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Less with Focus = More in the Job Search

I recently listened to a podcast featuring neuroscientist Amishi Jha. She argues that multitasking is a myth, explaining that instead we are doing something called “task-switching.” This is super draining and ultimately sets us up to be more depleted at the end of the day according to Dr. Jha’s research. Reflecting on my own lived experience, this makes total sense. I see a real connection between the job search and this research. The job search is overwhelming because of all the elements involved: researching industries and positions, building your resume, tailoring your resume, updating your LinkedIn, outreaching for informational interviews, conducting informational interviews, identifying target companies, completing online application forms, interviewing, negotiating. There’s no way all of these can be tackled together! Many job seekers feel as though they are never as far along as they want to be because of the challenge of juggling all these elements, often while also working a full-time job and everything else that comes with being an adult. We have 15+ windows open on the laptop, texts coming in from our family members and friends, to-do lists of chores – finding a way to focus our attention feels nearly impossible. To make the process more manageable, taking an approach of less with focus = more will lead to an increase in positive results on many levels. When there is focus, quality increases.

To figure out what this looks like for you, first get clear about where you are in the process and your goals. Are you in the early stages of looking for a similar position at a higher level? Is a change urgent or are you only exploring other pathways? Do you already have leads but having trouble getting through interviews? This will decide what to prioritize and when. For example, if you are looking to switch to a new field and you need insight on pivot options, informational interviewing and workshopping your resume to emphasize transferrable skills/experiences should be the priority areas. At this stage, applying online holds much less value. You want to set aside time to focus on each of the two areas separately – conducting outreach for informational interviews and tweaking your resume simultaneously means your focus is split, which means your time really isn’t being maximized. Doing both during the same block of time will likely hurt the quality of each and leave you feeling more drained. When you are conducting the informational interviews, it is important that you put your focus on that conversation; this means you aren’t Googling things the other person mentions while they are talking or sending a Teams message to your colleague in the background. According to the neuroscience research, it’s impossible to really capture what the person on the other side is saying if you are engaged in other tasks, and this means less benefit to you and less likelihood of leaving a strong impression. It also often comes with negative self-talk or feelings of regret: why did I do that? What’s wrong with me?!! Argh I feel embarrassed that I missed that! This usually doesn’t help motivation or build confidence to keep navigating the search. Are you a job seeker figuring out where to focus your energy and time right now? Start by writing down five areas involved with your search, then narrow in on the three most important areas to achieving your goals. From those three, star the top two and block time in your schedule/calendar in the coming week for each individual area separately. See what impact this approach has on your progress and your own sense of self.

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