Hard work is considered a virtue in our society. The assumption is that hard work will lead to more money, and to career success.
Lots of money is proof of a good work ethic. If you don’t have the job you want, with the pay you want, you’re supposed to work harder, and you’ll eventually be rewarded.
While hard work is indeed something admirable, and while hard work can result in more opportunities, the reality is that sometimes hard work just isn’t enough.
My Husband’s Experience with Hard Work
During the last three years, I’ve had some rather interesting experiences with hard work. Rather, I’ve watched, with interest, my husband’s experiences with hard work. My husband works very hard, and he gives his all to his work. In fact, he often goes above and beyond.
And how is he rewarded? By being passed over for jobs.
The first instance was with a long-term research study. He put in the hours as a student, and he did the work of a professional. The higher-ups asked when he would graduate and told him to apply for not one, but two, different positions with the project. After two grueling interviews, two candidates, neither with his experience or education, were hired for the positions. All the work he did on the project resulted in nothing, and someone else is taking credit for the groundwork he laid.
As an adjunct, he has been teaching at a university for the past two years. Even though he doesn’t have “official” office hours, he’s always willing to work with students. His classes are consistently full (with waiting lists), while the other instructors can’t fill a roster. In fact, students from other stats and psychology classes come to his lab for help, since he’s known for giving personal attention and guidance.
He’s been passed over twice for an opening at the university. He’s teaching all the classes the “new hire” is supposed to teach, and he’s done everything asked of him (and more), and they won’t hire him. Instead, they keep offering the job to people who are only using the offer as leverage for higher pay. The position is still unfilled, and he’s been told that he can no longer adjunct at the school.
All of his hard work has resulted in his being effectively let go.
Work Smarter, Not Harder
My husband’s unfortunate experience has taught me that it’s more important to work smart than it is to work hard. My husband has been one or two credits short of a “full load” for several semesters. He’s doing the work of a full-time professor (when you add in the unpaid hours spent helping students), but he’s only getting one-third of the pay.
All the hard work isn’t paying off, either. Instead, he’s got tenured professors calling for his dismissal — because their class numbers are dwindling as their students seek help from someone who’s actually interested in them. My husband has a great skill set, and he works hard.
But it doesn’t matter.
Instead of working so hard, my husband should’ve focused on looking for a job that actually appreciated him. He relied on hard work to land him a full-time position at this university. Instead, he could’ve told the university that he would teach half as many classes and spent his time looking for positions that want his skill set and dedication.
Additionally, rather than spending as much time helping students, he could’ve been networking with tenured professors and playing the political game a little better. It says something sad about the state of that university, but it’s the reality.
Sometimes, instead of working harder, you need to work differently.
What do you think? Is hard work enough to get you ahead?