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Effort is perhaps the most overrated trait in producing success. People often rank effort as the best predictor of success when in reality is it one of the least significant factors. Effort by itself is a terrible predictor of outcomes, because inefficient effort is a tremendous source of discouragement. It leaves people to conclude that they can never succeed, since expending maximum effort has not produced results for them.

Why is it that folks believe that hard work will be rewarded? It is such a simple and logical concept.

Yet remember when you were young attending school, some students studied diligently and yet performed poorly. Others studied hardly at all yet achieved excellent grades. Yes, part of it is intelligence, but that is not the most significant factor.

One can spend incredible amounts of effort inefficiently and gain nothing. Or, one can spend effort efficiently and be rewarded. The purpose of what you do is to make progress, not just to expend energy in an inefficient and unrewarding manner.

Many times in the last four years, since the beginning of the Great Recession, I have talked with folks who tell me about the tremendous amount of effort that they have put into their job search. They tell me that they spend hours each and every day reviewing the internet job sites. They tell me that sometimes it takes more than an hour of effort just to answer one opening on one of the internet job sites. I spoke with a young man just last week who told me that he had answered “more than 40” job openings on the internet job sites in the previous week. No interviews have yet been scheduled.

I have talked with others who tell me that they have sent their résumé to this company or that company. They tell me that they have sent “stuff” to company after company after company, month after month after month.

When questioned, often the only job search method they are using is answering an opening published on one of the internet job sites.

Yet this is what virtually everyone is doing. The competition is fierce. Because of the internet, hundreds of people in Illinois, or New York, or even India are applying for the same job for which you are applying.

An individual can spend all day, every day, searching the internet job sites. A huge expenditure of effort.

Recent studies have shown that, among the unemployed, more than 40% have been unemployed 26 weeks or longer. These long-term unemployed, unemployed for six months or longer, reached 40.7% in August 2012, and that number would be more than 50% or higher if one added people who have simply given up looking for work.

While older workers are less likely to be laid off than younger workers, they are about half as likely to be rehired. The number of people unemployed between ages 50 and 65 has more than doubled.

The numbers are even worse for the young, the less educated and African-American and Latino workers according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

With long-term employment prospects so grim, the job search candidate needs to expand their job search activities to include those techniques that are the most effective. The internet job sites should not be ignored, but they should not be one’s only job search method. Far too many of the unemployed use searching internet job sites as their only job search method. Yet results are low.

Studies on those job search methods which are effective often report that those positions found through the internet job sites as no more than 16%. What about the other 84%?

Rather than expend tremendous effort on less effective job search methods, take that same level of energy and apply it to techniques that are the most effective. Rather than work harder, work smarter.

One of the most insidious factors of The Great Recession and advancement of technology in recent years is that the type of work one has done in the past may no longer be viable. Consider re-training. Get a certification that is vocationally oriented.

And remember, the various forms of networking are the most effective job search methods.

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