The number one reason clients work with me is because they lack focus. A typical client may have been tossing around a few ideas in their head for a while, but are just not sure. Sometimes, they’ve been on the Internet seeing what’s out there with little or no luck. Without a sharply defined focus, this process quickly becomes scattered leaving them feeling confused, discouraged and at-risk of giving up any hope for change. It’s no fun to feel like you don’t know what you are doing. When you are out of focus, it’s just unsettling.
Too many of my clients are networking, without a clear elevator speech on the specific jobs they want. When they talk without razor-sharp clarity, it leaves the networking contact feeling somewhat confused and frustrated on how to help. The job seeker unintentionally conveys the message that they don’t know what they really want. The networking contact may even respond with, “Well, when you figure it out, come and talk to me because I know a lot of people.” Without having a focus, it’s a set up for failure. Don’t let this happen to you. My advice is to focus first, network second. This will be your greatest career challenge.
You can demonstrate your emotional maturity by restraining your impulsive thoughts – yes, you can do it! Stop running in place. Do things that quiet the mind like prayer, meditation, reading, yoga or nature walks. Most likely, you will find your focus in silence away from the constant noise and voices of digression. Here you can get centered. Block out any internal dialog that threatens to get you sidetracked. Evict the voices of divergence. A sharply-defined focus means you concentrate your energy on one thing at a time. Hold your attention right there and stay fully present. The times you were the most successful were the times you were the most single-minded in your focus.
Being focused means being disciplined and staying true to the choices that matter to you most in the face of temptation. Don’t get distracted by other enticing options that are not in alignment with your core priorities and goals. A job option that is initially appealing may not be the best for you in the long-term. By maximizing your clarity you are declaring, “This is what I really want, and I am going for it!” Focus means you are being decisive letting go of other options and taking a risk.
Being focused means getting crystal clear about your core skills, values, interests and personality traits. Write down the top 5 in each of these areas. With career testing, I help my clients match the valuable self-assessment data with an exercise using an exhaustive list of job titles. I ask them to pick the top 25 job targets that are the best fit. Through effective career counseling techniques, the list is narrowed down to the top ten targets. The list is then prioritized and ranked in into three categories: 1) ideal jobs – opportunities that you really really want, 2) back-up jobs – options that are more realistic and you would be willing to do, but are less than ideal, and 3) survival jobs – positions you must take to get by, but are just for the short-term.
At this point the job seeker can begin to explore their job targets using four methods: 1) reading and research, 2) informational interviewing, 3) gaining experience and finally 4) evaluating. This acquisition of career knowledge should include, but not limited to, such important areas as the nature of the work, qualifications and training, working conditions, advancement, job outlook, related occupations and finally salary and benefits. Writing down the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for each option comes next. It’s essential to get this stuff out of the head which will allow the mind to be de-cluttered. To see it on paper will provide for more rational and informed decision-making. From this critical information, the job seeker can choose the top two to three options and develop a carefully worded elevator pitch.
Finally, it’s time to network ourselves into exhaustion. Write down your list of contacts and connections in your inner, middle and outer circles. Form your “Dream Team.” Start contacting your network from the inner circle and build from there. Set up as many meetings as possible to discuss how they might be useful. In addition, I recommend the “Three Foot Rule” – if you are within three feet of someone, you’re going to give them your elevator speech. Ask if they have anyone you might be helpful in exchange for a cup of coffee. Get off the Internet and get into coffee shops. Reduce your time on Facebook and increase your Facetime.
You are the only one responsible for driving your career in the right direction. If you don’t know where you are going, you can wind up lost. Ask for directions. If you struggle with focus just ASK FOR HELP – a professional or a trusted friend will be there for you. Slow yourself down, so your racing thoughts won’t exceed the speed limit. Get control of your impulses, so they don’t control you. Spend most of your time looking forward through the windshield, and less time looking through the rear view mirror.
The road to success is scattered with many temping parking spaces. Stay on your true and authentic path and avoid the paths of unnecessary distraction that threaten to derail you from career satisfaction. Focus allows you to lead the life you really want rather than just following it around or spinning wheels. Take care of the daily commute, while simultaneously preparing for your “Dream Career” destination. Be sure you have something to look forward to in the long-term. Keep a clear image in your mind of what you truly desire. Focus on your future; you’re going to be spending the rest of your life there.