yourself is to write down, pen-to-paper, any three things you’re grateful for at the end of a long day. Instead of spending your off-hours rehashing all of the terrible things that happened at work, you’ll initiate a mindset change and jump-start your way to a positive attitude.
Do Assess Your Relationships
Take stock of your friendships. Sometimes the relationship itself is a catalyst for resentment. If your time with someone consists of you venting about your rough work situation while your friend brags about his, and you’ve addressed the way this makes you feel to no avail, maybe you need to take a step back. A compassionate person with EQ would read the situation and put the brakes on boasting. If you try to taper off the “shop talk” and your friend isn’t getting the hint, you might want to back burner that relationship. Is this someone you want in your life in the long run?
What happened to the roommates I envied? Well, after a year, we all moved on to different jobs and, as it turns out—my work situation improved while theirs took a turn for the worse. Luckily, our friendship stayed intact, and we were able to use each other’s experiences (and advice) to navigate our new positions.
As Teddy Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Comparing your situation to others will drive you crazy and won’t help the friendship. It’s only natural to experience feelings of jealousy and resentment, but if these unproductive feelings consume you, you risk losing friends and even falling behind professionally.
Photo of friends courtesy of Portra/Getty Images.
Nina understands the struggle of a major career change. After snagging her first job at fourteen, she continued down the path of employment by pursuing a motley assortment of vocations. Ask her about her time in the Army, or her stint as a Harvard research guinea pig. Say hi @ninadawdles or ninasemczuk.com.More from this Author