#1071: “I’m so jealous of my friend after she got the job I was promised.”


I’m hoping you can help me with some coping mechanisms for jealousy which will help me feel less like the shittiest friend in the universe. 

Long story short, a friend got a job I wanted, and I’ve spent months failing to not let it affect our friendship. The whole story is long but the important details are these:

She got an early start in the “big leagues” of our industry because of connections I didn’t have, beating me out for jobs before I even knew her.

A mutual friend promised me I’d be his first call on a job I really wanted, but then hired her.

I had a hard autumn, and overwork combined with personal insecurity culminated in me, in tears, while she tried to console me over the job she was (very rightly!) excited to start the next day.

She’s just gotten the reiteration of that job I really wanted. I’m still angling to get them to hire me too, at a lower title than hers.

Last fall I tried really hard to be supportive and excited for her and mostly failed. I’m afraid to spend the rest of her time in our city (she plans on moving… eventually) watching her get jobs I am equally qualified for because her resume is better. I also don’t want to look forward to the day she moves, just because it means I won’t have to compete with her for work anymore. I don’t want to feel like a terrible friend anymore because I can’t be happy for her, and I absolutely don’t want to force her to console me on big happy occasions.

I think her fiance dislikes me and I worry she confides in him that she feels uncomfortable in our friendship, or that she thinks I’m an incompetent artist. I will never actually know without damaging the friendship by pushing the issue, but it bothers me anyway.

I have read your “focus on yourself and what you like” advice, and the “back off and gently let reconnection happen” advice and that has been helping, but I’m worried that watching her have a job I wanted will disintegrate our friendship, or worse, if she doesn’t, or isn’t able to hire me. I need a way to restructure what’s happening in my head so I’m not feeling overwhelmingly betrayed by this friend who hired her, and jealous of her all the time.

Hi there,

There’s an episode of Atlanta called “Value” (recap here) that’s about Vanessa and her friend Jayde that so perfectly captures the feeling of what you’re describing in your letter. In the episode, Vanessa and Jayde go out to dinner, and there is some weird one-upmanship. Jayde’s life appears on the surface to be a lot easier in some ways than Vanessa’s. These are two women who love each other and who have been through a lot together, but they are using each other as a measuring stick in a fucked up, toxic way, and they can’t relax around each other.

There are two huge things happening in this letter: Getting right with your friend and getting right with your art. I think you should spend the bulk of your energy getting right with your art. If you can carve out a way of doing your work that is just yours, the pressure on your friendships to “pay off” somehow will lessen, and that will make you less tense and anxious, and that will make your time with your friend more pleasant for everyone.

One night way back in grad school I wrote a really great scene in a screenplay I was working on. I went to the movies that same weekend and saw a version of that scene in a movie that went on to get nominated for Oscars and stuff. The scene was iconic. It was awesome. And I could never put anything even like it in a movie of mine without people saying “Oh, it’s just like _____.” I got so upset that I put that story on ice after that. I could never look at it in quite the same way. I got totally demoralized about revising it. And the longer it’s sat on a hard drive somewhere in the dusty bowels of the storage unit, the longer time there’s been for ideas from it to show up in other, better projects made by other people. The lesson I took at the time was “You are unoriginal and boring!” The lesson I should have taken away is “You’re on the right track. Your instincts for what’s funny on screen are good. People liked ______ movie and they will like what you are doing, too. The success of _____ proves that there is a path for your stuff. Also, this won’t be the only good idea you ever have in your life. You are measuring your own work by some pretty fucking successful work, and, that’s not a failure, that’s a road map.” 

You are measuring your path by your friend’s path and you are getting the message that There Is Only One Spot, It Is Hers but another possible message is Eeeeeeee!!!! You Are So Fucking Close, Don’t Give Up Now. Someone a lot like you is successfully doing the thing you want to do. That means there’s a template for someone like you to successfully do the thing you want to do. Artists are not Highlanders; there can be more than One.

Maybe it’s time for you to move to a different city. Easier said than done, I realize, but we’re daydreaming today. You mention that your friend *might* move away someday and you don’t want to be bummed out waiting for her to leave. Well, why don’t you move now? Then your friend can be the Mayor of Art where y’all live now and you can go get the jobs that she would get if she lived in that place. And you can get better jobs, jobs that are just yours. Your friendship might improve a lot if you moved away. Then she wouldn’t feel you breathing down her neck, waiting for her to either hire you or leave or fail, and you would have to measure yourself against yourself, against the world. Moving sucks, but also, hear me out: Squeezing the life out of this friendship while waiting for this second-best job to come through sounds like a really shitty way to spend a year.

Whether or not you move, you need a new daydream that replaces the one called If I Had Only Gotten That Job Like I Was Promised, Everything Would Be Perfect! Right now you know That Job is gone, but you’re texting That Job at midnight asking “You Up?”” You’re mentioning that you have a pot of soup on the stove “just in case” That Job happens to be hungry. You’re picking up an extra ticket to a cool concert that is That Job’s favorite band but you don’t even really like them in case That Job isn’t busy that night and then being all pretend casual, like, “oh, don’t worry, you’re doing me a favor by taking it off my hands.” You’re driving by That Job’s house and seeing your friend’s car in That Job’s driveway and it’s making you very upset. It’s time to stop monitoring That Job. You’ve gotta rewrite the whole file where That Job lives in your brain.

If you’re never read Austin Kleon’s Steal Like An Artist, I feel like this is a great time for it. There’s a video talk, too, if that’s your thing. One of the principles of Kleon’s book is choosing (virtual) mentors from the whole history of your field. You are measuring yourself against your friend, but she is not the only one who ever has or ever will do what y’all do. Get back in touch with your heroes. Get back in touch with your idols. Be in love with the medium of what you make. Read their stories for an eye of how many of them had shitty jobs just to pay the bills for so very long while they worked it all out. Read their stories with a lot of love and forgiveness for yourself for not being quite there yet. Don’t beat yourself up for not being them yet. Don’t beat yourself up for not being perfectly original. Remember that the stories that you hear after someone is successful are edited to leave out the failures. There’s a documentary that I love about the artist Andy Goldsworthy. There’s a sequence in it where he struggles to build a tower of rocks and the tide keeps coming in and knocking it down. Narratives of success leave out the days spent watching the tide knock down all your rocks. Can you sit with your scattered pile of rocks and learn to love it again?

If you’ve never read Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, this might be a great time for that, too. Let Auntie Julia take you on a journey full of feelings and morning pages and weekly Artist Dates, let her tell you some true stuff about jealousy and fear and being stuck and pet your shoulder when you cry. Jobs will come and jobs will go, but it sounds like you’ve become disconnected from the work that you’re trying to do. Maybe Cameron’s gentle process can give you permission to be messy and vulnerable and shake something loose. If that feels too cheesy or “woo,” read Octavia Butler’s note to self. Bow down before Ms. Sharon Jones. What’s your wildest ambition for what you want to make or do? Have you written it down?

It’s time for you to vary up your social and professional scene. Invest time and energy in other friendships. I feel like you can’t really hang out with this friend right now because the “Ma’am, you’re in my job” vibes of need are just too strong. Time to be pleasant and kind from a distance while you plough other gardens. This also might be a good time to find a therapist to talk about career stuff and jealousy with. You can be honest and not have to paste on a smile. The therapist can console you if things don’t come together. You can be kind to yourself and take the pressure off your friend at the same time.

When you do have time, go to networking events for stuff in your field. Meet people who do what you do or stuff adjacent to what you do and get to know them. Help them with their work and open the doors that are yours to open for them to the extent that you can. Chances are, you are somebody’s aspiration the way your friend is yours. Tell the people whose work you admire what it means to you. Seek collaborators who are excited by what you do and whose work excites you. Build community around what you do, community that does not depend on your friend.

Think bigger than your friend and her particular path. She had advantages that you did not, and a leg up on you. But that doesn’t mean her path is the only way. And it doesn’t mean she is somehow free of challenges, or that she didn’t do the work, or that she doesn’t deserve to be where she is. One concrete way to think bigger is to ask yourself, “If I were a beginner at this and I didn’t know (Friend) or have any connections in this industry yet, where would I go? Who would I meet? What risks would I take?” One of my favorite stories about career changes is about Jennifer Kent, who directed The Babadook. She started out as an actress and invested a lot of time in that in her early career. Then she wanted to make movies but she didn’t want to go to film school, so she wrote to the director Lars Von Trier* and said “Can I come shadow you on your next film and learn what you do?” He said yes, so, she did. (I have a lot of opinions about Von Trier’s body of work and I’m sure you do, too, or if you don’t, you know how Google works. Can we agree for purposes of this discussion that *what Jennifer Kent did* is pretty awesome and leave the Unbearable Misogyny of Lars for discussion in the forums?)

