What Is The True Role of “Hard Work” In A Successful Job Search?

I saw an email last week –– from a career coach I won’t name –– who put “work hard” at the top of a list of tips. 

No details, no specifics. No indication of what to work hard on, or 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. Just read my Google hiring story and you’ll see I put in plenty of hours on prep work, interviews, etc.

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.

It is seriousness, NOT hard work, that becomes the engine of an effective job search.

If this is confusing, let’s apply the concept to a completely different scenario.

Think of someone you know who struggled with eating healthy and finally made it into a habit.

This person may have spent years spinning his wheels –– cycling through fad diets, using DoorDash left and right, eating junk food he swore he was done with.

To the naked eye, it might seem like what this person lacked was the willingness to work hard at eating healthy. But that’s not really true. 

What he really lacked was a sufficiently strong DESIRE!

Perhaps eating healthy was something he only 40% wanted. While the other 60% of him still took comfort in the take-out, the candy bars, and the familiarity of what he knew.

Every so often, he might have said things like: “I’m trying. I’m getting better. I’m eating more of this and less of that.” But, really, not much changed at all. He was sort of playing a game with himself of “trying” to do something he wasn’t quite ready for.

Then, one day, he went to the doctor and discovered he was pre-diabetic. The doctor said: “If you don’t start eating better, you could lose a limb.”

Suddenly everything changed. The discipline to stay away from sweets took care of itself. He ate wholesome foods by his own free will. No one in his family needed to lecture him anymore or send him articles about health or any of that.

Because now he was serious.

My friends, I submit to you that accelerating your career 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 so they could 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.

This is why I interview every person before I take them on as clients.

Unless someone is truly desirous of accelerating their career, all the advice I can give and all the hard work in the world isn’t going to do anything.

Because they will always be waiting 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 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. 

If you’re so hell bent on accelerating your career that how hard you work doesn’t even matter, you will succeed.