The Power of ‘Focus’ in Career Choices
Do these statements about making career decisions sound familiar?
- I have so many interests!
- I want to do more than one thing for my career.
- I can’t choose because I actually like multiple avenues equally.
- Life has so much to learn and experience. I want to do as much as possible
- Can I not be successful dividing my efforts between multiple career options?
If this sounds like you or someone you know, we understand. We hear these comments from so many young adults these days. The older generations are quick to dismiss that millennials and Gen Zs are constantly jumping around in terms of their career decisions.
But the truth is that the newer generations inhabit a very different world. There are many more options that have made it much harder to choose and decide on a single course of action.
Many of today’s young adults are inspired and enthusiastic. They want to do so many things out of interest, passion, and pure curiosity; to experience as much of life as they can (don’t worry, most of our team fits this category and description too). Although this is a beautiful sentiment, executing a career this way can be tricky.
Trying too many things professionally comes at a cost. In our experience, it eventually drills down to quality versus quantity.
We are all human and have constraints
At Lokyatha, two of our key values are ‘Live Better’ and ‘Aim Higher’. We completely endorse building better lives for ourselves and for the people around us. Achieving this is only possible when we push our boundaries into the growth zone.
There is a difference between being aggressively ambitious and biting off more than we can chew.
We all have 24 hours in a day. We can maximize these hours and choose to use them wisely. At the same time we have limited financial, emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual energies that need to be balanced and maintained.
Switching between different things in the day, (this can include both multi-tasking and task-switching) has switching costs. Switching between tasks involves getting out of the zone of doing one thing and entering a new zone of doing something else.
When we do this, we tend to carry over our emotions and thoughts from the previous task into the new task. This makes the quality of our focus and attention poorer, thus impacting the quality of our output.
It is a choice between ‘depth’ versus ‘breadth’. How far we want to go into each thing is something that we need to decide.
For example at a buffet, you can decide to have a little of everything and enjoy the variety. You may also learn how something tastes because of this approach. But then you aren’t able to have more of what you like or something that is really good, because you are full. So you may actually end up eating a better quality meal if you focus on fewer dishes.
Everyone is different; Find out what works for you
There are no right and wrong answers. Being able to narrow down on our career choices can help us go deeper and achieve more in one area. However dabbling in six different things implies that we will have a range of experiences. Then again, we may not go very deep into them within the same amount of time.
Consider Ali’s example. In his final year of college, Ali wasn’t clear about what he wanted to do. He had job options in his field of economics. But, he also wanted to be a digital content creator and work in marketing.
He also dreamed of starting his own eCommerce venture. He had also been working with some friends and supporting their business. This venture was already making some money. Ali didn’t want to disappoint his friends and let that go either.
This is not an isolated example. During our research and ongoing conversations, we come across many individuals just like Ali. Many of the things he wants to do may appear related, but diving into so many things all at once is easier said than done.
Allow time and space
The time in our lives when we first enter the workforce is one when there’s a lot going on, both personally and professionally. We hence need to be mindful of biting off more than we can chew.
Transitioning from student life to work life is stressful and challenging.
We need to give ourselves time to make this transition smoothly. Testing our limits is one thing. But taking on commitments to customers, employers, friends, family, and ourselves when we are just getting started with our careers, could cause long-term relationship damage and stress early on in our careers.
Again, we are not suggesting that one way is better than the other. But knowing the realities and the pros and cons of both is important so that we can make informed decisions. So we’re certainly not asking that you remain in your comfort zone and out of your growth and learning zones. However, be careful that you don’t stumble into the panic zone by pushing yourself too much and too fast.
Taking on as much as you can do at a reasonable pace and growing from there is a wise approach.
At the end of the day, you need to find what works for you. What works for Ali or for someone else, will rarely be relevant to you and what career success would mean to you.
Feeling dejected because of comparisons with others causes terrible damage. It pushes us in ways that are not true to ourselves.
Career success means managing your time and energy
Balancing our energies and goals appropriately is a valuable skill. It comes in handy not just at the early stage of our careers, but also later on as we continue to grow.
We need to recognize that besides the fixed 24 hours, each of us has our individual levels of emotional, mental, and physical energy.
Managing our time along with our energy is the key to long-term success and preventing extreme stress or burnout.
If we want to pursue multiple avenues like Ali, we will have to divide our time and energy across each of the avenues. However, if we focus on two or even a single path, we will be able to have a more streamlined course of action to move ahead full steam and be closer to realizing career success.
Understanding this relationship between energy and time will go a long way in helping us through our careers and balancing our personal lives. It will help us to become more self-aware, mindful, and self-regulating.
Each one of us has our own unique journey. We need to choose a path to move forward in our careers. The intent of this message is not to hold anyone back. The goal is to simply convey that we are all different.
We each have our constraints. Recognizing these constraints and using the initial stages of one’s career to experiment, figure out who we are, and then make more aggressive moves, is perfectly fine. In fact, it’s a very healthy approach.
Spending the first few years of one’s career trying to break records and outdo others is a surefire way towards burnout and disappointment. This would not mean career success. Preventing this is the goal of this article.
But if you see yourself as someone who wants to push as far as they can go right away, and can learn effective techniques to handle the new journey by delegating, prioritizing, and other tactics, then we encourage you to forge ahead.
Being self-aware and choosing our paths for ourselves is the key to career success, no matter what we choose.