I don’t know if the weirdness that’s already happened between you and your friend can be undone by anything except letting a little time go by. She probably does talk to her fiancé about you sometimes but it doesn’t mean that she doesn’t love you or that everything’s irrevocably broken. She’s not the boss of whether you are a good artist. If her fiancé doesn’t like you there is one 100% surefire way to make him like you even less and that way is to go on some kind of charm offensive to get him to like you. It’s the same with the friend who promised to hire you: the one true way to never get hired by that dude is to have the “I am so disappointed you didn’t hire me after you promised” talk. Be as polite and kind as you can and disengage from trying to work harder at any of it except the part where you work hard to be good to yourself. It’s no fun being someone’s measuring stick or the one they use to beat themselves up with. Time to put the stick down and pick up other tools.






92 thoughts on “#1071: “I’m so jealous of my friend after she got the job I was promised.”

  1. I feel for you, LW. It is *so hard* when someone else gets “your” job. It happened to me once. I was a temp, alongside another temp, in an office. I was covering an empty position; she was covering a mat leave. We were both there a year. When “my” job was put up for permanent hire, the supervisor politely took me aside and told me I was two months short of the three years experience they wanted for the role. So the other temp got it, and then I was expected to train her. Not gonna lie, that was a very difficult month and a half and a huge test of our friendship. It probably helped that a) she knew how much the situation sucked for me and b) it was kind of a toxic workplace so she wasn’t super excited to get the job. But still. Time and distance (I second the Captain’s advice of moving if you can; I didn’t, but sometimes I wish I had) will do wonders.

    1. I got the job and my friend didn’t – she was disappointed and it was a slightly sore topic for a while. Two years later, she got her job title changed to reflect some specialized work she had taken on. Now she’s a higher level. And good for her. I like my job, I like the people I work with and they appreciate the work I do, so now we both get to be happy.

  2. OMG that analogy about The Job is wonderful. I think this is really good advice, though I’m surprised by the suggestion to move. I know people move for jobs all the time, but I am very much a put-down-roots-and-stay sort of person (and thankfully am married to one). For me, the community I’ve built here is a higher priority for me than any particular job. But I also don’t have big career ambitions: my goal is basically to do something interesting that helps the world and leaves room for everything else I value. It sounds like your career goals are more specific, so maybe moving would help you be happier.

    1. There are a lot of people who don’t see moving the way you do. Like, A LOT. And given that we don’t know whether LW is like you or not, I definitely think that omitting the suggestion to move would be absolutely the wrong approach. If a new city has jobs that LW doesn’t have to compete with a perpetually slightly better-looking-on-paper friend for, everything else being only equal, the new city is going to be better for LW.

      And roots, by the way, aren’t a one-time thing. They grow where you go.

      1. I’m not trying to say it should be omitted. More trying to indicate that it is also okay if the LW wants to stay put and focus on jobs that open up in their area and to build their life that way if they’re also the type who takes a long time to build a social network and would find it painful to restart that process.

        1. I think you were very clear 🙂 I thought the suggestion to move was surprising as well, because I am a person like you and moving just to shake things up would not have occurred to me.

          And maybe OP is indeed meaningfully rooted where they’re at, in which case seeing a voice in the comments to say “it’s okay okay not to move, if your current community is more important to you” would be helpful.

          Or OP is happy to entertain moving on themselves and was happy for the Cap’s advice and can see us homebodies discussing not-moving and just think “oh, how lovely for them.”

          1. Nobody’s going to move just ‘cause I suggest it! The message behind bringing it up at all is “THINK BIGGER”

          2. LW here! I live in NYC, and we all work as freelancers. The job she got is relatively long for our work, but isn’t more than 4 months, and also there really isn’t anywhere else I want to be, or anywhere else that has the same kind of work in the structure I like. Everything in our lives is temporary, including and especially this particular job, and I know (and often celebrate) that- it’s incredibly freeing. I’ve got my own exciting opportunities happening, absolutely and I’m very much trying to focus on them. So moving very much so isn’t an option for me or something I want to do. That being said, I’m definitely looking for new scenery within the industry.

      1. Also, no one can make her move if it’s not the right decision for her. I myself can’t afford to move right now! It was just a way to float the idea of “Hey, you’re really, really fixated on this one thing. Is it fucking with your head so bad that it’s ruining your life? Is it time to think bigger/differently?” “Nope, thought about it, I’d prefer to stay where I am” is a great outcome.

        1. Not the LW, but: I was surprised to see the suggestion, but surprised in a *good* way; I thought it really did expand the canvas of the problem a lot and that felt useful to me. I will try and remember it in future.

  3. That sounds really hard, LW, and it’s really big that you’re seeing this and wanting to not let it affect things negatively. Good for you!

    I have no advice, the Captain knocked it out of the park as usual, imo. I just want to wish you strength and self-love!

  4. Oh man, the part about not seeing failure but a roadmap just hit me so hard. I’ve been doing that. For YEARS now, I’ve been doing that. I’ve got to get back to my work. Thank you for that phrasing. Holy shit.

    1. RIGHT! I had literally just written off a start up idea because I saw someone else was doing part of it… and then…BOOM. The Captain saves the day again.

    2. Ugh, this. It’s gotten to the point where I’ve almost stopped looking for competitions and Call For Submissions (I’m an aspiring writer), because another rejection – or another failed attempt at getting something written before the deadline – is just another piece of evidence in the great YOU ARE TERRIBLE AT THE THING AND SHOULD STOP FOREVER pile.

      It’s so dumb and so hard to shake out of.

      1. IvyLegasaurus,

        You ARE a writer!

        If I may suggest it, would you check out Big Magic (audio, physical book, or the podcast) by Elizabeth Gilbert? She has such fantastic advice about creativity and staying with it when external goals and validation is not present…I’ve listened to it maybe 6-7 times in the past couple of years. There are so many nuances that jump out at me and also apply to any field, not just writing.

      2. I read an okcupid quiz years ago that asked “Can you be a writer?” One of the questions was a multiple choice about what you do with rejection slips. It was hilarious! One of the choices was, “Try to collect as many as I can.” Which of course, is the attitude that helps you keep producing and applying and working harder and better. That quiz taught me that and it is my mantra now.

      3. Aargh, fellow writer, I feel for you about the rejection stack. Did you know “The Cat in the Hat” was rejected 27 times? I google that about once a month in case it’s changed, but nope! Still gives me encouragement.

        I also created external rewards of my own: I modified a Google Sheets Gradebook to keep track of how often I send my stuff out. 4 gives me a B, five gives me an A. I love getting As! Even though I’m totally out of school already! Watching the little numbers change my ‘grade’ totally gives me a boost, despite those foolish editors who CLEARLY do not recognize the PEARLS AND DIAMONDS that I have graciously sent to them.

      4. Hello! I have been writing short fiction for fourteen years now, and publish a story or three every year in either genre venues (like Nightmare or Lightspeed) or mainstream literary journals (like the New England Review). My most successful story was listed a couple years ago in the back of the Best American Short Stories that Jennifer Egan edited. Sometimes I feel like an also-ran—my very best work was a recommended reading, not reprinted in the anthology itself—other times I tell myself, “goddamn, once Jennifer Egan read one of my stories and she LIKED it!”

        Anyway, that story that Jennifer Egan liked? Started submitting it in 2006. Didn’t sell it until 2013, though I was sending it out pretty much constantly. Over that period, it was rejected 43 times.

        I know that right now every rejection is painful. It is personal. It is a refutation of your art and your choices and yourself as a person. But with time, you will care less. Eventually, you’ll roll your eyes and laugh at the phrasing of certain form rejections. In my early days of submitting work, my hands literally trembled as I handed my manila envelope over at the post office. These days, when I get a notification from submittable that I was rejected, it’s nothing but a reminder to send that piece out again to somebody else. Every rejection makes your armor a little stronger, until eventually it doesn’t hurt at all.

