It’s Not Personal, It’s Just Business: How to Stay Friends While Competing for an Executive Job

May 15, 2023 | Overcoming Perceived Liabilities

It’s Not Personal, It’s Just Business


The job search journey can be a challenging and competitive process, and at times, it may even pit job seekers against close friends or current colleagues for the same role. While this scenario can be exciting in terms of professional growth, it also brings the potential for tension and awkward interactions that could strain relationships. These are delicate dynamics, but when handled with care you can preserve both your relationships and your peace of mind.

During part 3 of this 8-part series for navigating the challenging parts of your job search process, we will explore how you can maintain professionalism and navigate the outcome when competing for a job against your friends and colleagues. 


Part 3: How to Stay Friends While Competing for an Executive Job


Maintain Professionalism:

If you want to keep your friendships intact while battling it out for a job, you need to play it cool, my friend. Don’t let the competition turn you into a cutthroat, backstabbing maniac. Instead, focus on being the epitome of professionalism throughout the job search process. Here are some key strategies to help you do just that:

1. Open and Honest Communication:

Discuss your intentions and aspirations openly. Establish a foundation of transparency, acknowledge that both of you are pursuing the same opportunity.

2. Separate Personal and Professional Lives:

Set clear boundaries between your personal relationship and professional ambitions. Avoid discussing job-related matters outside designated environments, such as networking events or interviews.

3. Focus on Individual Merits:

Remember that your qualifications, skills, and experience are what differentiate you as a candidate. Emphasize your unique strengths and accomplishments during interviews or discussions, rather than dwelling on the competition itself.

4. Support and Encourage:

While you may be competing, it’s crucial to support and encourage each other’s professional growth. Celebrate achievements and milestones along the way, even if it means recognizing the accomplishments of the person you are competing against.

5. Respect Boundaries:

Be mindful of your friend or colleague’s boundaries during the job search process. If they express a desire for privacy or request not to discuss certain aspects of their application, honor their wishes.


Navigate the Outcome: 

While it is impossible to predict the outcome of a job search, it is essential to prepare for potential scenarios and the impact on your relationships. So how do you handle the outcome?:

1. Celebrate Success and Accept Defeat Gracefully:

If you are the successful candidate, be humble in your victory and express gratitude for the opportunity. If your friend or colleague receives the position, be gracious and congratulate them genuinely.

2. Process and Reflect:

Regardless of the outcome, take time to process your emotions and reflect on the experience. It is natural to feel a range of emotions, including disappointment or relief. Seek support from trusted friends or mentors to gauge your perspective.

3. Preserve the Relationship:

Remember that personal relationships are valuable and should not be compromised due to professional competition. Make a conscious effort to maintain your friendship or professional relationship, irrespective of the outcome.

4. Professional Collaboration:

If you both end up in similar roles within the same organization, focus on collaborating and leveraging each other’s strengths. Capitalize on the opportunity to contribute to the success of the company together.


Competing with friends or colleagues for a position. By approaching the situation with open and honest communication, maintaining professionalism, and prioritizing the preservation of relationships, it is possible to navigate the complexities of the job search maze.



Keep in mind that success in the professional realm should not come at the expense of valued connections. Be glad for the opportunity for personal growth, celebrate each other’s achievements, and find ways to collaborate and support one another, to ensure that both your careers and relationships thrive. With a delicate mindset and a careful approach, you can emerge from competition stronger, and ready to handle whatever comes next.


Next Week, Part 4: “Balancing Relocation and Personal Life”

Patrick Lage

Written By: Terri Wiksten, Chief Operating Officer

Terri Wiksten is a dynamic powerhouse who works harder than anyone you know and tackles every task with 100% effort while maintaining her enthusiastic, cheerleader attitude!

She loves helping professionals save time and money as they search for their next challenge and thrives on how technology turned this industry on its head, allowing for constant change and opportunity to do things better and more effectively for our clients.