THE BLOG
12/15/2011 04:08 pm ET | Updated Feb 14, 2012

The Difference Between Needing to Get a Job and Wanting to Get a Job

I spend a good portion of my life talking to people about their working lives. Or in many cases, their lack of work. I've talked to laid off city workers, MBA students, Moms wanting to get back to work, college sophomores, outplaced CEOs and just about every group in between. And despite the fact that these seem like incredibly divergent groups, they really all fit into one of two categories: those who NEED to get a job versus those who WANT to get a job.

In September of this year, I kicked off my "Get Americans Back to Work Contest." In October, three winners, selected based on video entries, were chosen to participate in a free three-month intense training program where, one-on-one, I would coach them back to work. Entrants were selected by their ability to convince me that they were ready to do the work necessary to get back in the game. Their full names will be revealed once we are further into the program. Here's why.

Four weeks into the program, only two remain.

Needing & Wanting a Job
Winner #1, Dan, is kicking butt. His performance each week is stellar and step-by-planned-step he is recovering his energy at being laid off by MIT six months ago. He's digging deep into things that aren't natural to him -- like creative brainstorming and networking -- and pushing himself to reinventing his career. In his late 40s and having had just two jobs in 20 years, Dan is learning what it takes to find and land work in the 21st century. And he's doing it. He writes in his career journal every day, discovering new things about himself. He's getting more comfortable with relationship building (or what some would call networking), and is doing the challenging work of putting himself out there. Dan is being successful in my program because he not only NEEDS to get a job, he WANTS to get a job. This is crystal clear in his willingness to do the hard work it takes to get there including driving a limo at night to make ends meet while we work together during the day to find the right job for his future.

Wanting but Not Needing a Job
Winner #2. Kyle is a different case. Kyle, is a forty-something New Yorker. He has a job, but really dislikes it. He's been stuck in an enviable-but-dead-end job for some time now. He's not inspired and not making the money he wants to make. For a long time he's wanted to make a career change so that he could do something he felt was important and would have a lasting effect. But Kyle's not doing that well in my program. Because he doesn't NEED to get a job, his ability to be successful in my program is based on how much he WANTS to get a new job. I'm not sure yet how much he WANTS it. Four weeks into his coaching, Kyle still hasn't put his heart into it. I have to pester him to write in his journal, do his homework, and stay in contact. Recently, I was in New York on business and had a chance to meet Kyle face-to-face. I learned a lot about him that day, and I explained to him what he needed to do to convince me that it was worth my time and effort to coach him pro bono. As of today, I'm waiting for Kyle to tell me that he's truly on board and ready to take on the tasks at hand.

Needing but Not Wanting a Job
Winner #3. Lucy (her name has been changed) is completely different. In her early 30s, she desperately NEEDS a job. She's been out of work for two years and is circling the drain emotionally and financially. Lucy, unfortunately, didn't survive in my program. After four weeks of coaching, cajoling, coddling, coaxing and tough love, I couldn't persuade her to truly get on board with the program. Although she said she was committed, Lucy didn't do any of our agreed upon tasks: research, homework, outreach, resume development and daily check-ins. She didn't write consistently in her career journal. And in the end, she wasn't learning from the experience because she wasn't willing to commit to what it takes to get back in the game after such a long absence. Unfortunately, after much consideration and discussion, I had to fire her from my program. Lucy just didn't WANT a job badly enough.

Do You Want to Get a Job or Need to Get a Job?

Getting a job isn't easy, but neither is running a marathon. When you commit to running a marathon, you know you are signing up for a rigorous training schedule, a healthy diet and long, hard hours of running mile after mile. You won't ever complete a marathon unless you make the decision that you really WANT to complete a marathon.

Getting a job is no different. If you don't commit, it just won't happen. Think of it this way. No matter what, Dan is going to complete the "get a job" marathon. Kyle is considering running the "get a job" marathon. Lucy just can't find her bootstraps and isn't interested in running at all.

Which are you? Are you NEEDING to get a job, but not WANTING to get a job? Remember, no one is going to do this work for you. It's up to you to survive.