  5. One thing that AskaManager says a lot, is that there’s no such thing as a Dream Job. Every job has boring stretches, downsides, personality clashes with colleagues/clients that you can’t possibly know in advance, and weird drafts and uncanny odors in the workspace.

    That’s not to say that you should go looking to trash the job your friend has, but just to put things in perspective. There are other jobs. There are jobs that are perfect for you and NOT that friend, connections or not, because you are different people and there are some thing that would work better for you than for her.

    Let go of the idea that THAT JOB was The One. The fallacy of The One is as wrong in career as it is in dating. Jobs are about mutual fit and advancing your own career path while making money.

  6. Wow, Captain, this was a really thoughtful way to take a LW’s question and not only respond to it, but also turn it into a conversation about how people create art and how success is so much easier to see than failure. Kudos 🙂

  7. I saw this post title on Twitter and I was like “zomg, me.” About two years ago my best friend and I went up for the same Dream Job ™, which she got and I didn’t. I spent about six months scrounging together temp work and being broke af and stressing about being deported and generally hating everything…but then you know what? Life got better. I got a full-time, well-paid, visa-sponsoring job offer in a super-trendy city that turned out to be PERFECT for me, catapulting my career in a totally different direction and making me realise how toxic a situation Dream Job would have been.

    If you were really close to getting the great job your friend now has, you can probably find another great job. Maybe that job will be more awesome, maybe that job will be less awesome, who knows. I know it’s hard, but the Captain’s advice is great. You do you — work on your art, seek therapy, seek new daydreams, whatever. The narrative you’re living now doesn’t need to be permanent.

  8. LW, the Captain has some very good advice about moving on from this set-back. The only thing I have to add is that when you are ready to reconnect with your friend, try activities that not related to your field: go to a play or the cinema, play laser tag, watch a public lecture on a topic neither of you knows anything about, explore a nearby thing (city, tourist attaction, state or national park) that neither has been to before. Right now, it sounds like you both are focussed on your shared field and your respective employment situations when you see each other. It can be a topic that’s hard to avoid if your meet-ups consist of food/drinks and conversation. Going out and doing something together that puts you both out of your everyday routines might help you reset your friendship, and get you both out from under the dark cloud that is this situation surrounding her job.

    As for her fiancé, don’t worry. You two might never be best friends, but once you and your friend are on happier terms, you won’t be as bothered about what he thinks of you, and he’ll see that she’s happier in her interactions with you, which will make him better disposed towards you.

  9. In terms of interacting with the friend, what I’ve found useful in similar situations is to name it:

    “Congratulations! I’m really happy for you! The awkward thing is, I really had my heart set on getting that job myself, so I’m also having some unattractive feelings that I need to work through, so I might need to back off a bit while I process my own stuff. But I am happy for you, and you are going to do amazing in this role!”

    Then for a little while, you can withdraw a bit, or you can change the subject. And if you see yourself being weird about this friend, you can say outright “I’m sorry, I still seem to be having those unattractive feelings. [I’ll back off/let’s change the subject].”

    Eventually you’ll get used to the fact that she’s in this role and be able to behave like a normal person, and then you can make friendly overtures again.

    This might take time – when something similar happened in my life it took about six months to bring the friendship back to its previous place, but this friendship has lasted 25 so far so it can take it. But, from the other person’s point of view, naming it can be the difference between “My friend has gone all weird! WTF?” and “My friend is dealing with some stuff and I’m not the person to help her in this instance.”

    1. LW here! Yes, this makes a lot of sense. Unfortunately we’re at the point that after last fall, we had that conversation already, so one thing I won’t be doing ever is bringing it up to dude-who-didnt-hire-me, or fiance, or her. That way lies all of the bad mojo. Mostly what I’m looking for right now are ways to reframe what has happened in my brain so that I can move forward and do things with her without feeling/acting all weird. It’s less about the specific action and more about internal coming-to-terms if that makes sense.

      1. Well, I think the temporary aspect you describe might be one way? I mean its a 4 months gig, so it cant possibly be The Only Possibilty, or everyone would be screwed. You say there ” really isn’t anywhere else I want to be, or anywhere else that has the same kind of work in the structure I like.” But you need to tag ‘temporarily’ or ‘right now’ onto that. Isn’t that an opportunity to soul search, goof off, or figure out who you are when workflow is quiet?

  10. Dear LW,

    I want to talk a little about a feeling I’m hearing: Damn it! Not fair!

    You’re right. It’s not fair that she has a leg up.

    You can acknowledge the inequality of opportunity, feel it. Then you can, maybe, think over the Captain’s advice and focus on your work (away from your friend, and all her advantages).

    Because in a way, the inequity doesn’t matter. Struggling against unfairness can be a full time occupation, but I don’t think it’s the occupation you want. I believe that you want to do your work.

    So yeah, continue to carve out the mountain that’s your specialty.


  11. One super practical thing to consider here is that your friend just got a new job so she’s probably not job searching right now — which means that whatever jobs you go after right now, she’s not going to be in competition for them. You have a big window of job search time right now in which Friend will not be a factor!

  12. I’m living this jealousy this week. Someone else is getting offered the things at work that I should have been offered, and even though my next gig is lined up and elsewhere and I am not competing for those things anymore . . . and I want to be happy for them in getting that offer . . . it hurts.
    Time to call my therapist, and thanks for the reminder.

  13. Every artist has spent time in the place where you are right now, LW. Every creative person has a standing reservation at the Envy Hotel. (So does your friend, even though you don’t see it.) It’s a form of block. There’s no shame–blockage is a natural part of the process. How about, pick one of the Captain’s excellent suggestions, and try that out? Make it one of the simple ones, like Artist’s Way, before you do something drastic like moving. Think of it as artistic therapy. You have an injury, and it will take a while to heal; be as patient with your heart as you would be with a broken leg. All my best wishes to you.

  14. Dear LW,

    The Captain is spot-on as usual. And I wanted to emphasize this bit:

    Narratives of success leave out the days spent watching the tide knock down all your rocks. Can you sit with your scattered pile of rocks and learn to love it again?

    Because I needed to hear it today, and because it’s true.

  15. I’m reminded of the danger of comparing the “outside”/appearance of someone else’s life with the “inside”/reality of our own lives. We do this all the time with social media–it seems that everyone else has it all together (job, family, happiness, parties, whatever) while we know that we DON’T have it all together, because we see the inside of our lives. It could be the same thing with the Dream Job.

    Not to encourage sour grapes, but could it be, LW, that you are jealous of the job you THINK she has, but the reality of that job has its ups and downs. Similar to the jealousy of someone being married to a person you think is perfect, but the reality of being married to that person also has its ups and downs.

    Not trying to invalidate your feelings of jealousy–just suggesting a way to pull jealousy’s fangs out of you.

  16. I lived through this experience myself at the beginning of my Art Career. I saw a therapist about it, even! Happily I can report that everybody’s career takes off at its own pace, that yours will get there, and that Art Friends eventually find their own unique areas of interest/specialty. You will ultimately end up supporting each other instead of competing with each other.

    Along those lines, I recommend the book “Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking” by David Bayles and Ted Orland. It helped me a lot when I was suffering from a creative block tied to a long bout of depression. They have a lot of good stuff in there for those of us who find professional jealousy to be corrosive rather than motivating.

    You WILL always experience a little pang of jealousy when a friend gets a lot of recognition…that’s just human nature. But ultimately you’ll have enough experience to recognize that your art is YOUR art, and that anybody who hires you is not looking at your resume, but at your (unique) portfolio and your reputation in the community for being reliable and pleasant to work with. A person you’re close to gets a gig you’d kill for? Woohoo, you now have somebody on the inside who can talk you up…or who can warn you off if it turns out not to be so dreamy.

    Lastly…do you currently have a project that you’re doing just for yourself? Something wonderfully self-indulgent and personal that you can joyfully show off, or even just keep to yourself as a secret pleasure? Something that totally isn’t your friend’s wheelhouse? A silly thing-a-day project? It’s those projects, done when I was in the dumps or frustrated or jealous or just plain having a rough year, that have netted me the best gigs and the most positive attention.

