Two Golfers, One Difference


My work in staffing and career coaching has spanned four recession periods during which the job market has fluctuated wildly. Despite prolonged periods of high unemployment, every person I met who wanted a job eventually found one. Those who found jobs faster functioned with a mindset that enhanced their resilience to perform well, which in turn made them more desirable to employers. They were mentally equipped for success.

To illustrate what I mean by mental skills, consider the analogy provided by two golfers as they approach a shot over water to reach the green.

  • As golfer number 1 approaches the shot, her mind is focused on imagining the ball sailing into the air and landing gently on the green next to the cup. She is already pre-planning to one-putt the green. Next, she adjusts her stance and grip, and then calibrates the power she needs behind the swing to achieve what she imagined. After watching the ball perform as she expected, she makes a mental note of what she could do better the next time, and then begins to envision her one-putt finish to the hole.
  • As golfer number 2 approaches the same shot, her mind is imagining how her ball might accidentally land in the water. Next, she adjusts her stance and grip, and then calibrates the power she needs behind the swing to avoid the disaster she is imagining. Just before impact with the ball, she doubts her choice of club. After watching the ball plop into the water, as she expected, she becomes frustrated while readying herself for the next shot. This time, she is determined to avoid the water, but watches as the ball briefly skips on the surface before it sinks out of sight. She throws her club to the ground saying, "Stupid water. Why do I even play this game?"
Both women are responsible for their attitude and performance, which are the by-products of how they think. Clearly, golfer number 1 has the better mental skills to create ease and higher performance levels for success. Golfer number 2 allowed her mind to think negatively about a common hazard, thereby causing her bad attitude, increased strain and poor performance. Her weakened mental skills were an impediment to her success.

Here is the point. Jobseekers who take longer to find jobs often do not realize their focus is on the hazards rather than the desired results. They imagine the worst outcomes, doubt their capabilities and then stew and complain when events do not go their way. The challenges they endure as a result contribute to their emotional fatigue, which creates strain that jeopardizes performance, contributes to poor impressions, and prolongs their unemployment. Then, they blame others for problems created by their bad thinking habits. Don't give me that old saying..."Improving how you think is not easy."  Sure it is. Look what happens each time you go to a movie. Before entering the theater, you clear your mind and leave all your negative thoughts and worries outside in the car. That way you can sit in your seat and enjoy the movie with uninterrupted focus and peace of mind. If you can do this for a movie, why can you not do this for your next job?

Employers are flat-out opposed to hiring people who demonstrate weak mental skills. If you cannot perform well, it makes no difference if you have excellent occupational and job search skills. This is similar to how the best equipment makes no difference to a golfer's performance if he or she is not mentally equipped for success to begin with.

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Jeff Garton Jeff Garton is a best-selling career author, organization consultant, career coach and speaker. He specialized in Human Resources for the Philip Morris Companies where he led the global staffing functions for Kraft Foods and the Miller Brewing Company.

Jeff is noted for pioneering the field of Employment Mindset to achieve Career Contentment. These topics show you how to have and enjoy a meaningful career despite challenges and circumstances that can't always be made satisfying. His groundbreaking research, published works, and innovative training programs are helping struggling workers and the unemployed rise above challenges posed by the stagnant economy and difficult job market. His efforts to increase people's hope, optimism, and resilience have been featured on Fox Business, ABC Sunday Morning, NPR Radio, the Wall Street Journal, Modern Medicine, Chief Executive Magazine, and Chief Learning Officer Magazine.

In addition to servicing his corporate clients, Jeff is on a mission to expand the existing job search training currently being provided to returning veterans and their spouses by the Department of Labor's One Stop Career Centers. His Employment Mindset training goes beyond the same old employment tips and tools used to find a job, and teaches you how to fulfill an employer's unpublished expectations related to right fit and chemistry; things that if you don't know, you don't get the interview or job offer.

Jeff lives in Chicago with his wife and two teenage sons. You can visit his website at and his Facebook page at If you would like more information about Employment Mindset training, or would like to voice your support for veterans to receive this new training, send an email to:

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