The Secret to Finding Work

07/31/2013 03:49 pm ET | Updated Sep 30, 2013

What is 'The Secret' to finding work when there are no jobs?

When the blockbuster book, The Secret, was released in 2007, I remember a friend telling her daughter, "The Secret is hard work."

Is that what gets a person working again? Hard work? If it were, it would be news to uncountable numbers of people across the globe. Those who have found searching for work harder than any job they've ever had.

Judgment calls like, 'work harder!' can be seductive. They always sound good. They certainly sell books and expert advice. They give the illusion of an answer. And they are tough to argue. Try finding someone who is against hard work. Like the search for a 'Secret' to finding work, a judgment call can feel good. It requires little thinking, because the thinking has already been done. The judgment has already been made. The answer has already been given. So judgment calls do sell books.

The problem is that judgment calls, like 'work harder' and the search for magic secrets stop short of the really valuable questions, the ones that really could make a difference in finding work. Questions like, 'Work harder at what?' Or perhaps the hardest question of all, 'How do I think differently about finding work?"

The hard work of thinking differently, letting go of a judgment, giving up on an easy answer or following the crowd is the hard work I hear in my correspondence and conversations with readers who have found their own path to work after reading Finding Work When There Are No Jobs.

'Jack' from Seattle writes:

Your 5 main principles all sound easy, but they're not. I really like the first one, 'Tell Your Story.' I get how conversations have to replace resumes. That story about the anorexic kid and doing what mattered. That got me thinking about how I really don't include what matters most about me when I talk about the work I could do. But then, here's what happened. I was answering some questions about how often I've worked with some different groups of people on an application. They wanted me to be brief. Just dates and names. And that's when it came to me -- I was leaving out what mattered! I was leaving out what my working with each of these groups of people could mean to the company offering the job. Now, could the company have figured that out? Yeah. Probably. But why make them do the thinking work. I did it. I added 2 sentences that started out -- 'So what this means to you at XXX Company is ...' And you know what? They actually called me in for an interview! I hadn't had an interview in 6 months. And I got the job. I knew I could if I could just talk to some one. I was ready with my story!

Telling your story is hard work. Because the system of hiring isn't geared to telling a story. It's geared to collecting data. Your story is the round peg trying to be jammed into the square hole of hiring.

'Sarah,' from upstate New York found work using the principle 'Adding Music.' She writes:

At first I thought this adding music thing was just nuts. But the stories were so good, so I kept reading. I wasn't getting help on writing better resumes, but at least it was a break from all that. But then a funny thing happened. I was on an interview, and the guy kept using the phrase, "we need somebody who can light a fire." He kept saying that again and again. It was like his own private little song. So I thought about that adding music thing and I made up a bunch of business cards that looked like a book of matches. I knew the guy would love it. And he did. I used the cards when I went back, gave one to him, and then he asked if I had more so I could give then to the other people I had to interview with. And you know what? I got the job.

What's the 'Secret' here? Hand out business cards that look like books of matches? No! Of course not. That worked one time. For one person. In one situation. And perhaps that gives us our biggest clue yet as to what the real 'Secret' is to finding work.

Maybe there is no secret.

Or, maybe the secret is one that offers up an answer as to why job search is such brutally hard work. Especially when you try and think differently. Because when you do think differently about finding work, you start to come closer and closer to perhaps the most useful 'Secret' of all. A secret you've probably never heard an 'expert' say before. That secret is this:

There is no such thing as one-size-fits-all job search. Every single person's search is different. And finding your own unique path is the hardest work of all.

The 'Secret" isn't just hard work.

The 'Secret' is that everybody's search for work is different.