  17. I feel you LW, I do. My situation is different – I’m an environmental nonprofit attorney and I have been working/volunteering for too many years, trying to find/earn a paying job. Just this past December, a job FINALLY came open at a place I’ve been volunteering at for the past eight months. Am I going to get the job?- At first I was thrilled! But you know what? – Probably not. There’s infighting about the job requirements; and some maybe-nepotism happening; and the really Big Cheese boss is determined to find a unicorn (think someone who has post-graduate-degree levels of knowledge in THREE COMPLETELY DIFFERENT FIELDS).

    SIGH. I will remain unemployed, and it will suck.

    As for your situation, you are in a creative field (yes?) and if you are in the fine arts, Man, is that subjective when you are on the hiring side. I used to be an art director in advertising, and hiring a photographer or illustrator or director can really come down to the most subtle aspects of their work. But that is what makes you and your work unique! Embrace what you create, build your work/portfolio, and the job that is ideal – FOR YOU – will come.

    I don’t know if the above was encouraging, but know so many of us fight the same emotions and hurdles and frustrations. You will make it, Friend!

    1. I could go on such a rant about this unicorn-seeking really Big Cheese (without having met him/her). Let’s just say that I really hate what the expectation that employees should be passionate about their work (I suspect the nonprofit sector is particularly prone to this) has done to job-hunting. Employers feel entitled to highly qualified staff who will work long hours for peanuts because passion means never being so vulgar as to require money in order to meet physical and material needs, or have any interests or responsibilities outside of your passion-job.

      …I may have gone on that rant anyway.

      1. A+ rant, though, I feel you.

        I’m currently undergoing 300 hours unpaid training for a specialized non profit job. Now, the training is vital for doing the job correctly and safely, but if you don’t pass training, you don’t get the job. So why isn’t training paid? Starbucks pays during training, why don’t we? It’s very aggravating.

        People compare it to having to pay for job training at a Community College, so the argument is you’re getting a free education, and I kinda see it, but still. It takes a lot of time, which is stressful, and passion is so emphasized.

        1. People compare it to having to pay for job training at a Community College, so the argument is you’re getting a free education, and I kinda see it, but still.

          And this is one way that capital exploits subsidies by the public sector and individual people. Training is part of labor costs, but businesses have managed to externalize these costs. With free or very-low-cost public education, the idea is generally that businesses pay taxes that then support this training, but that is increasingly not the case under neoliberal governance or austerity approaches, and even free education fails to account for the material needs of a person during the training period and usually fails to consider the full extent of the opportunity cost.

          Expecting new hires to come with ALL relevant experience and training is really nothing more than a demand from capital that labor take on part of the firm’s labor costs. It’s not even justifiable from a good-faith market capitalist perspective – it’s an exploitative abuse of power differentials resulting from wealth inequality. It’s also the case that expecting firms to directly provide the equivalent of several decades of schooling and skills-training is sub-optimal, both in terms of efficiency of use of time and material goods and in terms of social good (having generalized schooling rather than schooling tailored to the narrow interests of for-profit firms is a social good, which is a primary objection I have to the charter school paradigm, especially in cases of for-profit schools subsidized with public money). Hence public schooling, which should properly be funded mostly by taxes on profits of for-profit firms and partly by general taxes to reflect equitable contributions from the beneficiaries (firms benefit from skills training of potential laborers, on whom they depend for profits, and the general public benefits from shared socialization elements and skills competencies that are applied generally rather than to a specific trade).

          That’s my very long-winded way of saying that there is an ethical imperative to pay employees for job-specific training (and for businesses to pay enough in taxes to fund the infrastructure upon which they rely – both physical infrastructure like roads and plumbing and social infrastructure like education and property law), and a refusal is an exploitative demand leveraging economic privilege.

          1. Plus, even from a practical standpoint, there are thirteen open full time positions, and about five people currently training. They really do need to hire for the positions, its dangerous to work so short staffed, and the pay is good given the cost of living where we are. So it’s like, paid training would solve a very immediate, pressing problem in addition to being more ethical in the grand scheme of things.

            Not to get too tangential re: LW’s problem.

  18. LW, I went through a very similar thing after I left a job that I shouldn’t have (long story). A friend of mine still worked there and it was very, very hard for me to see her for a while, because I HATED my new job and the whole thing had been intensely traumatic for me, and triggered a major depressive spiral. I couldn’t really talk to the people who still worked there that I had become friends with, because it was hard for me not to obsessively ask about work, and if they complained about what was actually a very toxic workplace, I’d feel a lot of rage that they were complaining about a place that I would have given an eye to return to.

    I lost that job through making a poor decision, but in my brain it turned into this Dream Job ™ that I would never, ever get again and I was heartbroken. It took me a very, very long time to get over it, and I still regret it. But it wasn’t really that great of a job – the environment was horrible, the two people in the tiny organization with the most power were sexist, alcoholic assholes, the pay was terrible, there was little room for advancement, etc..

    I ended up finding another job. I went to the hospital for depression, I got on a treatment plan, I participated in volunteer events in the field I’d left behind, I learned a LOT about what was important to me re: work (and to never, ever listen to my parents’ career advice again because it turns out that when you have no idea who your children are, your advice is worthless to them!), I’m still in therapy working through stuff, I still have major depression triggers around work but I’m working on it.

    The situations aren’t exactly the same, of course, but it might just be time to take some steps back from that friendship and work on yourself and look for other paths to what you want.

  19. LW, I would like you to consider something: what if you just… gave up on this friendship completely for the time being? I realise that might make your feel like a petty, awful person, that you don’t want to give the impression that you ditched your friend because you are jealous, that you don’t want to lose her friendship. But the reality is that right now this relationship is not a comfort to you, but a burden and source of stress and self-loathing; also, frankly, it doesn’t seem to contribute good things to her life either.

    The blunt truth is that there are some people we maybe shouldn’t try to be friends with. Our bosses, teachers, students, etc may be lovely individuals, but the nature of the relationship makes a equal and rewarding friendship very, very, very difficult, and it is often better to settle with a warm, friendly, but more distant interaction. Ex-partners can fall into this category too. Competitors most certainly do. It’s not impossible, but it can be too hard on you.

    It sounds to me as if this woman has been your direct competitor since before you even met her. And not a competitor as in “we are both house painters in a city that has 100 house painters and can only offer work for 95 of us”, but in “we are both house painters in a village that only really needs one great house painter and maybe an occasional handyman to do small jobs”. (I admit I am inferring all this from the tone of your letter. If it’s not so, maybe you should rethink whether it’s really been her presence in town that has been hindering your career. Are you sure there haven’t been other jobs that have gone to other people, but you are not even thinking about those, because you are focusing on your competition with? Worse, jobs you haven’t even applied to, becaus if this?)

    And being your direct competitor, she really is not well-qualified to be your best friend. She can’t be the person you vent about your jobsearch adventures, the one you commiserate with about losing jobs, the one you trash-talk the person who got the job because of who she knows and the clearly clueless hiring manager. And it’s not as if you have decades of shared life to fall back on before your professional competition began.

    Again, I understand that there is a strong compulsion to push back on your feelings about certain people, when they have done nothing to harm you and are just living their lives, to act as if you are above any petty emotions, to be “cool” about everything that hurts you. But sometimes the most honest thing you can do, the thing that takes the most courage and the thing that is better for you is to be gracious from a distance, but keep that distance. Send your best wishes, but don’t go to the wedding of the person you are still in love with. Give a gift, but stay away from children’s birthday parties and baby showers when you are struggling with infertility. Be professional and polite to your competitors, but don’t try to be the kind of friend who is expected to celebrate with them when they get the jobs you wanted.

    1. I agree with this comment 100%.

      OP, you’ve heard of the parable of the two wolves, yes? It goes something like this: there are two wolves inside every person. One wolf is kind and loving, the other is selfish, petty, and cruel. Which wolf is the one that grows? The wolf you feed.

      I used to think that being gracious from a distance was feeding the bad wolf, because it was somehow validating “wrongful” feelings of envy. Over time, I learned that the bad wolf thrives on situations in which we are confronted with the things that make us envious. We’re either letting our envy out in ways that hurt others, or we’re struggling with guilt, shame, and rumination to keep the envy in.

      It’s okay to starve the bad wolf by walking away from envy triggers.

