Competition:  It drives innovation.  It fosters change. It motivates.  It can instigate growth and development.  And it can encourage.  But it can also bring about fear, trepidation, feelings of inadequacy, incompetence and irrelevance.  Yet every day in the world of work, whether on the job or looking for one, we face some form of competition.  Serious or light-hearted, competition is there, and coping with it and thriving from it can contribute to one’s sense of accomplishment and success.
There are many obvious examples of competitive behavior at work.  It may be as straight forward as trying to best a coworker in the number of sales completed in a given amount of time, how many lines of code can be written, or how many boxes can be assembled.  There doesn’t need to be anything formal, contrived or antagonistic about these kinds of competitions. They are usually friendly and can foster team building and productivity.
Many companies create a competitive atmosphere in an attempt to boost efficiencies and output, upping there bottom line and to maintain employee engagement.  There may or may not be rewards for the worker who bests her/his colleagues, but the employer benefits by keeping staff focused on tasks, sales levels and schedules.
But this same kind of competitive atmosphere can become toxic.  Some workers take their competitiveness too seriously.  What starts out as friendly can turn adversarial, resulting in negative attitudes and behaviors that disrupt productivity, and become too personal.  Staff can become so caught up in their attempts to one-up their co-workers that group efforts get undermined, derogatory comments are made, feelings can get hurt and reputations can get damaged.  This can destroy relationships, disrupt efficiencies and create a hostile work environment.
Throughout the day, we may be competitive without even realizing it.  Hailing a taxi, scurrying to get a seat on a commuter bus or train, trying to get the best spot in line at the supermarket, looking for a parking place, or even buying tickets online for a concert, are all competitive acts, even though we may not think of them that way.  And frequently we are competitive as mere observers.  Whether rooting for a favorite sports team, participating in fantasy sports leagues or office betting pools, we exhibit competitive behaviors.  Of course, no matter how much we yell and scream, as non-participants we cannot affect their outcome.
There’s an aggressive attitude that underlies competitiveness that can be both positive and negative. That aggression can lead us to work harder, try new things, and stretch our limits both physical and imaginational.  It can also cause us to undermine our own efforts.  We can become so lost in being competitive that we can lose track of the goals we have set and the importance of completing tasks because we become too caught up in who or what we are trying to best.
And when it comes to job search, we always hear about how competitive the job market is, or how much competition there is in some fields more than in others.  And while there may be a lot of other people vying for the same job you are trying to fill, the truth is you’re not really in competition with anyone – but yourself!
There are too many unknown variables that make it difficult to fully assess whether you are really in competition with one or more other candidates for the same job.  You may have the same degree, have gone to same schools, even have the same number of years of experience. But factors such as cultural and industry exposure, attitude, communication skills, personal demeanor, and more, are what separates one applicant apart from another. In the eyes and mind of the employer, no matter the similarities between you and another job seeker, what the interviewer sees, senses and feels toward you, and their belief in your ability to do the work they need done are what get you hired.
Yes, there may be lots of other people trying to get the same job as you, but you cannot alter your focus from the task at hand, which is to make yourself the best candidate for that position you can possibly be.  Do not concern yourself with the alleged skills and qualifications of others; focus only on how you will convey to that employer that you have the skills, experience, attitude and personality that will comfortably fit in to their workplace to tackle the work they need done, in the way they want it completed.
There will always be others hoping to fill the same jobs that interest you.  But they are not your competition.  They are just job seekers, like yourself.  Compete only with yourself to be the best at what you do.  That’s the best way to win!
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