"Hard work" and "work hard" are two grossly over used and over played phrases.
It is true the often the real meat & potatoes of work is boring, routine, and just plain laborious. But it still has to get done and someone has to do it. And the reality is that everyone must start somewhere in their career. Very very few (in spite of current popular myth) start at the top.
Toil without end is no great improvement. Year after year hanging your head against the wall (metaphorically of course) isn't improvement. And more over, even a mule will eventually learn it isn't getting you anywhere.
Hard work can not be avoided. But smart work is the ultimate goal.
"Work smarter, not harder" is another tired out and over used phrase. But it does still have merit.
The difficulty is knowing the difference between hard work and smart work, finding the smart work, and recognizing it when you do find it. The task isn't simple. As with any opportunity it rarely announces itself with trumpet fan fair. And there are many false leads that initially may look like "smart" work but turn out are not.
Similarly, it isn't only the work itself but the environment you work in that determines hard vs. smart. You must work in an industry and job environment that lends itself to recognizing hard work and rewarding it. You may be the best mailman in the entire Postal Service. But the USPS isn't well known for advancement and promotion, nor for rewarding creative thinking and embracing new ideas (what do you expect from a government agency?!).
As with work, finding the right environment for smart work isn't easy. You really don't know the mentality of the organization until you are in it. Even then in organizations purportedly open to new ideas and encouraging of individual growth, sooooooooooooo much also depends on the department you're in and even on your specific manager.
MasterPo has all too well seen good people held down and eventually lost because bad management just didn't want to recognize their hard work. Meanwhile different managers rewarded and promoted others just for doing little more than the jobs they are supposed to do! Regrettably there is little way to know for sure until you are in if it's a smart work or just hard work environment.
But there is one thing for sure: Although there is always a need for hard work, hard work by itself never gets you anywhere.