  20. Lw I think as you expand your network and look for other jobs opportunities it will help you get out of the “there’s literally only one job for me and she took it” mindset and would hopefully help you deal with your sense of entitlement.

    By your accounts she sounds like a good cannidate with a strong network. Buissnes want to hire the candidate that best suits their needs. Not the person they networked with one time that they said they’ll keep you in mind if anything comes up. I had more than one occasion thought that things were going really well and I’m going to get the job for sure and they found a better candidate at the last minute.

    It would be good to remember that the job was never “yours” or “promised to you”. It was reserved for who ever the business thinks is the best fit. In this case it was your friend, other times it would be you, and even other times it would be John Peters—you know the farmer.

  21. “Seek collaborators who are excited by what you do and whose work excites you. Build community around what you do, community that does not depend on your friend.”

    THIS. My work spans academia, alt-ac teaching, and creative writing. My best friend, who is wonderfully, brilliantly talented, works at that same intersection. Academia in particular is a hideously competitive environment, and apparently there was a lot of speculation about whether BFF and I would becomes BFFs or Ultimate Nemeses (our advisor told us, way after the fact, that the admission committee for our PhD program actually spent significant time discussing whether we would kill each other or help each other.) We chose to collaborate. A lot. We’re both kick-ass and capable on our own, but our weird partnership is something that has made our careers much more complex, interesting, and sustaining thus far. I’m not at all suggesting that this is the route you should go with your friend – in fact, I think that some distance is probably the best thing you can do for your happiness and your friendship – but find other people in your industry who feed your passion! Collaborate on a project! Not only will this strengthen your industry connections, but I think it’s just really useful to remember (and see proof!) that creating good art/ work/ projects doesn’t have to be a competition. Since I live in a culture that is like “COMPETE, WEAKLINGS! FEEL LIKE GARBAGE WHENEVER ANYONE ELSE SUCCEEDS!” I cannot tell you how much it helps me to hit the resent button and say “no, I don’t have to play like that.”

  22. Thank you for truly honest outpouring of emotion and for portraying your struggles LW. As the sister on the “other side” of this issue, I am struggling with how to interact, comfort and communicate with my sister… who has, for over a year now, accused me of “stealing her job.” We are both writers, but have different educational backgrounds and experience… Her and I were both looking for full-time work in our VERY DIFFERENT fields of interest, and I applied for a writing job in our local government. I had sent her the job posting, but she didn’t apply.

    What I am learning, is we both display different aspects of codependency – active and passive. I encourage you to google some of the behaviours – seems to align with how you are feeling.

    We are WELL OVER A YEAR past me getting this job (and her total break-down when I told her). The little jabs, pokes, and butt-hurts are escalating. She can’t seem to help herself, and she won’t STOP this disgusting behaviour until she sees that I am upset. Things like – “How’s MY job going? or “I wouldn’t have done [this project] a totally different way. I would’ve X’d and Y’d and done SUCH a better job than you.” If I call her out in the moment, she denies she even said it, says she was joking, or that I am TOO whatever (sensitive, serious, etc.). You have the power over your actions, reactions, and words. Seems from your letter, that your friend is… exasperated and frustrated… and perhaps… like me… she’ll get to the point where consoling you is counter-productive to your relationships… and the resentment will start to creep in…

    That said, your letter truly helped me see things better from her perspective – communication clearly isn’t our strong suit. It seems from your letter, Captain’s advice, and the other comments here… I need to understand that there is nothing I can say, nothing I can do, and any effort on my part will only further damage our pair-bond, be perceived as condescending or patronizing.

    I miss my sister. To my core I miss her, but there is internal work that needs to be done (on both sides)… for the antagonist in this situation… I am finding myself avoiding her in social situations where she feels it’s appropriate to jab and poke at me, I am taking my own healing space and finding time to heal, and establishing boundaries – reflection on the inner self seems to be the only true remedy. So as the person on the other side, don’t be surprised if your friend starts to pull away, distance herself, and otherwise protect herself from your escalating wrath – and it is escalating.

    Take the time you need to heal and move on, and I hope she’ll celebrate any path you choose to move forward! Good luck, and I truly hope you find the joy in your work again and get your internal energies back on to how awesome you truly are!

    1. I’m sorry you are going through this. I think it’s best if you take som space from your sister. I would use the scripts from captains past post about setting boundaries, and how when ever she starts being mean you end your interaction.

      I personally would tell her “you might not notice it but you are making a lot of mean and unnecessary comments about my job. You would melt down if I kept pointing out how I got the job because I actually applied to it, so please drop it”. But that’s my preference to call people out on their bullshit

      1. Thanks so much for the compassion! Your advice is actually a variation of the broken-record-like boundaries I’ve been implementing (using Captain’s scripts and help from therapy). Just wanted to illustrate for the LW the “other side” so figured being honest and vulnerable here is MUCH easier than with faaaamily.

        You are absolutely right, taking space is key. And… just being blunt, and sticking to it. Dropping my own people-pleaser passive-codependent values is also in the works. It’s all a work in progress, that’s why I LOVE this website so much. So much support!

    2. Your sister had a complete breakdown and continues to belittle you over a job you got that she didn’t even bother to apply for??? Am I reading that right?? It sounds like you’ve been more than patient with her. Have you tried turning it around on her? “How’s MY job going?” “You mean the one you didn’t apply for?”
      “I would’ve done X, Y, and Z better than you.” “Too bad you never applied for it, huh?”
      I don’t blame you for pulling back from her over this – she’s being incredibly immature and petty.

      1. I totally get this thread: trying to be patient and compassionate from “the other side”? Everyone’s comments throughout this entire thread is amazing. LW, you are not alone!

      2. This was my initial reaction, but that’s also how my sister and I used to interact (and are working hard to stop). For each jab the other one hand responded with something more painful and more personal. When we were teens we would spiral so much that it resulted in violence from both sides on multiple occasions.

        It’s not something either one is proud about, and we do have the added benefit of hindsight and distance to realize that we were being raised in a toxic house and were both suffering from mental illness so we are more forgiving towards one another. But it is something we never want to repeat again. So no, I don’t suggest being more petty.

        1. There is a third path–which isn’t jabs, but an honest, justified, and really, really strong pushback on the CORE problem.

          I call it “channeling my inner daycare worker.” You know how kids do badly behaved things, and it’s really developmentally appropriate (like, they lie to get out of trouble, or something). It’s not personal. It’s about their place in the developmental hierarchy.

          That said, a good daycare worker doesn’t just let it slide. There’s small correction, big correction, and then really big correction (a time out, etc.).

  23. You’re not alone LW – I’m right there with you. Within the past year and a half, all the friends that I made in my graduate school class have graduated, and gotten jobs within a couple of months of graduating. After I graduated, I was competing with these people for positions, and they got them over me. The fact that they got to have a lot of experiences I didn’t (because their advisers were more connected than me, their workplaces were located on campus, they didn’t have to learn to deal with mental health issues while earning their degree etc….) definitely played into this.

    Meanwhile, 9 months later, I’m still unemployed. And it’s hard sometimes, even though I’m trying my best not to compare myself to them, not to feel resentful, frustrated and ashamed – like my current unemployed status means I’m somehow lesser than them.

    That said, I agree with Ms. Awkward on her advice. Trying to push these negative feelings toward your friend down only makes it worse – focusing on personally developing an actionable plan to help you get the job you want DOES help. The refrain of “How come she gets everything I want?” circling in your head, can instead become “I am making myself more marketable by doing X, Y and Z. Yay me.” Using this strategy, I might not have succeeded in landing a job yet, but I’m definitely finding new opportunities and making new connections every day.

  24. As someone surrounded by awesome, intelligent people who do better than me at the things I love, I totally get this LW! A technique I’ve tried successfully is actually just telling the person in question. (NB: this 100% depends on how you judge your closeness and how they would react, which I can’t tell you). She already knows you’re sad about the job, she has probably noticed the strain on your friendship. So if you think she would take it well, it could be worth saying to her “Hey Friend, I have been struggling to come to terms with some work-related stuff recently, which I’m sure you’ve noticed. I think I’m going to take some time for myself to focus on my art, so don’t be offended if you don’t hear from me for a while! I’m looking forward to catching up once my energy is back at 100%.” And then, go and follow all of the Captain’s awesome advice. I just feel that if you want to maintain the friendship, saying something before you distance yourself means it’s less likely that she will pull away in return, and hopefully you can stay friends after this rough patch.

