Stumbling Blocks to Success: Distractions

The good news is that preparing for the job application and interview processes has never been easier. That’s because information about nearly every organization where you might want to apply for a job is out there on the Internet. You can do research about the organization and its policies, find contacts for information interviews, learn about benefits and values, and get a good idea about how you could fit in…all before you ever set foot in the door for that first interview.

But there’s a downside to the easy access to all that information, and that’s the avalanche of all types of information and the way that it comes at you without you even seeking it out. What I’m talking about here are the many ways that you can get distracted from your main focus, which should be about searching for the right job and getting started with your career. Reading and posting on Facebook, texting with friends, checking your email, and becoming curious about news stories or current interests can derail your focus on what really matters.

Looking for work is a full-time job of its own (see my Tip 49: Treat your job search like a job), but as with any job (especially a job that is frustrating or where a payoff is not immediately certain), it’s easy to get distracted. A recent article by author Greg McKeown asks the question: “Why do otherwise intelligent people find it so easy to be distracted from what really matters?” The answer seems to be that we’re all trying to do more, so we multitask. And the more we multitask, the less we are able to “filter out interference.”

What you need to do is have a plan for how you’re going to proceed with your job search, and then stick to the plan. Dedicate a certain number of hours to it every day, and don’t interrupt what you’re doing to check your phone or your email.

I’m as guilty of this as everyone. Even when I’m in the midst of serious work, I will take a break several times an hour to check email, especially if my computer tells me I’ve gotten several messages! If you’re susceptible to this type of distraction, be sure to turn off the audio (and/or video) notifications on your phone and computer so that you don’t feel the need to check as soon as a message comes in. Also, honestly appraise your susceptibility to other types of distractions, and then find ways to isolate yourself from them while you work to start your career. This is a type of discipline you’ll be thankful you’ve developed.