Career Confession: It’s not all competition

This post should probably start with a little disclaimer: I’m a very competitive person. I come from a long line of competitive people and we tend to find a little bit of competition in everything we do… Hey, it’s human nature. Right?!

When I was hired for an entry level position, my firm hired someone else at the same time at the same level. We had similar backgrounds, were the same age and were both clearly dedicated workers. Although we were friendly, the smell of competition filled the air.

It wasn’t cutthroat, but we rolled up our sleeves and drew black under our eyes each morning. We typed faster, stapled harder, and compared the depths of our paper cuts. We threw ‘bows, sabotaged Starbucks orders and, worst yet, stole post-its and sharpies. Oh no you didn’t!

OK, so not all of that was true, but the competitive atmosphere lasted for a little while… until one day we had a beer together after work and quickly learned we were on the same page with our thoughts about the job. We quickly learned we needed to be challenging ourselves and not each other. Especially at a lower level, we needed to be team players and support each other, and that’s how we’d move ahead. We needed to give advice and band together when we shared frustrations.

I’ve grown to realize just how important it is to have a support system at work.

You’ll quickly learn who you can trust, and those people are certainly worth your time. Work life, and life in general, is so much more tolerable if you embrace your colleagues. Having a trustworthy colleague is like having a friend who actually understands you and your job (crazy, right?)…

  1. …they understand the inner-office politics and can provide adequate advice
  2. …they can relate to your frustrations and you can pull out your hair together (and if you’re both pmsing at the same time, you can even cry together… outside of the office, of course)
  3. …they will sing “Friends in Low Places” with you at karaoke and not judge you for your inability to carry a tune
  4. …they can support you in all facets of life, beyond the windowless cube and silly office dramatics
  5. …they will never ever judge you for the amount of junk food you eat in any given week

While it can be difficult at first to determine who’s there to help you and who’s there to use you, I didn’t actually love my job until I became comfortable with a few other people in my office.  If you’re still on the fence about getting too comfortable at work, try giving and seeking advice from a few coworkers – I think you’ll be surprised by how many people want to help you and truly appreciate your help, professionally and personally. I swear your Monday-Friday will be much more worthwhile, and even fun!

What about you – do you think it’s better to make friends at work or keep your distance? 

Ms. Career Girl

Ms. Career Girl was started in 2008 to help ambitious young professional women figure out who they are, what they want and how to get it.

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