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The ultimate job search hack: Embrace your limits

25 January 2024 The adage, “You can achieve anything you set your mind to,” is a familiar refrain. However, what if I told you that this belief is not entirely truthful?

Chances are you encountered this phrase in your youth when the future seemed boundless. Perhaps you interpreted it as a promise of karmic or cosmic rewards, thus creating the false belief that if you wish for something, work hard enough, and want it badly enough, it will somehow materialize.

Regrettably, the world doesn’t work that way.

Navigating dreams versus realities

While wishing, wanting, and working towards goals may increase your chances of success, they don’t guarantee it.

Many job seekers cling to their definition of career success, often shaped by their upbringing. In our youth, our wild aspirations seem totally attainable. Personally, I once aspired to be an actor, filmmaker, rockstar, and CEO of a Fortune 500 company. (And admittedly still like to think at least one of those dreams is attainable!)

It’s common for high school students to dream big without fully considering the odds of success, investing enormous physical and mental energy in unrealistic pursuits. Perhaps you were once such a student.

Consider this: Less than 0.1% of players — just one in every 1,000 — involved in organized hockey in North America make it to the NHL. Similarly, only 3 in 10,000 (0.03%) male high school basketball players statistically join an NBA roster.

As adults, our job title and employer become integral to our identity. “You’re a Senior Technical Program Manager at Google… impressive.” However, when faced with a layoff, our identity can be shattered.

Navigating the job market has become increasingly challenging due to its unpredictability. Economic uncertainty and unexpected layoffs make finding work a daunting task. Adding to the complexity is the threat of Artificial Intelligence (AI) taking over traditional roles, creating a landscape where human candidates must contend not only with each other but also with advancing technology.

As such, your job search may not unfold as expected — and pursuing your dream career can become a disheartening experience.

The unseen forces of success

Moreover, success is a result of a complex interplay of internal and external factors.

I frequently encounter job seekers unwilling to accept that no matter their desires, hard work, or networking efforts, a particular job may not be meant for them. The sooner you realize you won’t be a rockstar, a social media influencer, or possess innate leadership abilities, the sooner you can redefine what success means for you.

“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” – Epictetus, Greek Stoic philosopher

Based on my observations, attempting to portray ourselves as we wish to be perceived often leads to self-sabotage. Some individuals become overly attached to their idealized self-image, blaming others when it doesn’t materialize instead of asking essential questions: ‘Do I have what it takes? Do I genuinely want what I’m aiming for here?’

Consider my oldest friend, who has found happiness working his entire life washing cars for a car rental company. He embraces who he is, finding inner peace by appreciating what he has rather than dwelling on what he lacks.

Reinventing your path: Job search is an opportunity for self-discovery

Viewed through this lens, job searching becomes an opportunity for self-reinvention. If you’ve been pursuing a career goal without success, perhaps it’s time to consider a different path aligned with your true self.

Why spend your life feeling like a failure or as if your life is on hold while striving for an unattainable career status? While you can enhance your skills and pursue promotions and other opportunities, success won’t come solely from wishful thinking. Take your time, be patient, alleviate the pressure on yourself, and you’ll still achieve impressive results.

Acknowledging your limitations (READ: your probability of success) and adjusting your job search accordingly is the best job search hack I know.

Nick Kossovan, a well-seasoned veteran of the corporate landscape, offers “unsweetened” job search advice. You can send Nick your questions to