"I'll have what she's having!"

The iconic line from the classic film 'When Harry Met Sally', when *cough cough...you know, Meg Ryan makes a rather expressive point to Billy Crystal. A woman sitting adjacent to the couple witnesses her demonstration, exclaiming “I’ll have what she’s having!” when asked what she’d like to order.

I was thinking about this recently...

Scrolling through Instagram one night at 10pm I couldn’t switch my mind off. It looked like everyone was having more fun than I was; wining and dining with their other half’s while the kids were with a babysitter and just generally going about their lives as if the last 14 months had never happened. I’m well aware social media is 80% BS but I guess it’s one of the frustrating things about being human is that comparison is inevitable.

COVID and lockdown have amplified the situation. Feelings of self-doubt, negativity, judgement and (at times) fear of missing out has plagued most of us. We compare lifestyles, relationships, friendships, parenting styles and work.

Measuring up

Whether you’re running your own business, freelance or employed, it’s almost impossible not to compare.

I see it myself every day with the job seekers we support.

“My ex-colleague is so much happier now she’s moved on, she finishes at 5:00 every day, has a great boss who is super flexible, and she is being paid far more than me”. Little does he know that the very same ex-colleague is in touch with me looking to leave said company because she bloody hates it. Not that she’d ever tell her ex-colleagues that!

Or picture this:

You and your very best friend qualify as chartered accountants at the same time, working in the same department of the same firm. Upon qualifying your friend moved into a Group Accountant role working for an oil service company. Six months later, a role becomes available in the same department, working directly alongside your friend and he puts your name forward. You accept the job because well, he loves it so surely you will too. But that’s not the case - the boss is a micro-manager and the work isn’t stimulating. You discuss it with your friend, “you told me this place was great?” and you can’t understand why he’s so surprised to hear you’re thinking of leaving.

We see this so often, people comparing themselves to their peers but ultimately it leads them down a path which isn’t right for them. Just because your mate is wiling to work 70 hours a week doesn’t mean that you are. Just because they're comfortable working in a global corporation, doesn't mean you are. Ultimately, your differences will lead to comparison. You’ll compare salaries, lifestyles, promotions etc. Even though you both want completely different things, you're still trying to see how you measure up.

Daft really, isn’t it?

The click

In addition to my day-to-day role within Vero, I spend a lot of my time coaching and consulting people through the extremely delicate process of searching for work. The biggest part of this is actually trying to figure out exactly what they want. A lot of the time people enter into a process without really knowing, and this is normal and completely fine.

When was the last time someone asked you what you want? I mean REALLY want?

For a long time, I had no idea what I really wanted.

I left university after only eight months, absolutely lost with no clue what I wanted to do with my life. I started working with a recruiter who suggested I "temp" until I worked out what I wanted to do next. I had no idea that the very first person who would interview me would ultimately give me the kick up the backside I needed. She also happened to share my mothers name, among other spooky similarities. I clearly remember the day she stood across from me at the reception desk and said (in her Geordie accent) "I think you should be working in recruitment, pet". Turns out she was right, six weeks later I started my new job as a Recruitment Consultant and the next nine years were great - but I was on auto-pilot for at least seven of them. At the start of 2016 I found myself asking a question I’d never really asked myself before: “What do I really want".

Four months later I took a leap of faith and said yes to complete career change. I was bloody terrified, and I spent the first six weeks wondering what the hell I’d done. I’d never managed a team of people, knew very little about the industry I’d entered into, and even less about how to run a business.

But something clicked.

It was 100% right for me at that time; the right people, the right work and the right challenge. And something unexpected happened as a result; I was able to be 100% me (in all my weirdness), and in the process I became far better at my job. It also gave me the experience and confidence in myself to start Vero with Andrew.

Chef salad?

We’re not clones, we all want different things. There are people who thrive in environments that others find unbearable. That’s why it’s so important to give yourself the chance to ask “what do I really want?” and “where do I thrive?”. It’s only by asking these questions and taking action that we can truly reach a place where we’re less likely to compare ourselves to others.

Comparison really is the thief of joy. After all, I really don’t care about being wined and dined, or whether someone is jetting off to the sunshine.

Sometimes, we just need a to remind ourselves we're unique. After all, we don’t all want the chef salad with the oil and vinegar on the side*.


*if you don’t get the references, I recommend you watch the film!