Based in Chicago, Illinois, The Freelance Beat is a blog exploring the triumphs and challenges that freelance journalists encounter in their early and mid-careers.

Why you shouldn't compare your career to others

Why you shouldn't compare your career to others

I can name three or four people who have recently gotten married, are having a baby or closed on a gorgeous house for a great price. I also can probably name two or three more people who just got an internship or a job at the publication for which they’ve longed to work. There are also a few former classmates who are often taking the most extravagant vacations.

I started to think about all of this after reading a piece in New York Magazine, which contradicts the traditional "millennials are self-absorbed, lazy know-nothings" narrative and highlights the struggles of millennials who often feel inadequate.

It got it me thinking about the prevalence of social media and how it skews our perception of how well we’re doing in life. Not only have I had extensive conversations with close friends about where their lives are headed, but I occasionally pause to wonder whether I'm making the right moves to become a successful journalist, writer, businesswoman, person, etc. 

My point is, I think we journalists should treat this flood of social media success the way we treat our sources. It may seem glamorous at first, but don’t trust it completely. (I would say, “If your mother says she loves you, check it out,” but that’s unnecessary here.)

We should essentially think of social media as a highlight reel of a person’s life, not the full reality. For every new job or promotion, there’s a less Instagram-ready part of life that other people don’t advertise.

If you see these milestones and find yourself wondering, “What am I doing?” Don’t go down that road. Hit “like” if you genuinely are happy for that person—or if not, just keep scrolling—and move on. The more time you spend focused on other people’s lives, the less you have to improve your own. Turning green with envy as you swipe through your classmate’s luxurious vacation photos doesn’t get you any further.

One trick I have for when I get into a What-am-I-doing-with-my-life funk is pulling up my résumé. Sometimes I forget how much I’ve done in such a short time, so pulling up my résumé or glancing at my website reminds me of what I’ve accomplished. I’ve got a long way to go in my career, but I am proud of having two New York Times bylines before turning 24, on top of the other great, local and national bylines I’ve amassed.  

But the same can be said no matter what stage you’re at in your career. Got an interview for an internship or job? Congratulations! You beat out a lot of other applicants to get face time with the editor. Have you recently gotten a story published? Cool! Your writing is out there for readers to enjoy, and you’re one step closer to becoming the writer you want to be.

You have to change your perspective. So what if the next person is doing well in his or her career. Good for them. But watching them won’t help you get better at your craft, and it robs you of your joy from the accomplishments in your life.

Take a class to sharpen your skills. Dig into a story you think is worth investigating. Do a quick yoga practice to get back in tune with yourself. Binge watch a show that makes you laugh. Don't stress. 

Look at your life, and find joy. Be glad for your apartment or living situation. It may not be perfect, but it’s comfortable and safe. Be thankful for your food, clothing, friends and family. Be glad for your job or internship. There are many people who would take your position. Even if it’s not that great, it’s a stepping stone between where you are and where you want to be. But the sooner you tune out negativity and change your mindset, the better things will become. 

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