Question: “I think I deserve a great job, but haven’t had much luck finding one.  Help!”

For anyone working in the career counseling field, the above refrain is a daily occurrence, given that there are quite a few folks today (surveys suggest at least 60% of the total workforce) who aren’t very satisfied with their current career situation — and who are either actively or passively looking to make a change and seek out greener employment pastures.

If you’re in this situation yourself, however, the first piece of advice I’d give you is to eliminate the word “deserve” from your vocabulary.  Wishful thinking and Law of Attraction books aside, finding a great job or career opportunity simply has nothing to do with the concept of “deserving it” and this misplaced notion of entitlement actually ends up limiting the success of many would-be job changers.  You’ll be far more successful in your efforts, instead, if you’re able to reframe your view of the job market and perceive the concept of career success for what it really is: a function not of fairness or unfairness, but of economics, sales, and marketing.  Time and time again, the people out there who we see consistently landing the best jobs are those people who — whether by conscious planning or happy accident — offer proven solutions that are in demand by today’s employers and who have learned how to sell these solutions effectively to the organizations who require them.

Sound a bit cold and depersonalized?  I’d have to agree.  But at the same time, it’s dangerous to lose sight of the fact that a job, first and foremost, is an economic relationship — not a social contract or an obligatory act of charity.  Speaking as an entrepreneur, myself, I must stress that paychecks are primarily investments in profitability, and with few exceptions, companies will only invite you on board if they’re confident that you’ll be able to help them make money either directly, through top-line revenue growth, or indirectly, through bottom-line cost savings and operational efficiency.  This is the burden of proof that every successful professional should accept responsibility for and strive to meet.  And what happens when companies start ignoring this basic principle and consistently begin to hire people without regard to financial considerations?  Can you say layoffs, anyone?  Or dot-com crash?

In closing, therefore, as you consider exploring some new career options or improving your job prospects, try not to waste too much energy stewing over the injustice of your current situation.  Focus instead on the value (aka “proven solutions”) you can offer to prospective employers and on building the skills, attitudes, and confidence necessary to get out in the market and sell this value effectively.  Can you help a company negotiate better rates with its overseas suppliers?  Train its sales force to close more deals?  Reduce the defect rates in its manufacturing lines?  Implement internal controls that will eliminate waste and fraud?  It is these kinds of real-world solutions that will be your salvation, since the better you understand and can articulate the bottom-line difference you can make to organizations, the more control you’ll have over the environment you perform these solutions in — and the amount of pay/benefits you can command, as a result.

And if you’re not all that clear on the value you offer, or sense that the solutions you’ve historically brought to companies (i.e. COBOL programming, dictation, desktop publishing) have been devalued or are no longer in strong demand, you’ve got to face up to this — and start the fight to retrench, retrain, and arm yourself with fresh incentives for employers to hire you.  It’s your only real option, since while the world is unquestionably a beautiful place, my experience working with thousands of job seekers makes me fairly certain of one thing — it doesn’t owe any of us a living!