The Hard Work of Hard Work

When I teach work skills to the unemployed, there is a section about re-writing your resume for online job applications, and I tell the class the two steps that are vital to make your resume visible. Inevitably, someone asks if they need to post a new resume for every job application. When I say yes, there are frowns.

Without direction, you are just wandering. Image from rambling-frans.blogspot

Without direction, you are just wandering. Image from rambling-frans.blogspot

Hands shoot up in protest. I hear about a friend who never updated his resume who got a great job, a woman who wore flip-flops and torn jeans to an interview and got the job, the cousin who got laid off and in a month the boss begged them to come back because they were indispensable. It’s the urban legend and Holy Grail of the unemployed–there is a job that is wonderful, pays well, has a great boss and is easy to find. And then comes the clincher: all you have to do is manifest it by believing, or praying, or following the steps in The Secret.

The horrible truth right now in Phoenix is that there are not enough jobs for everyone who wants one, and the only way to find a job is to keep looking for one. It’s hard, tedious work, and the best person is not always chosen. But you can’t stop trying. And while I believe in prayer and having goals, and positive thinking, I do not believe in magical thinking.

I do not believe that the websites that promise you the “job of your dreams” if only you click on “tell me how” or takes you to another page that doesn’t list a price for anything, and calls the money they are scamming from you, your “investment.” I’ve seen the same websites for finding the partner of your dreams, the SEO of your website’s dreams, and the secret that will make your video go viral.

What’s missing from all of this the is practical application of the ancient Arab wisdom about losing your transportation: “Pray to Allah, but tie up your camel anyway.”

I believe in hard work. I know that people with connections often get the job before people who would be better suited. But if you don’t have connections, you are going to have to work around that lack. In the end, it is doing the heavy lifting, the tedious application, the refusal to give up that moves you along your journey. You can chose to sing to make the work easier, laugh to make the time lighter, or pray for spiritual support and strength. In the end, what you get from your effort is what you put into it. There isn’t any other way.

—-Quinn McDonald has not yet manifested the magical short cut. So she’s doing the work, plodding along the trail, and keeping a journal.

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9 thoughts on “The Hard Work of Hard Work

  1. I’ve done hard work and I’ve worked hard to do it. For instance, years ago we were told by the construction inspector (who was working hard) that the stone foundation under our house had to be removed before we could build an addition. We didn’t like it. That foundation had been there over a hundred years and was doing a fine job of holding up the house. But to get the addition built we removed the section that hard working engineer said had to go. That inspector left and when the next hard working inspector arrived he asked why we had taken out that great foundation.
    All that hard work we had done was unnecessary and a complete waste of time. What we got out of it was sweaty clothes and an aching back and we still had to figure out what to do with all those rocks that had been painstakingly cut and fitted by the hard working Swedes who had originally built that foundation.
    Pete has a point, Hard work is relative. Was it harder to remove the stones or harder to realize they didn’t have to be removed? Sometimes “hard work” pays off and sometimes it doesn’t but you can’t stop trying or you never get anywhere.
    And even though that beautiful stone foundation has been replaced with treated lumber I love the addition we worked hard to built on top of it.

    • The easiest decision, derived from reading your story and having the value of your result, would have been to get another opinion about removing the rocks before you did the work. This is not a criticism, and you probably had excellent reasons for following the expert’s advice (another rant will come one day on how experts who confuse advice with marketing are creating cynical clients). Whether that’s a bad relationship, bad project you thought would be great, or bad book you are reading, there are some efforts that won’t be rewarded. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the German thinker and poet, said “Die Arbeit ist nicht immer mit Erfolg gekrönt,” —Your work is not always guaranteed success. (I know it’s not the literal translation, the interpretation was called for here.) Of course hard work is relative. So is truth, creativity, joy, health, anger, satisfaction and justice. What I didn’t say well enough, it seems, is that if we never challenge ourselves, if we do only what is easy, we won’t grow.

      Your wonderful point, the one I love, in your answer is “Was it harder to remove the stones or harder to realize they didn’t have to be removed? Sometimes “hard work” pays off and sometimes it doesn’t but you can’t stop trying or you never get anywhere.”

  2. This post set me off on an hour or more of thinking, because I realized I couldn’t identify what “hard work” really is. There are plenty of things that are difficult, unpleasant, dangerous, time-consuming, stressful, unknown, and the like, and any of them can be described as “hard”, but if I say “hard work” it doesn’t imply any of them, exactly. I’ve just spent an hour thinking about this; was that “hard work”? Would it be more like hard work if I didn’t enjoy it? Would it be more like hard work if it had been two hours, or forty?

    Most people bristle at the suggestion that something they do or accomplish is “easy”. It’s supposed to be “hard” if it has any value. Imply that someone’s success has been pleasant or easy for them and you’ll instantly find out about how unpleasant and “hard” it was.

    And yet people, particularly when they’re successful, love what they do. The work, if that’s what it is, is not “hard” when you’re doing it.

    So what is “hard work” really? I think there’s at least a part of it that has nothing to do with the activity itself; it has to do with social status and power. If you “work hard” you get to look down on people who don’t, or who don’t do as much “hard work” as you do. You get to deserve your success. You get to belong, and other people can join too — all they have to do is “work hard”.

    As a social construct, “hard work” goes pretty deep. It’s an interesting illusion.

    • “Hard work” is work that requires effort (physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual) more than you usually have to expend. It can be greater effort, it can be of longer duration, it can cause a shift in beliefs or actions. It can be satisfying, it can be frustrating. It generally requires more effort than we want to give, and it doesn’t always result in the outcome we want. But it changes our way of thinking through experience.

      I try to keep the blog at a level of pleasant reading. If I add in every exception, every variation, every shade of possible meaning, I will become an engineer, a lawyer, or a software developer.

      Some worthwhile things are easy, some hard work is not worth it. While all that is true, it makes a lousy essay. But if we never challenge ourselves, if we never do work that challenges us, we will become dull.

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