Don’t Let Your Distraction Lead to Inaction – Part I

Our lives today are chaotic and filled with distractions, whether you have an ADD/ADHD diagnosis or not. We are receiving more and more calls from clients with these diagnoses, but we have found that, in general, people in career transition have a very hard time maintaining their focus.  Navigating a job search can be challenging enough without ADHD adding its “special sauce” to the pot. A successful search or career transition requires long-term goal setting, focus and copious amounts of organization. So, how can we make this process more digestible for you when you’re already working twice as hard at avoiding distraction? Unknown

Truth be told, there is no one size fits all solution.  When I worked in disability services, I would  strategize with  students on how to develop time management skills.  Some responded great to “self-talk” when they felt themselves losing focus.  Others felt silly doing that and preferred the noise canceling headphones distraction-free environment approach.  The strategies below are just ideas for you to consider and try on. There’s no need to feel a loss of hope if these strategies aren’t cutting it for you, there are plenty of other “tricks” out there.  And, by the way, this is good stuff for any job-seeker because even without ADD/ADHD, it’s hard to figure out how to make bite size pieces out of this.

Let’s start with a common symptom for ADHD: Impulsivity

How might impulsivity manifest itself in a job search?

– You might be tempted to interrupt during conversations with people at networking events or informational interviews.

– You might develop a great weekly strategy and then abandon it to develop 3 more without gaining momentum on either of them.

Pulling the trigger on certain things before you have adequately prepared is another way impulsivity can impact your job search.

If that sounds like you, here are some things you can try that specifically address impulsivity.

1. Interruption: Practice makes perfect.  Grab a friend that you can easily start a conversation with. At the end of the conversation ask yourself to summarize what your friend has shared with you.  Getting in the habit of summarizing conversations can help to develop your active listening skills.  Also, this one may be challenging but if you’re up for it, it’s very helpful.  Record your conversations with friends (obviously, make sure your friend is ok with this).  It’s helpful to have the visual cue to get some feedback about how often you spoke vs. listened, how much of what your friend said that you may have missed the first time around, how often you interrupted, etc.  One student I worked with was able to identify his pre-interuption cues and we found that consciously swallowing when he wanted to speak was a good strategy for him.  As I said, there’s no one size fits all.  Experiment!

2. Accountability to Your Strategy: You’ve made a plan but you have trouble sticking to it because making plans is far more enticing than carrying them out.  Here’s where you’ve got to put your creativity to work.  Sticking with a plan can feel sort of suffocating if you’ve got ADHD.  How can you make it fun, or at least tolerable?  Block out a regular time of day and set a reminder on your phone to devote a certain amount of time to your plan.  Build in small rewards for your accomplishments.  (Not shopping spree size rewards, but small and practical things that make you feel-good. Maybe it means dancing around to your favorite song, having a piece of dark chocolate or calling a friend to say hello).

3. Pause Before Action: I worked with a fashion student who created a brilliant online portfolio and he immediately sent it out to everyone in his network – his professors, mentors and even the Dean of his school.  Well he pulled the trigger too quickly and sent it out with a lot of errors.  Fortunately for him, he was able to use his creativity and address his errors with a lighthearted charm by offering some insight into his ADHD enthusiasm. The moral of the story, before you hit that send button, go through your checklist:

– Check for errors on your resume, portfolio, cover letter, LinkedIn summary or any other communication.

– Give it another set of eyes…or ears.  Don’t rely on yourself to catch what’s missing.

– Sleep on it.  If it’s that good, chances are it will be even better when you wake up in the morning with a fresh perspective and fine-tune it further.

I hope these strategies can offer some help along the way to landing a new job or advancing your career.  Feel free to register for a 15-minute consultation if you are curious about working with us to make this even more digestible. Both Donna and Tava are experienced counselors with a background in college Disability Services in addition to our career coaching expertise. We offer 5 and 10 hour packages – as well as individual sessions if you need help setting manageable goals.

So, whether you have a formal diagnosis or not, what are the strategies that you use to counter all the distractions when it comes to job search?  What are the greatest challenges you face?  We’d love to hear from you.


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