When I interviewed for my current position of assistant men’s basketball coach at Houghton College, one of the questions I was asked was: “What is your definition of hard work?” I will admit that, this caught me completely off guard. I felt I was fairly well prepared for any questions about basketball, and the inevitable questions about how my relationships with our players would change (I was a student at Houghton for the previous four years and had lived with one of our players the year before).
I don’t remember how I answered that question, but I’m sure I didn’t answer it well. Over the course of the last year I’ve thought about this question a number of times, and I’ve decided on an answer that I believe is fluid, but represents an accurate view. I believe hard work is doing what is expected of you in a prompt and efficient manner to the best of your ability, and then finding a way to contribute something beyond that.
To do what is expected of you isn’t working hard, it’s working. There are responsibilities that come with any job or assignment – that’s why it’s called work. To say “I worked hard because I got it done” is to say that you may have been qualified for the task at hand. To do what’s expected of you with efficiency and timeliness are important to making sure that the next person can take your work and do what they need to do with it. Doing things efficiently and promptly may also allow you to create time at the end of your task where you may be able to take on an additional project. Working to the best of your ability may b the most important part of this first phrase. If you are given a task, it’s because you have a specific skill set that make you uniquely capable of completing it. If you give anything less than your best effort, somebody else could have probably done it instead of you.
The second part is what I believe pushes us from “work” to “hard work”. It is easy to do what’s expected of you. It’s probably been explained to you in detail ahead of time. It’s something you may have done before, or at least were prepared to do. And you were chosen specifically to do it. You should have confidence that you can do that job well. Working hard is doing everything already discussed, and then finding other ways to contribute to your team or organization. Whether that’s assisting a co-worker who is struggling with a project, starting your next assignment, or finding a problem ahead of time and fixing it, that “above and beyond” mentality will prove invaluable to your employer and set the bar for everyone around you.