Career hacking: how to make your dream job a reality
Career hacking: how to make your dream job a realityby admin | September 5, 2017
Nobody likes job searching. Nobody. The clumsy dance usually consists of trudging through sugarcoated job postings, polishing resumes, filling out seemingly endless applications, scheduling multiple pointless interviews, and eventually, if you are lucky, settling for a job that you aren’t excited about, at a company you never wanted to work for in the first place. The fact that the process usually takes two to three months does nothing to diminish the pain and frustration of prolonged insecurity, both financial and emotional. It’s like a slow-motion crapshoot of misery, and the odds are never stacked in our favor.
We have expectations that the process will produce consistent linear career growth, however, in application, our actual career path is not what we planned, expected, or even imagined. Often times it feels like our careers are the product of chance and timing. When we choose to march in the job search parade, luck becomes a huge factor.
So why is it that so many of us still choose to follow this cookie-cutter process without question? It couldn’t possibly be the only way to get a job. No one ever got ahead by waiting in line with everyone else, right?
There is a better way — a way for you to get the exact job that you want at the exact company where you want to work, regardless of your background or experience. The answer is to completely reject the standard hiring process, and to start career hacking. Throw out your resume and embrace your passions. It’s time to make your dream job a reality.
What does career hacking mean?
Step back for a second and think about the basic economics of why ‘jobs’ even exist. The reason a company can pay an employee in exchange for his or her work is because that work creates more value for the company than it costs. If an employee creates less value for the company than he costs, then the employee will be let go or the company will eventually fail.
The biggest fallacy about employment is that we need to be gainfully employed (‘job’) before we can create value (‘work’). Why do we think that having a job is a prerequisite for value creation? We tend to put the cart before the horse in this situation, and this mistake is killing us. It is time to put the cart back where it belongs. This is where career hacking comes in.
Career hacking isn’t about finding job openings. It isn’t about screwing someone over to take his or her job. It isn’t about who you know, or getting special treatment to fill that coveted role. Career hacking is about creating opportunity where it never existed in the first place. Once we have demonstrated that we are capable of creating value in an organization, then the job part takes care of itself.
Going above and beyond
I recently had a conversation about career paths with a friend who runs a private equity firm. His story was a great example of a simple career hack that really paid off. While in college he made a commitment to himself to have a career in investment banking, however, he didn’t come from an Ivy League school and the high level of competition prevented him from getting any job offers. Rather than giving up, he decided to take a different approach. He applied for a job in the mailroom at a mid-sized investment bank. This is how he got his foot in the door.
He showed up early for work everyday wearing a suit and tie, although his position only required him to dress business casual. He personally delivered the mail to the best of his ability, and focused on building rapport and quickly getting to know every employee on a first name basis. He stayed late every night helping research analysts with whatever they needed. Within a week he was doing research alongside them. It didn’t take long for the C-suite to learn about this determined young man, and before he knew it he was offered a higher position than the junior role he got rejected for a month prior.
Gaining access and creating value
There are only two main components involved in career hacking. The first is access. It’s about figuring out the path of least resistance to get your foot in the door. One of my early career hacks involved a startup in the water purification business. I believed in the company and wanted to work there, however, they were not hiring. I came up with a new strategy. I showed up to the office at 6:00am on Monday and parked in the spot next to the CEO. As expected, he was the first one to the office. I asked him if I could help with anything and everything — for free. He was apprehensive but couldn’t turn me away. This was my point of access; I got in the door, and became part of the company.
This brings me to the second component: value creation. My first day was spent cleaning plastic parts that had recently come out of an injection molding machine. It was not fun, but I did the best work that I was capable of doing. By day two, I was promoted to doing some simple assembly. Each day my responsibilities grew, and after a month I was acting as Director of Sales and Marketing (a position that didn’t exist yet). It took me a month to secure a paying job while the normal process could have taken up to six months. It was the exact job that I wanted at the exact company that I wanted to be part of. The reason why the job was created was because I was creating value where it had not previously existed.
I executed a similar career hack for my next job, and all of the jobs that I have held since. It’s actually how I got into college and grad school, but that is another blog story. The truth is that I have actually never filled out a job application, I don’t maintain a resume, and I barely use LinkedIn. I just figure out what works and get shit done.
Navigating the modern business environment
Figuring out what works and getting shit done is the recipe for successful career hacking in modern day business. Companies that fail to anticipate change and act quickly will be eaten by the companies that do. The days of writing fifty page business plans and holding annual strategic meetings are over. The business plan is now dynamic and strategic planning happens in real time. The time gap between discovering an opportunity and capitalizing on that opportunity is rapidly closing. Failure to close this gap results in loss of agility and an inability to compete effectively in the market.
This high speed environment has made the corporate hiring process completely obsolete. Think about the time it takes to discover the need for a position, recruit for that position, vet and groom the applicant pool, select the right person, and finally, train that employee. The process can take up to six months. By the time a person is actually creating value for the company, market conditions have changed and the company’s strategy has evolved. On top of this, the person may not be passionate about that role in the first place.
What a total waste of valuable time and resources. Whether you are hired to work in the mail room or to clean plastic parts, step into the role that you want and start creating value in real time. Automated, agile, on-demand staffing! Boom!
Finding your passion is key
At rhubarb, where I currently work, the three most important characteristics that we look for in a new hire are passion, problem solving, and skill. Talent and skill can be groomed and taught, however, passion is the one thing that can’t be injected into an employee and makes all the difference in value creation. Recruiting employees should be about attraction rather than promotion. This means that in an ideal world, employees find the company, not the other way around. They show up and want to work. Following your passion is, first and foremost, key to a fruitful career path.
Employment is becoming more and more nomadic. People are becoming less willing to stay in a position that they are not passionate about. The days of holding a job for a decade — or even a lifetime — are over. Currently, the average employee stays with his or her company for about two years. If it takes six months before you are yielding true productive value, it is likely that your net value creation for the company is negative. If you put yourself into your desired role from the beginning, then the net value creation will be positive from day one. Everyone wins.
Career hacking is the new normal. Individuals and organizations that fail to systematically embrace it will be unable to survive in an economic landscape that is constantly changing and demands real-time value creation above all else.
Co-Founder, ZB1 / NoName Ventures