    1. I just read nnn’s advice further up the comment thread and they word this script really nicely!!

  25. Dear LW: In addition to all of the great advice you will receive here, go visit Ask A Manager and read through her archives. You’ll find another community there of people who have be turned down, looked over, and promised jobs that just didn’t come through. All of the advice there will be directly business related, but it has helped me many a day when I just want to yell “it’s not fair!”

  26. I think there is someone like this in everyone’s life! I have a friend in my same field (we’re also artists) who is a lovely person and also just a leeeeetle bit better than me in every situation. If we each give a workshop, his wait list is longer. If we each do a sales event he will sell a little more. The one time we both wanted the sameposition, he got it. And so on.

    He really is a great person, though, very helpful and generous and kind. I really like him. And I’m still kinda jealous.

    So, I’m useless in the advice department, LW, but I can say: you aren’t a bad friend, you aren’t a bad person, this sounds like pretty normal stuff.

    God luck.

  27. The person who promised LW the job may not have actually had the power to do the hiring. I’ve had the experience of acquaintences encouraging me to apply for positions, telling me that I was a shoe-in. In the end they could only suggest me to the person who actually did the hiring, who may have had someone in mind already.

  28. This was really gentle and beautiful, and good advice.

    Slightly related thing I’m now wondering: how do you cope when you are entirely barred from a career? I’m not familiar with the arts, but it is an unavoidable truth in my field that this happens. Every year two or three of us are forced to leave, with no possibility of a career even closely related to what we work on. If (when?) it happens to me, I will need to swallow a lot of jealousy for the half of my community that makes it. Is this a position LW could be in? Is this a position artists in general can find themselves in? I mean, sometimes there actually are just fewer jobs than candidates, and sometimes you need to be in those positions to have access to the resources, collaborations, etc that you need to meaningfully engage in your field.

    1. I know you avoided naming your field intentionally, so I’m just going to throw this out there: sometimes you just need to grieve your dream and then build a new one.

      I’ve witnessed this more often with marriage / kids related dreams than with career dreams: sometimes nobody falls in love with you, or you can’t seem to make romance work, and you know you can’t handle being a single parent, or you know that being there for your child as a baby is a vital part of your dream so adoption isn’t an option.

      And it is so, so hard to let that dream go, and if you don’t then envy will wreck the relationships you have with your happily married parent friends.

      The best way I’ve seen people solve this is be honest that their dream has died, and the death of a dream is as painful and demands as much mourning as the death of a person. Be honest about that with yourself and with your friends, and hopefully your friends will understand and respect that. Go to counseling if possible.

      And then, as you heal from that grief…new dreams just sort of show up. Take the place of the old dreams. I’m not totally sure how or why that happens, but it does.

  29. Coming out of lurking to thank you for this, Captain. It made me cry a lot because I am consumed with both short-term job angst and long-term career angst, and crying is awesome and informative and people who think “don’t cry” is universally comforting are severely misguided, imo. I have what I assume is a classic starters’ problem of not wanting to make a first attempt at my creative dreams because I won’t be polished and original enough, and being unable to practice sufficient polish and originality because I refuse to make a first attempt. I sometimes have an aversion to, almost a fear of cool new creative/intellectual work that fits my tastes (especially if it’s authored by a confident cishet white dude, cause I’m certainly battling some stereotype threat in my own head) because my jerkbrain thinks exposure to that stuff will disintegrate what little value I had cherished for my own thoughts. Your reframing of seeing your own ideas used in more successful work as an annoying good sign is transformative for me.

    My instinct is always to isolate myself creatively, like everything worthwhile is supposed to be this individualistic, male-coded conquering by a single ego, passionately, geniusly arting through the night without ANY help from ANYONE (except his wife dutifully feeding him and seeing to his emotional needs and his mother sacrificing her own shot at fame so she could afford his studio and/or lessons and his housekeeper spiriting away all the garbage he had to toss about in his numinously mind-blowing quest for the perfect thought). This romanticization of the “lone genius” is a problem in science history too. Hey, how bout all those world-changing *collaborative* inventions? Or the people who *did* need support from friends and family and colleagues to do their awesome genius shit?

    LW, we feel you and I think it’s pretty neat that you had the self-awareness to want to address this problem in this first place. That for me seems to signal good things to come in terms of your friendship, communication, and feelings goals. Good luck and kick some ass being your very own bad self

  30. (apologies for typos, I’m on my phone & tried to catch them all!) This could have been written by the me of ten years ago! I was hired for a part-time job at the same time as someone else was hired for the full-time job I had really wanted. We didn’t know each other before that, but I immediately resented her anyway. The feeling was exacerbated as she openly complained about the job and said, in front of our boss, that she didn’t like children (the job was basically 90% working with kids). I wasted *five years* hoping she’d quit and being angry that I was just as, if not more, qualified than her.

    We tried being friends, but my jealous was obvious and our relationship was never anything more than strained. But eventually I got a great job in another city and moved, and then moved a few years later to the city I’m in now. She’s still there at that first job. (Sometimes I think about her and debate sending an email, but I think it’s more for me to feel better than for her, so I never do.)

    You say you don’t want to spend *her* time watching her get jobs, but what about *your* time? Is moving an option? I know it can be scary! And of course this doesn’t apply to everyone, but I’m so glad I didn’t stick around and try to wait out that other woman. I found new places to dream about working and I’ve grown and changed so much more than I would have if I’d stayed.

    I think The Captain is spot on about making peace with your art. It’s hard! I’m going through it now (majored in art, pursued an art-adjacent career, loved it, but burned out & now wondering if/how to really pursue art all these years later. Am I too old? Any good? Etc). I don’t really know what the solution is there, but I think it’s a big part of your puzzle. Is there a niche you can fill? What’s your strength? How do you market that strength?

    I think the fact that you are recognizing these feelings of yours is huge and I’m proud of you! It shows a maturity I wish I’d had. You’re going to be okay, LW.

  31. LW, I am sorry that you are going through this. I know it really sucks when someone who you think is less qualified takes a position you want. For instance, I really, really wanted to be a department manager where I work, but so far I haven’t even taken the required test for it yet! A few of the people that are DMs I feel are not really qualified to be ones, and I sometimes even end up having to do their work or fix their mistakes! Sometimes, jealousy does start to creep in for me too, so know you are not alone. I think CA’s advice is good, but what if circumstances are dissuading you from moving, as in my case? Well, my thinking is that everyone has an important role to play in their job to make a positive difference for the company and for the people around them, no matter how they rank, position wise. Even the maintenance people, who people don’t really take the time to appreciate often times, have a pivotal role as well. When I think this way, the jealousy goes away. Moreover, I start to look at each person as being valuable to me, instead of seeing them as competition.

  32. OH MY GOD THIS. I have suffered this very intensely. Some things that helped:

    – Find a graceful way to wear your jealousy. I tried to hide mine, which of course was hopeless. The day I texted my friend “congrats and of course I want to die of jealousy and of course also congrats because I love you!” I instantly felt better. I had found a way to be honest that was also socially acceptable and didn’t make me additionally embarrassed on top of my jealousy.

    – I read a LOT of advice columns, and one thing I’ve noticed is that this particular type of career jealousy somewhat parallels the feeling people have about their good friends’ pregnancies when they themselves are struggling to conceive. People report the same unbearable, grinding inability to be happy for the other person. I don’t know why, it just helped me to know that and I thought it was interesting.

    – There was NO WAY TO BRAIN-NINJA MYSELF OUT OF MY JEALOUSY FOR MY FRIEND. No way. I turned the jealousy upside-down and inside out, I tried to get to THE TRUE SECRET OF THE JEALOUSY, I asked myself why not having something became a thousand times more painful when I saw that my friend had it. Nothing helped. Only speaking honestly to him about it (in a loving way, and cloaking it in humor) helped a bit. And I *DID* absolutely have to be more distant from the friendship.

    – This will definitely change. Maybe because you get some opportunities that make you rejoice, or maybe because one of you moves, or maybe for whatever reason it will just stop feeling the way it does now. In the timeline of your whole life this is a blip.

