In A Successful Job Search, What is the True Role of “Hard Work”?
by Alan Stein on April 25, 2023
Hard work is a fundamental principle that is universally recognized as a key ingredient for success. It is an essential attribute that separates those who achieve their goals from those who do not.
But hard work doesn’t equal success, especially in the job market. If you've been working hard searching for a job without any luck, you may be missing this vital factor.
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Listen to career advice on the importance of personal branding and how it is vital to the longevity of one’s professional career on the SYCK Podcast with Dr. Monique Dawkins. She shared her experience of being unwanted by a team and insights into the unspoken and unwritten rules of being a leader.
- You need perseverance, dedication, and commitment to achieve your objectives.
- Hard work is about the quantity and quality of effort, while seriousness is about the mindset and approach.
- You can succeed when hard work doesn't matter to you.
Career Advice: Hard Work Won’t Get You Through the Door
A career coach –– I won't name –– put “work hard” at the top of a list of tips. No details, no specifics. No indication of what to work hard on, for how long, or what for. Just “work hard.”
I’ve actually seen so many coaches touting hard work as the engine of a successful job search that I want to share my own (rather different) take on the matter.
First things first: If someone lands an amazing new job, did they probably work hard somewhere along the way?
Yes. Of course. Without hard work, even the most talented and gifted individuals are unlikely to succeed. Just read my Google hiring story, and you’ll see I put in plenty of hours on prep work, interviews, etc. Getting the right job opportunities requires the discipline to put in the necessary effort and time.
However, this does NOT mean that working hard was THE KEY! And it definitely doesn’t mean that if you just “work hard like them” then you’ll get their success!
I may be the only career coach in the world who is willing to say this, but hard work is a minor detail in accelerating your career. It’s maybe 10% of the picture. A nominal necessity that falls into place AFTER someone becomes truly serious about their goal.
Getting a Job Requires Seriousness
The engine of an effective job search is seriousness, NOT hard work. While hard work and seriousness are both important qualities that can contribute to success, they are distinct concepts.
- Hard work refers to the amount of effort and dedication that an individual puts into achieving their goals.
- Seriousness relates to the attitude and demeanor that a person adopts toward their work.
It is possible for someone to work hard without being serious, such as when they are easily distracted or lack focus, and conversely, it is possible for someone to be serious without working hard, such as when they are overly cautious or overly analytical.
Ultimately, success requires both hard work and seriousness, as they are complementary attributes that enable individuals to achieve their goals with purpose and determination.
The Difference Between Hard Work and Seriousness
Confuse? Let's apply the concept to a completely different scenario.
Imagine someone focusing on building a nest egg, but whenever they have a little extra cash, they spend it on things they don't really need. They forget to stop free trial subscriptions, and pay for the $6 Frappuccino at Starbucks they swore they were done with.
To the naked eye, it might seem like what this person lacks is the willingness to work hard at saving money. But that’s not really true.
What they really lack is a sufficiently strong DESIRE!
Perhaps saving money at this point is only 40% of what they want, while the other 60% still takes comfort in impulsive buying, brand-name products and the little high of a shopping spree.
Then one day, this individual experiences a financial crisis or a surprise expense. Maybe they lose their job or have a medical emergency. Or they meet the love of their life, want to get married, buy a house and have children. Perhaps they just find a really good deal on a dream vacation they’ve always wanted to take.
These unexpected but unavoidable detours – coupled with the desire to meet the need — create a mindset shift. Suddenly tracking expenses and making a budget becomes a priority. Unnecessary spending is curbed and saving money on essential items takes precedence. Now this person looks for ways to earn extra income. The discipline to save money takes care of itself.
Because now they are serious.
Becoming Serious About Your Career Advancement
My friends, I submit to you that career advancement is exactly the same.
I have met many people who only “sort of” wanted better jobs, bigger raises, snazzier titles… But they became ALL-IN after a co-worker got promoted over them. Or after having kids. Or after any number of other motivators.
Prior to that time, me or anyone else telling them to “work hard” wouldn’t have mattered one bit. Once their motivation reached a fever pitch, they were willing to do whatever it took. Because now they were serious.
Herein lies the essence: because the hard work was coming from their own desires (rather than from me promising that “if you work hard, you will succeed”) their efforts were targeted and effective.
Some of these individuals ultimately went on to become clients of mine here at Kadima Careers. They didn’t blindly apply to places day after day while crossing their fingers for results.
- They built relationships to open doors.
- They started crushing interviews.
- Some clients even got companies into bidding wars to score a six-figure raise.
Victories like these are not fundamentally created by hard work. They are created by wanting it so much that whether it’s “hard” or not is irrelevant.
Why Career Coaching Isn’t for Everyone
I interview every person before I take them on as clients. Unless someone is truly desirous of career development, all the advice I can give and all the hard work in the world isn’t going to do anything.
They will always wait for ME to tell them if they’ve worked hard enough. And they will pause every two seconds to see if their reward has come so that they can stop.
So, am I saying you should sit at home and lay on the couch all day instead of working hard? No.
I’m saying that working hard, by itself, doesn’t guarantee you anything except working hard.
If you work hard because somebody else said you might gain something from it, you’re wasting your time. But if you’re so hell-bent on accelerating your career that how hard you work doesn’t even matter, you will succeed.
- No bites on your resumé?
- Deserving a raise but not getting it?
- Promotions feel unattainable?
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