I've been unemployed in my career. Twice. So what I'm about to say is based as much on personal experience as it is on a lifetime of studying the best practices in managing a successful career. There is a single, profound truth for all job seekers: if you think conducting a job search will be quick and easy, you're only kidding yourself. It won't.
Whether the economy is in recession or hiring figures are starting to improve, whether you're starting out in your career or have years of experience under your belt, whether you're a skilled tradesperson or a senior executive, looking for a decent employment opportunity is the hardest job you will ever have. It will take every bit of knowledge you can muster, every insight you can gain, every piece of wisdom you can acquire, and even then, it will take pluck, determination and plenty of hard work.
That's why I was absolutely stunned to see the results of a poll by Alan Krueger and Andreas Mueller reported in The Economist. They found that unemployed workers in the U.K., Sweden and Germany spend 10 minutes or less per day looking for a job. That's people who are unemployed, mind you. They either believe they are entitled to a job – wishful thinking in today's economy – or that a great new career will magically appear for them – the employment equivalent of buying a lottery ticket.
Job search efforts were better in Spain and France, but nowhere near what's required for success. Today unemployed workers in those countries spent 20 to 30 minutes per day searching for a new job. And the survey found that in the U.S. unemployed workers spent barely 40 minutes per day looking for a new employment opportunity. That's less time than the average American spends watching TV (4.7 hours) or getting showered and dressed each day (53 minutes).
Most of us will spend one-third or more of our lives at work. Doesn't it make sense, then, to invest the time necessary to get the right job? Isn't it worth the effort to learn the key principles and skills of effective job searching and practice them rigorously until you land a good job – one that will enable you to excel? Aren't you more likely to see a real and sustainable return on such an investment in yourself and your future than you are in an investment in, say, the stock market?
So why do so many of us sell our careers short? Why are we spending so little time in the one wealth creation activity we can actually profit from and control?
A Matter of Misunderstanding
I can't say what's behind the less than vigorous efforts of workers in other countries, but in the U.S., I think it comes from a misunderstanding of the Declaration of Independence. That wonderful document, of course, defines our culture. It establishes our expectations both in our neighborhood and in the workplace. And subconsciously, many of us believe that the Declaration of Independence guarantees us Life, Liberty and Happiness. It doesn't. It entitles us to our Life, our Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
The word "pursuit" may be a noun, but it describes a state of action. The act of striving for something – in this case: Happiness. In other words, the Declaration of Independence accords us the opportunity to strive for a fulfilling and rewarding job – and despite its all too obvious faults, the U.S. delivers on that promise better than any other country on the face of the earth – but it's up to us to do the work. To take the steps that will achieve our goal. To turn the potential for personal success and happiness into reality. To create our own version of the American Dream.
Yes, there will always be exceptions to the rule. There will always be the lucky handful among our peers who have a great job drop in their lap. But for most of us, finding that right job requires investing meaningful time and effort in your search. What's meaningful? Think of it as an equivalency. The Happiness you derive from a job search is equal to the personal commitment you make to execute it. So, give yourself a full 8 hours of Happiness each day on-the-job by spending a full 8 hours each day searching for the career that will that will truly engage and fulfill you.