“Attention is like sunshine to humans. What we give our attention to grows. What we ignore, withers.”
– Ken Blanchard, “Whale Done!”
Something strange is happening with the way people find information. For online influencers, expertise and qualifications are less important than they have ever been. According to an article from the BBC, young people in particular, are now seeking career-related, “self-help” coaches in a new way.
In the past, if individuals needed help preparing a resume, or with similar services, they would typically research the bios of credentialed professionals. From their findings, they would choose one they like.
Now, instead of going on Upwork, younger Millennials and members of Generation Z are watching videos on Instagram or TikTok.
According to the report, it is not the specific expertise of the online influencer that matters, instead it is the connection that the young person feels.
As people isolate more into their homes and scroll through social media apps on their electronic devices, evidence shows that the world is becoming increasingly disconnected. In an increasingly disconnected world, loneliness tends to set in. Young people seem to be suffering the worst.
From increasingly insular parenting styles, to the fragmentation of identity groups, it makes sense that young people would seek to connect, often vicariously, with social media influencers. Like you, me, and everybody, they choose to give their attention to people and ideas that are already familiar to them.
Validate Me… Maybe I’ll Listen
A Toronto-based career coach and influencer named Emily Durham explains the trend:
“Ultimately, what they’re looking for is a friend to validate their experience… It’s kind of that, like, on-demand best friend who’s going to be able to coach you through things without it feeling like a very formal, arduous process.”
There is something that a Career Advisor and older Millennial like myself finds jarring in Durham’s statement about her role in young Instagram users’ lives. I can only imagine what a Generation X’er, or Baby Boomer, thinks.
She plays the role of their best friend? She is there to “validate their experience?” Don’t these young people have friends? What is wrong with their self-esteem?
At first, it reminded me of a peculiar statement by Peter Navarro, former advisor to President Donald Trump. He once explained how he helped inform the President’s tariff policy.
“My function, really, as an economist is to try to provide the underlying analytics that confirm his intuition.” Navarro explained.
Could young people be seeking someone who will “yes” them into a state of warm and fuzzy feelings at the expense of their actual growth?
This got me thinking. In this context, confirmation is affirmation. Peter Navarro’s efforts to confirm his boss’s intuition, effectively validate the former President ideas. It would be short-sighted to pretend that young people are the only ones seeking validation. Maybe this career influencer, Emily Durham is onto something.
When people feel heard and understood, it makes them listen that much more.
We all need a little validation. If something does not validate our world views, we are more likely to ignore the new information or find reasons to disagree. This is just as true for a young person who seeks direction in life as it is for the 45th President of the United States.
Regardless of who you are, you need help from other people to experience any success in life. To earn the attention of others, you must understand their wants, interests, how they feel, and how they want to feel.
Resist Value Judgments
One question looms in the background of this analysis. Is this trend toward validation-seeking on social media a good thing or bad thing?
There is a better question. Who cares?
There are more useful questions to ask and more prudent things to think about. If you want to gain attention from the right people, forming a superficial, meaningless opinion on a topic like this is a fool’s errand.
There are plenty of distractions and many of them beg for us to pay attention and even spend our mental energy forming opinions. There is an entire attention economy that already strives to capture our attention. It is best to not to wast time by asking questions that are irrelevant.
Always resist the urge to make value judgments about every trend or piece of information, especially those which you do not know much about. This can be difficult in an environment where people feel the need to express opinions on just about any topic just to seem informed.
If it helps, remember that many of the loudest, most passionate voices are clueless on the topics they rave about. Often, these voices have merely fallen into the traps of extremist thinking.
We must remain focused and avoid value judgments.
Objectivity and Humility
You may seek attention from young users on Instagram or you may just want to talk to a hiring manager. In either case, as usual, your own thought patterns are the single biggest factor which determines your success or lack of success.
As a student of social science, in college, I was introduced to the idea of “normative thinking.” It was a useful lesson. I learned that the application of the scientific method to the study of social dynamics requires objectivity. The infusion of one’s own “normative” bias into observations about trends distorts objective reality by turning it into a subjective portrayal of reality.
We must remember that, regardless of what we may think, ‘what is… is!’ Lots of thinkers agree with this framework, including the Buddhists who believe in ‘Samma ditthi,’ or “right understanding,” it is their first step on the Noble Eightfold Path.
When we observe the world with objectivity and humility, it is easier to stay positive and gain traction, rather than distraction. A positive mindset is necessary to unleash the creative energy that can focus on how to reach an increasingly disconnected and validation-seeking audience.
A little intellectual humility goes a long way.
Most Opinions are Irrelevant
My reservations on this social media trend do not matter. In the end, I am forced to admit that Emily Durham, the Instagram guru who is impacting young people is doing the right thing. The thought leaders who successfully unleash their creative power to connect with their audience will rule the future. This is true of job seekers too. It is true of anyone.
There is a powerful and universally applicable lesson here. It is a lesson that relates to the heart of the Deep Dive Career mindset. Adequate preparation and the delivery of thoughtful, customized messaging based on the needs of an audience is the key to success.
If you want attention from certain people, just find ways to connect with them. Validate their experience and their world views. Find things you have in common and go out of your way to share your observations. It enriches your life and their life. It is freeing.
No matter what the future holds, this one truth will remain. To help people, you must get their attention first.
Do you have thoughts on any of these topics? Please leave a comment below or share feedback here. If you enjoyed this post, enter your email below to receive article updates from Deep Dive Careers.
By clicking submit, you agree to share your email address with the site owner and Mailchimp to receive marketing, updates, and other emails from the site owner. Use the unsubscribe link in those emails to opt out.
2 thoughts on “Get the Attention you Need”
Good lesson here. No one wants to be lectured to. Find the common thread. Great article Ryan .