  33. LW, one thing stood out to me from your letter: “watching her get jobs I am equally qualified for because her resume is better…”

    I think it would also help you to reframe what being “qualified” for a job means in this context. It doesn’t mean you would be equally excellent at the job, because you are equally talented. It means that you have previous experience doing the things that one typically does on the way to having this type of job, and a track record of success doing those things, such that the employer has external evidence that talent translates into being efficient/reliable at applying it in this way.

    And if her resume has that and yours doesn’t… She *is* more qualified. That doesn’t mean she’s more talented, or a better artist, or will always be more qualified for this particular type of position. But it means that she has already completed steps 1-3 of Demonstrating Talent By Getting Paid, and maybe you’ve only done steps 1-2, and that doesn’t reflect on ANYTHING about your talent or your future career but it does reflect that you are getting signals that people consider step 3 a qualification for doing this Other Thing, so you need to find a way to get step 3 done or figure out what its achievable equivalent is.

    Because… It kinda sounds like the story you’re telling yourself is, to a certain extent, that her experience doesn’t count as a job qualification because she got it by being more privileged than you. And it’s probably true that she got it by being more privileged than you in some way, and that’s not really fair! And that the only “qualifications” that should matter are innate ability, and you have just as much as her and it’s not fair that you can’t back that up on paper.

    But that isn’t reality–people get jobs based partially on talent and partially on relevant experience. The relevant experience isn’t fair and depends a lot on privilege, but it’s reality. And in my career, telling myself the story that I was equally qualified for opportunities that others’ resumes were more appropriate for just because I had the same innate skill for hard work and my field was deeply unhelpful.

    Story time: I got a perfect score on my LSATS and spent college failing a lot of classes due to health problems, and I got into 0 ranked schools, at all. It wasn’t really fair, and I was bitter about it, and I basically applied to the same internships that kids at Harvard take for my first year. And I didn’t get a job over the summer, even though I was first in my class and many of my “less qualified” classmates did, because I was applying for jobs that I wasn’t actually qualified for.

    Luckily, I transferred to a top school after my first year and got those Jobs I Deserve Because I’m So Talented the next summer, because now I was both *talented enough* to do them and qualified enough that people believed me when I said I was talented.

    So… LW, I believe that you probably could do the job your friend had just as well, and that in that sense you deserved it. But it sounds like she also deserved it, and until you stop telling yourself a story about that where you *should* be pursuing the same opportunities as your equivalently talented but more experienced friends because talent is all that matters, you are probably going to end up with this same bitterness over some other Best Job in the future, even if you work things out with This Job and This Friend.

    1. Yes, I was trying to think how to say this. If her resume is better then by a hiring manager’s POV you’re not equally qualified—she’s more qualified. I get that that feels unfair, I genuinely do, but it may be mentally and emotionally helpful to recognize that.

      1. Structurally helpful, too! If LW can get to a place where they can look at the societal reasons their friend had the right “qualifications” at this point while they didn’t, and the ways in which they have externally visible markers that they are TALENTED but not qualified that could differentiate them from similarly unqualified but not talented individuals, once LW has become successful they can start working on a rubric or program to serve people like the young LW into the system rather than out of it. I’m mentally doing this in my law career so that once I’m in a hiring position, I can execute a plan that would have helped young me.

        Once you get past “this is deeply unfair for no good reason” and move into “this is deeply unfair because the current system fails to account for x because nobody has tried to do it yet,” you can fix stuff instead of just getting beaten up by it.

        1. Just wanted to say I love this point. That you can flip the unfairness into your potential target for attack.

    2. This stuck out to me too.

      It can feel deeply weird, unfair, and like a mark against your innate talent and worthiness early on, but we don’t all progress in our careers at the same pace. Someone who is your peer in your personal life can be well ahead of you career-wise for all kinds of reasons. It sounds to me like the LW’s friend is senior to her professionally. If her friend literally got a “head start” in their field where they got to start working earlier or progress a little faster, it’s not any fairer for the LW to compare herself to that and compete for the same jobs than it would be for her to constantly compare herself to an old boss.

      If I were the LW I’d take a look at whether I am applying for things that are right *for me*, and if my resume really communicates that as well as it could. It helped me a lot to sign up for alerts from job posting sites even when I am not looking, and read them just to see what is out there and how it is described. It’s great to apply for a stretch position or something that sounds like a real dream job, but then all the other elements should be working to basically convince someone to take a chance on a reach candidate. Employers rely on the resume, they can’t look into your heart or your future and see talent or potential. It’s unlikely that the LW should be applying to this many jobs that are the same as their friend, due to both seniority and the fact that they are different people. What are their peers’ goals where they work now? If they set aside what others are doing and read job descriptions in their field, what positions actually sound the most like the resume they have right now?

  34. (Long-time reader, first-time commenter)

    Captain, I needed to read this so badly today. Thank you.

    LW, I’m so sorry. That’s tough. But the Captain’s advice is solid gold. Long story short, I’m a working artist who actually got my Dream Job, and through a series of organizational changes wound up watching from the inside as it disintegrated into something that wasn’t actually the Dream Job anymore. Fast forward through a few remarkably difficult years, and for a whole bunch of reasons I’ve made some choices re: work and living situation that I never thought I would make and was actively avoiding until I was more or less forced into them… and I’m SO. MUCH. HAPPIER. Even if I’m not (yet) where I want to be as an artist, things are really looking up, and I don’t think they would have been without the hard times.

    This is a bit rambling, but my point is: the Captain is right, and adversity is an opportunity, and change isn’t necessarily to be avoided. I made the conscious choice, when things were really tough, to embrace the uncertainty, and while my life isn’t perfect, I think it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I still work in the industry of my former Dream Job, and have to work closely with the organization on occasion. It took a while, but I’ve come to be at peace with the interactions we have, to value what it meant to me, and to know that even if I had the chance, I wouldn’t go back, because I’ve moved forward as a person. It took a lot to get there, but it’s a good feeling. I believe that you can get there too.

  35. Oh gosh. This hits home. I had a friend who was a novelist trying to get published, while I was a novelist getting published for the first time. I always thought if I’d met her a little later–after my book came out maybe–she’d have considered my published status something fixed and immutable and that she didn’t need to compare herself to… but maybe she wouldn’t have. Anyway she didn’t. I didn’t want comparisons or winning, I just wanted friends, but…

    The thing it came down to, for me, was that I cannot avoid feeling guilty if I’ve hurt someone, and I feel very compelled to do something about it and make it go away. Now here is what I could have done about this: sabotage myself on purpose. I knew that wasn’t right. I kept coming back to that, because that was the one thing that made me feel I was allowed not to feel guilty.

    Now there IS one other thing your friend could do, which is talk up you & your art in the industry. (I did that, incidentally, I did get my friend an in with my publisher but they rejected, & that was the solitary connection I had.) I hope she’s doing that.

    I don’t know how to work it out, we never figured it out, she moved. Also she’s published now. We never had a strong enough connection to work it out, I think, you would not have caught her going to me for comfort–about anything really. But I’m really excited for her and really wish her well, and I sent her a lovely card when she got her contract which she sounded genuinely touched by, so it’s all right, but I just remember that feeling of Oh my God, I’ve hurt someone and I literally CAN’T fix it…

    Not to mention the friend struggling with infertility while I was getting pregnant. I HATE this stuff. And it just doesn’t seem that fixable by human means. Basically what fixed that one was I had a miscarriage I did have a baby later) and she adopted…

  36. I wonder how much of the envy/bitterness might be redirected feelings from the friend that promised the job but didn’t deliver. Like sometimes the person that isn’t an authority figure in a sense feels like a safer target for frustration?

  37. I feel all this so hard. I had (“had”) a friend who was my closest Person in my city. We met at work where I was her supervisor, but after mentoring and encouraging her for over a year, she got promoted to my level. I loved her as a friend and a colleague. We moved to a new company as a work team, where I was the one hired first and brought her in as a recommendation. The new job was toxic as hell. When it became clear I was struggling in the environment, our management began a “golden child/scapegoat” dynamic where they’d compare us, I could do no right and she could do no wrong. They terminated me after speaking privately with her to make sure she wouldn’t leave with me when I was gone.

    This was extremely traumatic for me, but I did my best to mitigate its effects on her, especially during my last weeks at the workplace where I was terminated but had to finish the project. I made it clear to her often that I didn’t hold her responsible for any of it, and while I was terrified of leaving work without something else lined up, I didn’t envy her for having to stay there. It’s close to a year later and I still remain unemployed. My benefits have run out and I’ve been scraping up a few freelance jobs to stay in my house. And my friend?

