Having friends with the same interests and professional aspirations can be especially enriching. But this relationship can quickly turn sour, particularly if you and one of your friends are after the same job. Childhood friends, school friends, close colleagues… the same age, the same stage in your careers. These clashes are almost inevitable. How do you manage them? Three of our readers share their experiences.
It happened to them
When it goes just fine
Applying for the same job as a friend isn’t automatically a source of tension. It can be a chance to strengthen that relationship at a particularly stressful time. This is what happened to Sophie when a colleague—who became a close friend—applied for the same job a week after she did. With two very similar profiles and a double recommendation from their boss, the situation looked like a disaster in the making.
And yet…”It went really well. Neither of us absolutely needed the job, it was just a good opportunity. We turned it into a learning situation: we spoke about it at length, we agreed on the salary that we’d want, we debriefed after each interview. We were open about it. When I found out I’d got the job, I was a bit uneasy. But my colleague was immediately thrilled for me and we stayed friends. We still hang out now without any tension or resentment.”
When it doesn’t go so smoothly
Unfortunately, not all situations turn out so well, especially in the first few years of your career, when competition is stiff, as Camille discovered. “When I finished my studies, I went to a job fair with a friend from university. While I was there, I really fell in love with a company. I liked everything about it: the culture, the team, its values. My friend clearly knew that it was my number one choice, but I found out that he had sneakily applied there. I felt betrayed, especially knowing that for him, it was just a company like any other. It was very tense between us. When I found out that I got the job, he didn’t speak to me for weeks. I ended up seeking him out to set things straight. We’ve remained friends since then, but it’s still a taboo subject,” she said.
When the competition is all in good humour
May the best candidate win! That was the approach taken by Damien and his colleague when they were on the same team and competing for the same position within the company. “When I saw the job offer, I immediately knew he’d apply too. We had the same level of experience, the same expertise, the same degrees, we both wanted to relocate. We were like two peas in a pod! We talked about it straight away, and we decided to have fun with it. We teased each other before each HR meeting, always playfully. We both found out we didn’t get the job on the same day so we consoled one another over a beer. We know that neither of us is in the clear if the situation happens again some day!”
“We had the same level of experience, the same expertise, the same degrees, we both wanted to relocate. We were like two peas in a pod!” Damien
How to handle the situation
Talk about it
Being secretive about applying for a job in order to avoid conflict can cause a lot of tension to bubble up. And while bubbles are good at happy hour, they’re not so good for your friendship. To avoid tension whenever you see your friend—or worse, getting caught red-handed—it’s better to lay all your cards on the table. That’s what Sophie remembers. “We spoke a lot, there were no secrets or lies, and that’s what undoubtedly helped us stay friends,” she said.
Weigh up the pros and the cons
If the job in question is a golden opportunity for your friend while it’s just like any other for you, consider sitting this one out. Sometimes you must consider your personal relationships when making a professional decision. Is this job worth more than your friendship? If the answer is no, it might be better not to go for it.
Clear the air
“Dream jobs are like exes, they’re a no-go zone,” said Camille jokingly. There’s no point raging in silence while watching your friend flirt with your beloved company. “If I had to do it all again, I would tell my friend what I thought from the get-go. It’s not easy to do, but it’s better than being angry for weeks.”
Say no to sabotage!
It may be tempting to point out your a-ma-zing discipline in the face of your friend’s legendary absent-mindedness, but you can forget this strategy. Don’t go for any blows below the belt. Instead, make sure you bring up their skills or the great projects you’ve worked on together. First, if your friend gets the job and you supported them, they can return the favour. Second, the recruiter will look favourably on your ability to give credit and your positive frame of mind.
Keep your jealousy to yourself
Your friend got the job instead of you? It’s normal to feel jealous. Psychologist Abraham Tesser calls this phenomenon self-evaluation maintenance theory. He explains that we compare ourselves more to those who are close to us because their closeness makes their success seem more accessible. In case of failure, it’s a real blow to the ego. So be indulgent with your friend… and with yourself.
The likelihood of having to be rivals with a friend at least once in your career is high. The way that you handle things can have an impact on your application and your friendship. Good professional opportunities are rare, but real friends even more so. Before sacrificing one for the other, make sure it’s worth it.
Translated by Kalin Linsberg
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