Do You Have Trouble Paying Attention? Maybe You’re A Narcissist

“Hi my name is _____ and I am working on a project for my creative strategist class and I was hoping that you could answer these questions please?”

That’s the entire email (sans attachment) that I received from a total stranger at University of Oregon last night. It grieves me to say how common this is.

Here’s another one for reference: “Good morning, David. I am very interested in joining your agency – hence the email!”

I could go on, but I think you can see the problem. There’s no persuasion here whatsoever, no effort taken to earn my attention and no reason for me to care.

Why is this? Are people particularly lazy today? Do people feel entitled? Did we forget to teach people raised on text messaging how to write a letter? Yes to all of the above.

People are also overwhelmed by information, and their mindless conduct shows it. According to a report from the University of California, San Diego, in 28 years — from 1980 to 2008 — our consumption of information increased 350 percent. This is alarming, but it’s high time we adapt to the new reality and learn how best to function in this new info-rich environment.

Writing for Media Shift last month, Aran Levasseur points to recent brain imaging studies that show sections of our brains are highly active during down time. Levasseur goes on to suggest that we teach mindfulness in our schools. That’s a great idea, but let’s begin by practicing mindfulness in our homes (and workplaces).

Howard Rheingold is also interested in mindfulness (or metacognition) as it relates to online behavior. According to Nieman Journalism Lab, “Rheingold says we have to connect our attention to our intention and be more aware of how what we’re actively doing relates (or often doesn’t) to what we need.”

Indeed. If it is a job you need, you’re going to have to work for it, and that means approaching each company, and each person, with the utmost respect. Sending out a one line inquiry says all the wrong things. It says you’re not paying attention to detail, that you can’t be bothered to do basic research and that you have zero clue as to the core elements of persuasion.

Take this site. If any of the job seekers in question simply made time to read a tiny bit of the copy herein, they would have concluded that there are no jobs available. Only projects, which typically go to colleagues that I’ve been working with for more than a decade.

I might add that this problem is much bigger than job seekers taking the fast train to Nowheresville. I’m also consistently pitched by agency search consultants who want me to fill out a Request for Proposal (again, for someone I’ve never met, or heard of), by salespeople selling a wide variety of services and by PR agents who want me to write about their clients.

Unless you can show me that I’m not just another email address on your list, your pitch is nothing to me but noise. Naturally, many brands also suffer from this kind of me-centric behavior. That’s why I am hired to provide an outsider perspective, and help brands find the reason for prospects to care. It’s rarely easy, but it’s the only way forward.

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