    She’s completely disappeared from my life. I know she’s still at that same workplace, but she’s posted about getting job offers from other companies (while I’ve been job searching full time with nothing to show). I haven’t heard from her in months after her messages and conversations dwindled to zero. I had to unfollow her from social media after seeing her engaging with our mutual friends but ignoring my posts.

    There was a time, even recently, where my jealousy of her experience vs. mine would have driven me bald. The two things that have gotten me out of that mindset are: meditation and mindfulness, where I can be grateful that I am no longer in that toxic work situation; and focusing on an area of art that is completely different from the one we both shared professionally. I heard through the grapevine that my former friend was complaining about working in a “corporate job” and wanted to take time off to do her own projects. It was a bizarre moment for me to think that in some way, she might be envying me, even after all that had happened.

    LW and all the commenters who relate, I wish you compassion and patience for yourself. Sometimes you just gotta let it wash over you before you can refocus and move on.

  38. This reply is so good. Its incredible. It’s so good, it makes me want to quit my job as a science research fellow with absolutely no creative talent whatsoever and instead become a struggling artist who works hard to reach minor levels of success but then experience a setback and become down in the dumps about my artistic future, all with the intention that I can then go to a beach feeling emotional, pile up a bunch or rocks while crying, dramatically scatter them to the wind in anger, turn towards the ocean and scream into the oncoming surf “can I love you again?? Can I??”

    1. This is one of the greatest compliments anyone has ever given me, so, thank you! (I bet your science is great and important and you can do cool creative stuff with it, too).

  39. Pitching in with a little story that may be helpful…When I started out in my former field, my then-boyfriend and I were applying for the same jobs. It was dreadful but there were limited opportunities so we just had to get on with it. At the time we both lived in A Large Capital City and wanted to stay, but had to be willing to leave. I was interviewing in weird and far-flung places, while temping full-time doing mind-numbingly boring work. Meanwhile, boyfriend was living with his parents and mostly sunbathing. Then he was the first to get a job (that I’d also interviewed for) in a town very near Capital City. I was sooo jealous and it seemed soooo unfair, as he didn’t even have rent to pay – let alone do crappy work to do it. I had many angry and ungenerous feelings about the situation. Then a week later was offered a great job smack in the middle of Capital City. That story taught me that like the Captain says, there isn’t Just One Job and you never know when your opportunity is coming along (and it may even be better than the thing you wanted so badly)

  40. LW, I highly recommend reading Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird. It’s a writing guide, but it has an ENTIRE CHAPTER about jealousy and how it can devour you and the futility of standing there with your leg down jealousy’s throat chirping “I don’t know what you mean! I’m so happy for you!”

    You’re jealous because you’re human. That doesn’t mean you get to pick at your friend or burst into tears every time she mentions work, but there is not one person on the planet who wouldn’t be jealous in that situation, and thinking there is, and measuring yourself against this imaginary person who does not exist, just gives you another stick to beat yourself with instead of admitting your new eye shade is touch green and thinking about how else to achieve your goals.

    Bird By Bird. Can’t recommend it enough.

  41. LW, you probably need to watch Tim Minchin again:

    I get you. I’ve been there. I’ve been promised a job only to see it go to someone else, I’ve been jealous of people who worked as hard as I did (give or take) and just had more luck/met the right people/hit a hiring manager’s/editor’s/whatever’s button better, and I understand how you feel; I also think that you shouldn’t try to pretend you’re not jealous, and if you can’t get this person on your side – ‘in your opinion, what can I do to be more successful at getting this kind of job? What are the skills that really help you in your day-to-day routine? Anything you wish you’d learnt? Can you talk me through a typical day?’ If she’s willing to mentor you, great (but you’d have to admit that she’s someone you can – and want to – learn from, without the ‘but I could do better’ devil sitting on your shoulder). If that’s not the case, maybe get into a ‘we do something unrelated and don’t talk about work’ routine.

    But I’d like to pick up on the dream job again. My dream job is…

    … actually, I don’t have one. I’m a person who has many skills and who can get enthusiastic over many things, so my dream job looks something like this (and yes, I am actively looking):

    – work in a field/for an organisation I can get behind. Doesn’t need to be a charity, but I’m not interested in doing something I consider morally suspect. Asking me to steal photos from a website and remove watermarks from them so you can use them elsewhere? I’m OUT. (Real story. But you get the drift.) So I won’t work for certain political parties etc.
    – use my skills. I can do academic research, exhibition design, editing, database wrangling, survey design, programming, photography, writing, developing other people’s skills … and I want to use more than one of them in my day-to-day work
    – be trusted and appreciated at work. I need to be trusted to set my own breaks, get a cup of tea when I need one, prioritise my workload, ask for advice when I need it. Part of the appreciation is voluntarily paying a reasonable wage.
    – be told the big picture: where does my work fit into the company, what is most important, why am I asked to do this thing (or asked to do it now). Micromanagement and being kept in the dark are not good matches for me.
    – work with awesome people. Most places have awesome employees, but if they’re constantly put under pressure, rushed, and belittled, the awesome won’t come out.
    – work in a place that does not make me ill. (Sorry, place I’ve temped repeatedly: would have loved to work there, but the lighting gave me a headache every time, and I don’t usually get headaches.) Ditto for noxious substances that trigger my allergies.

    Everything else? I’m totally open. There are many jobs out there that have the potential to be ‘my dream job’. What’s your list, and how may you find such things even outside the immediate field and immediate companies you’ve been applying to?

    1. Yes, this is pretty much how it is for me too! Along with a reasonable wage, I want sufficient time off to see my family in other states, take a vacation, deal with any medical needs, and do the occasional really cool thing. My current job is ideal for most of this; I got really lucky a few months ago. I hope for everyone to find a job that works for them!

  42. I’m also going to jump in here and say, once you’ve wrestled your ugly feelings to a place where you can manage them comfortably, one option would be to then use your friend as a resource. Ask her about her work, ask to be her plus-one at a networking event, ask her to send you jobs that she’s just a titch overqualified for. Her path will still not be your path, but working towards grace on this subject may have the added benefit of allowing you to maintain this relationship in a way that benefits you professionally as well as personally.

    This is some advanced friends-feels moves, for sure. And if you’re really struggling with not blurting out “It’s not fair!” every time you see her, you’re not there yet. But If you do your yogic breathing and your CBT about your jealousy, you might be able get here. After all, you’re not working towards being equal with her; you’re working towards being equal to your own hard work, determination, talent, nerve, and experience.

  43. As someone who’s REALLY struggling in her creative, I needed to read this today. Thank you, Captain, for your wisdom and your kindness and your honesty.

  44. Concerning the line of thought some others have mentioned of how you shouldn’t compare the way your friend seems externally to how you see yourself internally: There was a time in my life in which I was very successful academically. I was the best at everything and whatnot. It was frustrating for anyone around me trying to be similarly successful. What the other people partly conveniently ignored or couldn’t actually see was that I was extremely lonely. My academic success was THE thing that kept me afloat, gave me hope for a better future and made me feel good about myself. The people around me only saw the success and not how I had time for nothing else because I didn’t have anything else. I don’t think they would have wanted to switch places with me had they known the whole situation. They saw the results alone and not all the stuff happening backstage. There was a lot of resentment towards me back then which in turn exacerbated my isolation.It was a vicious cycle. I specially remember this one girl I spent a lot of time with. But I never felt like we were friends. I always felt she kept me around as a measuring stick for where she wanted to get. It was impossible for me not to notice.

    Sometimes people are so fixated on whatever success looks like to them that they lose sight of the whole rest of the picture. This concerns themselves and the person whose success they wish they had. Widen your view of this whole situation. The Captain and everyone else here have suggested many ways. In general: What you are so fixated upon might be way less important than many other things you are ignoring or not considering. This person doesn’t have THE ONE THING you wish you had but don’t. There is a whole life, a whole person and a whole set of circumstances you probably know little about behind what you call success here.

  45. Oh no! Posted this in the wrong place. Should be in #1072: “My future mother-in-law interrogates me when I want to change clothes before leaving the house.” Sorry!

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