This is a guest article by D. Alan Johnson.

The economy is down. Gas prices are up. Many scholars say that over fourteen million jobs have left the US in the last eight years, over eight million in the last three years. So which of these factors is the Big Obstacle?

None of the above.

The Greatest Obstacle is Failure to Focus.

The failure of the job seeker to move forward in one direction is the biggest mistake keeping him or her out of a good job. Focus. That ability to concentrate ALL our efforts onto one goal. We see the benefits of focus in many areas of our life. When we were in school, we learned to concentrate on the subject at hand, some of us in the military learned about the power of “concentration of force”, and the welders among us know that a concentrated flame can cut thick steel. But somehow we lose that focus when we go on a job hunt.

Perhaps it is the pressure we get from our family, or our banker, to take some kind of job now. Anything to pay the bills. Paying bills is good. So take that in-between job for a few months. But too many of us become “settled” into our new job and before we know it, we have been delivering pizzas for six years.

In America, we are so blessed that we can become almost anything. There are thousands of different jobs. However, this blessing leads to confusion. The human mind cannot process this many factors, and so the brain takes the first thing available, or it shuts down. John Naisbitt was the first to coin the phrase “overchoice” in his 1988 best seller, MegaTrends.

So, the first assignment of any job seeker is to focus. Without knowing what one wants to do, there is little chance for success. I have many job seekers tell me they are focused. One told me she made a decision to look for a job in accounting. But when I pressed her to explain where in the accounting field she would like to work, she answered, “Oh, anywhere that I can use my degree.”

That is like the traveler who, when asked where he is going, says, “North!” My folks used to call these folks drifters.

Nearly every successful job hunter that I have ever known has narrowed down his search to a very specific niche. Using our accounting example, I know accountants who specialize in accounting for grocery stores. Others specialize in accounting for television stations, or non-profit associations.

A few years ago, I worked with a man in Africa who told me he specialized in ancient languages.

“Well, what are you doing here on this oil camp?” I asked. Turned out the ancient languages he specialized in were the old computer languages like APL and FORTRAN. Lots of older oil processing plants still use these old computers, and my new friend makes lots of money traveling the world to service and update their software.

However, when job hunters decide on their niche, they too often stop right there. But the next step is that they must narrow their focus even more. You see, successful job seekers will not only decide upon a specialized career, they will also choose which company to work for.

There is power in this decision. I have had CEO’s tell me, “I hired him because his primary qualification is that he really wants to work here.”

The applicant must decide on the company he likes, then research the company, learn who the players are, and know where the political tensions lay. By becoming known to top management, this focused hunter will become the natural shoe-in. Many times a management team will create a slot for a person like this.

Just like planning a long trip, a job hunter must know where he needs to go before he starts wandering around. A few days of planning and soul searching can be worth tens of thousands in income each year, not to mention the happiness of working at a job you love and for a company your admire.

But how does one decide on becoming a banker or a baker, a pilot or a preacher, an undertaker or an underwater welder? What does the process of focusing look like? That is for the next article.

D. Alan Johnson

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