Why Can’t I Focus And Keep A Job?

Question:

My problem is that I can’t or won’t hold a job after a year. I’ve been in four jobs in the past three years. It’s because I tend to lack focus and lose all my interest in it. I’ve been trying to do my best to be focused and enthusiastic but it doesn’t work. I’ve always been a straight-A student and had honors up to college. My academic credentials are to die for. I wasn’t exactly a hard worker and I crammed most of the time, but I think I knew how to get around the schedule and I’m pretty fast at doing and learning things. You’d think I could cope with life after college, but I didn’t. I left my first and second jobs because I was bored and the pay was low, plus they weren’t the ones that I wanted to have a career with (they were more graphic design jobs, I wanted an industrial design job). And, there were numbers of times that I showed up very late and did practically nothing in the office. I didn’t understand why I felt so idle when in the past, I pushed myself to get some initiative to do things. My third job left me scarred, probably because I only lasted four months and my bossed fired me. Again, it wasn’t a job that I’d like to have a career with, but I took it because the pay was significantly higher.

My boss was very strict and loud, and I think the fear of being yelled at prompted me to never be late or absent.

I thought I was doing well – I was fast and I did good work, but I wasn’t good at talking to third-party associates and suppliers, which she held against me. When evaluation day came, she forgot about my good work and focused on the mistakes I made. That scared me from taking another corporate job so I settled into a small design firm which gives me an opportunity to do what I love. The pay is significantly lower but I thought I’d rather have this and enjoy work.

For the past few weeks my responsibilities have been getting bigger, the schedules are getting stressful and I’m thinking that I want out. I’m getting into that rut I experienced in my first and second jobs – I show up late and I don’t do as much. My job includes communicating with manufacturers, and even though I know that I have to be a bit persuasive and pushy, I still am bad at communicating, so I tend to hate it, then forget it. I don’t feel happy when a job is done – instead of saying “Yay, I’ve accomplished something,” I say, “I’m glad that hell of a week is done.” What is wrong with me? I want to have a stable job with a productive and balanced work life. I want a career in the industry I’m into. I’ve been reading self-help and productivity books but I never take them seriously because I found them sounding preachy and hokey. Am I suited for working? I really don’t know what to do about it, I hope you can help.

Signed,

Frustrated Over My Lack of Focus


Answer:

Dear Frustrated Over My Lack of Focus:

It sounds as though you have some long-standing issues that will continue to take the joy out of your life and work until they are dealt with once and for all. I don’t know what those might be, but if you could talk face-to-face with a counselor about them, you could find some solutions.

We are a workplace communications site rather than a personal or professional counseling site or a mental or medical site, so we can’t provide the kind of assistance that I think would be most helpful to you. However I do urge you to find a source for that kind of guidance and support.

Check the Internet or the phone book for “Counselors” or look for psychologists who specialize in life and work effectiveness. I would imagine there are aspects of your personal life that don’t work well either, if you have this kind of reaction to the requirements or stresses of work. You may want to consider talking to a physician about this situation as well, since it may have a medical origin.

There are many people who have issues similar to yours who never reach out about them as you have. That willingness to self-evaluate is a positive trait. It will make it easier for you to talk to someone and provide the details that are needed for full understanding of your reactions to issues at work.

I wish there was some quick diagnosis and solution I could give you but I don’t believe there is. I think you’re doing well to learn techniques for getting work done more effectively. But there still is the issue of dealing with the realities of work: Communicating as required, handling conflict, giving up personal preferences in favor of what someone else requires and overcoming inertia and frustration. Those are challenges for everyone but they seem to be especially challenging for you. Someone who is trained to find the source of the challenge and help you overcome could also help you find ways to achieve success. However, you can’t delay and stall about getting that kind of assistance. You need a way to make money and you want to feel better about yourself and your life. So, you need to act now to find solutions. I hope you will do that.

You have our best wishes as you work through this and move forward to a work life that is stable and allows you to feel successful. You’ve already taken the first step–now you just need to not stop until you’ve gotten where you want to go.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.