You have seen it before. You tell a friend you just got promoted and notice a spark of jealousy in her eyes. You email an acquaintance to ask her advice on how she landed her dream job, and she never gets back to you. You go to a wedding and overhear a group of girls discussing how bland the food is and how good the caterer was at THEIR wedding. Have you ever come across a friend who didn’t tell you about a job opportunity because she didn’t want the added competition but you ended up finding out eventually anyway? Have you ever known that a great guy likes one of your friends but not told her because you were jealous?
In a previous job, I had seen a woman point out when a female co-worker came to work late so that she would look better in comparison. I had a ‘friend’ who used to turn her back to other women in group conversations to purposely exclude someone from the conversation and make that person feel unwanted. I knew someone who would constantly complain about her other friends to me, which automatically made me assume she was complaining about me to those other friends. Yes, it’s the same friend. No, we’re not friends anymore.
These examples SEEM farfetched but they’re accurate and they do happen. It’s uninspiring to say the least. It’s backwards and shameful to say the worst. Women can sometimes encompass a love/hate relationship with each other. Just because another woman is winning, does NOT mean you are losing. There’s MORE than one finish line, one promotion, one house, one car, one gig, one dress, one job, one ANYTHING. We should be helping each other out and working together so that women assume more leadership positions, get more book deals, run more companies, and do more for future generations.
I’m so lucky to have women in my life who support me and encourage me. They’re happy for me when I’m successful and provide strength and guidance when I’m unsure of my next steps. As I’m writing this post, I can think of so many examples in which another woman supported me and helped me out when she absolutely didn’t have to. For example, when I started my first job as a pharmacist, I was placed in a district in another state. I really wanted to stay close to home and not have to drive too far but there was nothing available at the time. Because I was going to be working in another state, I needed to take another licensing exam in addition to the one I already took for my home state. I was preparing myself to do a lot of driving, as I knew that every location would be at least 40 miles from my house. The situation was not ideal but I was doing what I needed to do to have a steady job.
One day, I was speaking to a classmate on the phone. We had gone to pharmacy school together and she was a year ahead of me so at that point, she was already working as a pharmacist for the same company and within the district that was closer to my house. We didn’t really know each other that well but we always knew of each other from school. We were talking about something work related and the subject of my district placement came up. On her own, she offered to ask our district supervisor if there were was anything that could be done within her district. I thought that was really thoughtful of her but didn’t think that anything would come out of it. About a week later, I got a call from our district supervisor that there was an opening in the area where I live and I’ll be able to work in the district closer to my house. She really made it happen for me. I didn’t ask her to help me out and she very easily could have done nothing. On her own, she made a simple phone call and in turn, made my life a lot easier. I still haven’t forgotten that and I don’t think I ever well. It was a small gesture but I felt really grateful that she was willing to take that extra step for me, someone she barely knew.
On the other hand, I’ve done the same for many women in my life. I’ve encouraged my friends and supported students I’ve worked with because I genuinely wanted them to be successful. I can think of one example when a friend from pharmacy school contacted me on Facebook because she was looking for a pharmaceutical fellowship and wanted my advice. I ended up writing her a page long message about the interview process, how I prepared, and any tips I thought would help her. Looking back, I really wish someone had done that for me and answered the dozens of questions I had. I was happy to do what I could to help her out because not long ago I was in her shoes and I understood what she was going through.
I think a common misconception is that we are all competing for the same top spot. We’re not. Each and every one of us has our own paths and can reach the finish line by making ourselves better rather than focusing on competing with our female counterparts. Competition is thought to result in one person’s success and someone else’s failure. Women often compete in domains such as career, weight, beauty, spouses, houses, etc. In my opinion, your potential to succeed does not depend on someone else’s failures. The truth is, I think supporting the ladies in your life isn’t just a recommendation or a nice thing to do. It’s absolutely a NECESSITY. We can’t get very far if we are not willing to provide valuable advice to our friends and colleagues and share our own experiences to help someone else out. In my case, I think I compete with my own self much more than I compete with anyone else. It actually works for me, because it helps me stay motivated so that I can accomplish my own goals and not anyone else’s.
The more we encourage and help one another out, the more successful we will ALL end up being. It’s this act of paying it forward. In addition to making a difference in another person’s success, as a mentor and even as just a fellow female, you are also developing yourself and becoming a better version of you. If you feel like you are an expert in an area or have had some success at a particular task, you should share what you have learned. Your advice can help other women in the professional world learn from your mistakes and accomplish more.
If you know about a new job opening that you know your friend would love to know about, tell her! If you’re reading the newspaper and notice submission guidelines for a photography contest, recommend her! If your friend is anxious about a presentation she needs to give, support her! If your boss asks you how your colleague did during a presentation and you know she rocked it, tell her! There’s no use tripping each other up if the alternative is to be a good friend, a good colleague, and a good mentor.
There are other ways to motivate yourself other than competing or sabotaging friends. Set your own goals and work on accomplishing those rather than comparing yourself to someone else. For example, instead of comparing your weight to a friend’s, set a goal at the gym or join a race to provide a different type of motivation. If you’re jealous of a friend’s job, think about what you can do to get the job you want and start checking things off the list to help get you there. This is so much more meaningful and in the long run, will help you accomplish what YOU want to rather than living your life to keep up with someone else.
Support your friends and coworkers and do what you can to help them get ahead just as others have done for you. I believe women need to support each other as much as possible. Women who are secure with themselves tend to support other women. They will praise their friends and coworkers, recommend other women for projects, and actively seek out mentoring opportunities. These things happen when women are not threatened by female competition and as a result, do what they can to create an environment of women supporting women.
Personally, I think women do really well when they combine agendas and work together, whether it’s in the personal or professional setting. Women can mentor each other and offer advice on areas that they at one point had trouble with, such as relationships, career, family, and so much more. As someone who has been the mentee quite a few times, I really love when opportunities come up for me to mentor someone else. I feel good when I help someone else accomplish amazing things or even when a woman I may not know very well achieves something that she worked really hard to obtain. Have a positive attitude and support the ladies in your life, which will ultimately result in a better support network and better relationships (not to mention more satisfaction overall.)