Focus – A Critical Skill For Job Seekers

In a wired world where job seekers can be presented with hundreds, if not thousands, of pieces of “job hunting” advice daily, the need for job seekers to develop and use the skill of “focus” is critical. Related: 3 Things HR Looks For In An Employee We’re confronted with the “Paradox of Choice” in almost every area of our lives. On television, there are hundreds of shows being broadcast at any moment, with online services and on-demand programming, it leaps to the thousands. While some fast-food restaurants have maintained simplicity (i.e. In ‘n Out), the selections at most are seemingly endless. Waffle House claims there are 3.5 million ways to order their hash browns. Most of us who have visit a casual dining restaurant have been confronted with one where the menu is ten or more pages of options. And the “Paradox of Choice” (Barry Schwarz, Ecco, 2003) teaches us that too many choices often leads to a serious limitation to our ability to make decisions. In the job hunting world, this factor is not new. I’ve been critical of books arguing for the “1000 Best Interview Questions” for years. But it’s now experienced the “wired explosion” with new suggestions for resume formats and cover letters. I was schooled in job hunting techniques by some key mentors. One of them was Bill Needler (founder of The Job Forum) who was known for clearly stating: “50% of all job hunting advice is wrong – the problem is we don’t know which 50%) The evaluation of best resume formats or “the three things you must know about…” is probably an endless debate. The objective here is to recommend an important strategy for surviving this “wired explosion” in the job hunting world – simply stated, FOCUS. The need for “focus” is being recognized as a critical skill in the business community. Daniel Goleman, the leading authority of Emotional Intelligence (EQ), recently published a comprehensive examination of the subject, stating very strongly:


This can be boiled down to a threesome: inner, other, and outer focus. A well lived life demands we be nimble in each. For leaders to get results, they need all three kinds of focus. A leader tuned out of his internal world will be rudderless. One blind to the world of others will be clueless. Those indifferent to the larger systems within which they operate will be blindsided. (Focus, Daniel Coleman, Harper, 2013)
It is easy to see how this applies to job seekers, awareness of strengths and accomplishments (internal), of the marketplace and teamwork (others), and of trends and organizations (outer).
All the available information means people have to work harder to consume it, categorizing information, sorting facts from opinion, and putting everything into context. Unless we take the time to do that, and have the skills to do it well, we could actually be less knowledgeable. (“Managing the Information Avalanche,” Ron Ashkenas, Harvard Business Review, March 6, 2012)
The message from Ashkenas is even more on target for job seekers – “the skills to do it well.” The good news is that he provides some key action steps for job seekers:
  • Focus on a few key indicators.
  • Differentiate opinion from data.
  • Examine trends and patterns.
  • Periodically look at the ecosystem.
  • Use information as a basis for dialogue.
As strategies for your job search, these steps translate perfectly. You can’t be tracking dozens of website, blogs, and Facebook pages for tips of your resume format. Identify 2-3 goods sources and give yourself the time to go deeper with the advice from this sites. There’s more opinion than data on job hunting techniques – and that’s OK – but make sure you see the recommendations backed by research knowing even that will be countered by other research. The world is overrun by identifying trends in this “wired explosion.” One example is the innovative approaches suggested for resumes (e.g., visual resumes). It’s important to carefully examine trends that may impact your job search. If this trend continues, how does this affect you? What if it’s just a fad? What if your “innovative” resume turns off more potential employers that it attracts? The larger world of careers, jobs, and the economy are always factors to be considered. Right now there are on-going, sometimes fiery debates over the “skills gap” and “living wages.” Do these issue impact your job search? For many, the answer is “definitely.” And finally the easiest piece of advice for all job seekers, “use information for dialogue.” Make sure your strategies, your resume, your prepared answers to possible interview questions, are something you’ve discussed with colleagues and, if possible, with a knowledgeable adviser. Focus involves having an effective radar system to know what you should be monitoring for your effective job search. It includes awareness of what’s important both today and in the future. And you can’t put “everything” on your radar – limit your radar to some important resources for the various aspects of your career search.

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About the author

Jim Schreier is a management consultant with a focus on management, leadership, including performance-based hiring and interviewing skills. Visit his website at www.farcliffs.com.   Disclosure: This post is sponsored by a CAREEREALISM-approved expert. You can learn more about expert posts here. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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