Ever had a report card with the comment, “If only (insert name) would apply him/herself more” ? Well working harder and applying oneself more to tasks is a good start, but it’s not a guarantee of success. In fact, one can work really hard but still come up short. No, working hard is only part of it.
Success comes when you have the right tools, understand how to use them, then apply yourself to using those tools as they were designed. It’s not just working hard, it’s working smarter. All you weekend do-it-yourselfer’s out there ever used the side of a wrench as a make-shift hammer even though you have a perfectly good hammer designed for just such a task but you’re too lazy to go to the other end of the house to get it? Yeah, it’s kind of like that.
Looking for work today has changed significantly from the way people looked for jobs in the past. Yet not in every aspect. And so it is that because in some ways things stay the same, many make the mistake of assuming going about looking for work in all respects is something they know how to do. Hence, they go about job searching with sporadic bursts of energy, thinking they are making great progress, when in fact, it’s a lot of energy wasted. Take the person who makes a résumé on their own and hands out photocopied one everywhere. If they really think this is what you do these days; if no one has informed this is an outdated practice, all the hard work they are doing distributing it isn’t going to result in the desired end goal.
Older job seekers are guilty much of the time for lacking the awareness of how things have changed. Their resistance to technology is widely known – although to be fair there are many to whom this stereotype does not apply. Still, there are many who are still searching for that employer that will let meet them face-to-face and put in a days work on a voluntary basis, hoping that single days work will convince them to hire them full-time. Employer’s however will generally avoid such antiquated practices. After all, if such a person injured themselves or someone else on that trial day, the insurance companies would have hysterics and raise that employer’s premiums to dizzying amounts.
However, the older worker is an easy target for the young, tech-savvy job seeker to point to and chuckle. Ah but such behaviour has its irony; for the young tech-savvy types themselves might know all about applicant tracking software and have their LinkedIn profiles and be prolific on social media websites that didn’t exist two weeks earlier, but they have their issues too. Just try suggesting they get off their tech devices and actually start a conversation with someone in the flesh. Suddenly their thumbs used for texting have no purpose, their gravatars fail to protect their identities, and what they’ve put little effort into developing – interpersonal skills and verbal communication skills, leave them exposed.
Working hard at the things you already do well is very good for keeping those skills used and ready. However, failing to understand that the job of looking for a job might just require some tools you don’t even know you’re missing in the first place can be a critical mistake ending up in repeated failure. Then all the hard work in the world won’t result in getting what you’re ultimately after.
The problem with this is when you’re taking stock of your skills, it’s one thing to know you’re not using a skill and consciously be okay with that. It’s another to not know in the first place what you lack; then you haven’t even got the option of using it or not.
There’s the added problem too of finding something new and then wondering if this is a fad or a trend. Fads come quickly and disappear just as quick. If you mistake a fad as a new trend and invest a lot of your time and energy in them, you might be one of a handful, and in the end find yourself mislead into thinking you’re on to something. To follow a new trend however, you’d be on the frontier, and then you hope the employers to whom you apply are savvy enough themselves to accept what you offer.
What makes it hard is knowing whom to trust when they say, “Trust us; we know what’s right and what’s hot out there. Do it our way and you’re in good hands.” Ultimately it comes down to you and whom YOU trust.
I suppose good advice continues to be to ask yourself if you’re getting the results you’d expect based on the effort you’re putting in. If you don’t put in effort to begin with it doesn’t matter at all of course. But if you’re working hard at getting a job and getting nowhere, stop doing what you’re doing. Open yourself to changing something in your approach and then applying yourself to actually apply what you learn to your search. Then go ahead and put in the hard work. Now you’ve got a recipe for greater success – you’re working smarter and harder.