07/02/2014 06:19 pm ET Updated Feb 23, 2015

Stop Looking for Jobs You Don't Really Want

If you have a job, there's a good chance you went through an interview to get it. And in that interview, there's a great chance you lied to your employer.

Maybe not about anything big -- like your qualifications, or how long you worked at your last job -- but it's likely that you lied about something far more important: why you wanted the job in the first place.

The fact is, most of us don't want jobs, we need them to survive. Candidates are forced to put on a suit and a smile so they can justify to their potential employer why they should be chosen, a process that ultimately comes down to one question: How well can you act?

Job interviews are supposed to be mutually beneficial -- a way for the company and the employee to see if both their values align. But that usually isn't the case. Instead, it's a one-way street, where the employer's selectiveness far outweighs the job seeker's.

On the surface of it, this is expected. In a market economy, employers have always been the ones doing the selecting. Conventional wisdom tells you to go to college, do well in your classes, maybe take an internship or two to show that you have some experience, and -- if you're lucky - you'll stand out and get hired. But that model is unfair and outdated. What's in it for you? Pseudo-stability and a salary that's just enough to keep you working? Those are hardly incentives.

We have become so distracted by our desperate attempts to stand out among the swarm of competitors fighting for the same position -- all of them feigning interest in something they couldn't possibly care less about -- that we've lost ourselves in the process. Ironically, the only time creativity is incentivized is when you're encouraged to be creative with the truth -- to come up with a fancy way of describing who you are and what you've done with your life.

It doesn't take a genius to realize that something has to change. If we're looking to improve the grim reality that is the job-finding process, we have to start with ourselves.

Admittedly, not everyone has the luxury of being selective when it comes to finding jobs. If you're struggling to make ends meet, your mind is probably focused on survival. But anyone could benefit by adopting the following mindset: Stop looking for jobs and start looking for opportunities.

If you're a recent college graduate or a seasoned career veteran, you might be feeling pretty disillusioned with the job outlook today. The good news is there are a few things you can do to take action:

Stop looking for jobs you don't really want.

It's time to stop kidding yourself. Do you really want that job you're thinking about applying for?

Even if you managed to land the position, you'd just be delaying the inevitable: feeling trapped and miserable.

Working full-time is a big commitment. As such, have standards and stick to them!

What do you value the most in a work opportunity? The ability to exercise your creativity? Having a flexible schedule? Being free of a micro-managing supervisor? Ask yourself this question and write down your answers, then take a good look at what you wrote. All of those things should be requirements, not luxuries.

Realize that the employer is mostly looking at whether or not you're the right fit for them, not the other way around. If you're trying to find a work opportunity that's challenging and fulfilling, the onus is on you.

Don't be afraid to say, "I don't know."

Recently I had a conversation with a friend of mine who was in the process of conducting interviews for potential new hires. My friend is a very intelligent guy, so I joked that his candidates probably had to be geniuses to even be considered.

"Actually," he replied, "one of the things I look for the most is when someone isn't afraid to say 'I don't know.'"

He went on to explain that during interviews he makes it a point to purposely ask extremely difficult questions -- questions that no one would be able to answer with the limited amount of information he gives them. If the candidate insisted they had a solution, they were dead in the water. (Not literally, that'd make for a really terrifying interview.)

The lesson is simple: Be honest in your job interviews. It's okay if you don't know everything. People are terrified of appearing incompetent or ignorant, so they compensate by pretending they have all the answers. But giving off the impression that you know more than you do is misleading and ultimately harmful for both you and your employer.

If you want to stand out, stand out with your sincerity. Capitalize on your strengths, but be up front with your shortcomings. If you don't get the job because of this, it probably wasn't the right fit anyway.

Know when to quit.

There's a scene at the beginning of Rocky IV where Apollo Creed is getting his ass kicked by Ivan Drago in an exhibition fight. Halfway through it, Rocky tries to convince Apollo to call it quits, but Apollo refuses to throw in the towel. "Promise me you're not gonna stop this fight," he instructs Rocky. So Rocky didn't. And Apollo died.

The moral of the story? Sometimes it's smart to throw in the towel.

Okay, so life isn't always this dramatic. But it's worth pointing out that the 'winners-never-quit' mentality is pretty prevalent these days -- even though it can do more harm than good.

Have you been wanting to leave your job for some time now? If so, what's stopping you? One of the biggest reasons people feel the need to stick things out at work (besides money) is because they've already invested so much of themselves into it.

This is a great example of what's known as the sunk cost fallacy, a common phenomenon that occurs when people irrationally believe they've crossed the point of no return. "I might as well stay at a job where I already know how to do everything," they'll rationalize. But this is faulty thinking.

Start focusing more on opportunity costs. Every moment you spend doing something you don't believe in is a moment you could be working on something that matters. It's never too late to change your reality.

Final Thoughts

You can polish your résumé and interview skills all day, but if you're not pursuing what you really want, you're only fooling yourself.

In a world where most people sacrifice their ambitions for false security, dare to be different. Be real with employers -- and yourself. Don't compromise your standards. When you find an opportunity worth pursuing, pursue it with vigor. And if you find that there aren't any opportunities, create them.

It's time we all realized that when the price of admission means giving up on our dreams, we're better off waiting for the next train.

If you enjoyed this article, check out my guide, Stop Dreaming and Start Doing: How To Actually Do What You Love, for free at