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A case for "Hard work pays off"

Over the weekend, a friend of mine came to visit. She's a career counselor and, while I wasn't looking for free advice, the conversation naturally turned to my job hunt.

"How's it going?" she asked.

"It's bleak," I complained.

"Oh, I know." She told me about clients she's worked with who went on second and third interviews. Those clients were sure they got the job. Then they found out they just…didn't.

"Employers can choose from the cream of the crop right now," she told me. "Some companies aren't even actively hiring. They put out job ads just to see what else is out there."

She's gotta be kidding, right? I might be applying to companies that are, for all intents and purposes, keeping their options open?

"That's like asking someone out when you're married," I joked.

I've always been a firm believer that hard work pays off -- and in the past, it has. Last year, I was a testament to that cliché. I made six figures doing something I really love -- writing. But now, on my third month of searching for steady work, I'm starting to second-guess myself.

"Hard work doesn't matter," a co-worker once told me, after he'd been fired. "It's all how you play the game," he said.

Back then, I rolled my eyes and chalked up his perspective to his being a negative person. But now, I can kind of relate to the cynicism. While I'm not into playing games, I can't help but scoff, at least a little, at the whole "hard work pays off" cliché.

Yet something in me still believes it's true. The past few months have been extremely stressful. Depressing, even. Sometimes, I want to give up just to spite Fate. But somehow, I'm persistent. Somehow, I do still think hard work pays off -- here's why.

I've seen it work

On top of hunting for work, I've been reading a lot about wealth inequality. So, you know, that hasn't done much for my cynicism. It may be true that the rich get richer and the poor and middle-class take two steps back for every step forward. Maybe hard work isn't what it used to be, but I've seen it pay off for one persistent couple: my parents.

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