Career Corner: This Is Not a Competition

Courtesy photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

I hope we’re on the same page. This is a pandemic. It’s not a competition. I’m not sure how many times I’ve been asked lately, “What new hobbies have you picked up since March?” I haven’t. “How much are you working out?” Very little. “How are you spending all this free time?” Like many of you, I’ve been working, and managing through this unexpected and difficult experience. My skills are the same, except that I’m now an expert at ordering groceries using Instacart.  

Don’t get me wrong; I’m all for career development. I’m for personal growth. I’m for striving to be better and for climbing the career ladder. But, for many people, this is not that time. 2020 is a time to duck and cover a little. It’s a time to take the best care of ourselves as we can.

A big part of that care comes from both empathy and the awareness that we are each in a different situation. And, it comes from the awareness that people need other people.

Some folks are fortunate enough to have a vacation home. They’re spending quality time with family. Other people are far away from loved ones and isolated. They may even be struggling to make ends meet.

Because we’re all coping with this pandemic, the best way to stay in touch is virtually, often by phone. But, the phone doesn’t bridge the gap in experience. Some cities are opened while others remain very much locked down. It’s easy to overlook that we aren’t all in the same boat.

This is the time to support one another. It’s not the time to push self-help books, or to expect others to be learning a new skill. It’s the time to listen and to have empathy.

Don’t get me wrong. If you’re able to learn a new skill, then great! Go for it. Get in better shape. Learn to code. Cook something new and exciting.

But, realize that not everyone is there with you and just because they may be at another spot on the spectrum doesn’t mean they’re doing the pandemic wrong. They very likely are in a different life situation. It’s not because they’re not trying hard enough or that they don’t care. They may be trying to figure out how to pay their bills. They may feel afraid for their personal safety or they may be trying to work and teach their kids at the same time.

In order to make it through a disaster, we have to do it together. We have to be aware that not every situation is the same. We have to be there for each other, even when it’s tough. This goes for coworkers, family members, and friends.

And, if things are going great for you, this is the time to be humble. Your struggling friends don’t need to see your fabulous photos online. They need to hear your kind voice.

Angela Copeland, a career expert and founder of Copeland Coaching, can be reached at

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