Remember Hard Work?
Why this old-fashioned
virtue can lift you out of the recession and propel you to the top.
by Jon Gordon
There’s never been a tougher time to be a part of the job
market, and people are scrambling to show employers they have what it
If you’ve spent the past year fretting about the job market,
the economy, the stock market or the future, don’t let your fear
paralyze you. Now is actually the perfect time to get ahead. And the
secret to succeeding has little to do with an impressive degree (or
pedigree) or with knowing the right people. In fact, it’s not a secret
at all but something society seems to have almost forgotten about: hard
If you think you’re already working hard at your job, think
again. You can’t expect to show up each day and just do your job and
think that’s going to cut it. What you have to do is make sure that you
are never outworked.
Think about the successful people you know. Celebrities.
Politicians. CEOs. Yes, most are talented and special in some way, but
when you look closer, you may realize they aren’t that different from
the average person. What sets them apart? Their drive.
Take actor and singer Will Smith, for example: When asked by
an interviewer to explain his success, he responded: “I’m not afraid to
die on a treadmill. I will not be outworked. You may be more talented
than me. You may be smarter than me. And you may be better looking than
me. But if we get on a treadmill together, you are going to get off
first, or I’m going to die. It’s really that simple. I’m not going to be
True, Will Smith is charismatic, funny and a great actor, but
so are plenty of other people in Hollywood. The secret to his success,
according to him, is his work ethic. While working hard may seem like a
simple enough idea (and it is), most people just don’t do it.
Now is the time to start. By really pouring on the “elbow
grease,” you can not only set yourself apart from the less ambitious
around you but also help pull your company’s tail out of the fire or
maybe even start a thriving business of your own.
Here are four guidelines for revving your work ethic into overdrive.
Burn the midnight oil.
Nobody expects you to work all the
time, and like everyone else, you need the occasional break.
But you shouldn’t bolt out of the shop at 5 p.m. sharp.
These days, your willingness to go the extra mile—and the
extra hour—won’t go unnoticed.
With all the budget cuts and layoffs that have occurred in
the past year, there is more work to be done than there are
people to do it. That’s your cue to spend a few extra hours
each week at the shop—or even at home in the
evenings—striving to get the work done. If you’re having
trouble getting all your work done in a timely manner, step
up and take charge of the time crunch.
Be willing to bear the
load. If there are rumors of
layoffs or pay cuts in your workplace, it is time to step up
and take on new projects and extra responsibilities. No,
they weren’t in your original job description, but they are
tasks that must be done to keep the business running and
your paycheck coming.
If someone else steps up to the task, then you are being
outworked. Continuously compare yourself with those around
you. Are they working harder than you? Have they offered to
take on more projects or extra work? If the answer is yes,
then you have some re-evaluating to do.
When it comes time to make decisions about
promotions, the people who have taken the initiative and
stepped up to help have a much better chance of being
Polish up your marketable
skills. Yes, money is tight these
days, and your time is probably even tighter. And the
thought of adding one more thing to your schedule may send
your brain into a tailspin. But if ever there was a time to
add to your skill set, it’s now.
Make a list of specialized skills that are important to your
work and that could give you an advantage, then research
continuing education in your area and online for increasing
your talents and certifications. It’s a great way to
increase your worth to your employer and to constantly keep
Companies still need the talents and qualifications that
certain employees can provide, but they might not have the
funds to keep everyone employed or hire new people like they
used to. If you can work a little harder and offer your
company those skills, you become a bigger asset. It’s like
getting two employees for the price of one.
Be a penny-pincher and a
pitcher-inner. In a down economy,
every single penny counts. Just ask your boss; he or she is
probably spending nights lying awake trying to figure out
ways to cut corners to keep the company running and you
employed. Better still, don’t ask your boss; come up with
cost-cutting ideas yourself. It will also show him/her that
you understand how business works and that you are
constantly thinking of new ways to improve the bottom line.
And don’t hesitate to pitch in yourself—even if it means
resorting to manual labor.
will always be someone who is smarter than you, who has more experience
or who has a longer, more impressive résumé. But no matter what other
people have, take a cue from Will Smith: Always, always work harder than
anyone else. Hard work is a virtue that our nation was founded on, and
it won’t let you down.
Make sure that when others are sleeping, you are working;
when others are wasting time, you are improving; and when others are
scattering their energy, you are practicing and focusing on the skills
it takes to do your job right. If you infuse your talent with hard work,
passion and a drive for excellence, you’ll find yourself at the top of
the ladder when everyone else is scrambling to stay on a lower rung.
Jon Gordon is a speaker, consultant and author of The Energy Bus: 10
Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work and Team with Positive Energy and The No
Complaining Rule: Positive Ways to Deal with Negativity at Work.
Mr. Gordon’s new book,
Training Camp: What the Best Do Better Than Everyone Else, was released
in May 2009 and is available at bookstores nationwide, major online
booksellers or directly from the publisher by calling (800) 225-5945. In
Canada, call (800) 567-4797.
Mr. Gordon is a graduate
of Cornell University and holds a master’s degree in teaching from Emory
University. For more information, please visit