Tunnel Vision Can Derail Your Career

One definition of tunnel vision is “narrowness of viewpoint resulting from concentration on a single idea, opinion, etc., to the exclusion of others.” Tunnel vision in relation to career management indicates that you are concentrating too narrowly on something in a way that affects or could affect your career negatively—but what? And how bad could it be for your career success and longevity?

Career Focus versus Tunnel Vision

Focus not only offers help in your career progress but could actually accelerate it, when used right. A generic, all-over-the-map approach, on the other hand, might well hinder your career advancement. So focus is a good thing, right?

Yes and no. Focus, in and of itself, is a neutral term. It can be either good or bad, depending on how you apply it to managing your career. When taken to extremes, focus too easily morphs into tunnel vision. At that point, you could risk making serious mistakes or missing desirable opportunities—or both. For example:

  • You concentrate 99% of your attention on making sure the organization you manage accomplishes the goals you have set for it. In doing so, you fail to check periodically to determine whether those goals still mesh with the larger goals established for the company as a whole. Potentially major repercussions could result.
  • You focus so hard on your goals, your vision, that you ignore the possibility others might have a different vision. At least two problems can result here: their vision might actually turn out to be better for the company than yours or you might end up in a conflict you could have averted if you had been paying broader attention.
  • Someone offers you an opportunity that doesn’t fit the specific plan you have mapped out and focused on, and you decline the offer without giving it careful thought. Down the road, you might realize the opportunity would have enabled you to move in a new, exciting and career-expanding direction. But by then it’s too late.

Tunnel Vision: Correction or Prevention

As the old saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When it comes to tunnel vision in your career management, this saying definitely holds true. If you can strike a balance between lack of focus on one hand and tunnel vision that might derail your career on the other, you’ve increased your odds of long-term success and satisfaction.

The key, as you might expect, is to adopt the focus necessary to achieve critical goals without overlooking potentially relevant external factors you should take into consideration. Of course, it’s possible you could make a course-correction that gets you back on the right career path, but avoiding derailment in the first place makes a lot more sense and is almost certainly much easier to manage.

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