By: Raghav Haran
The world is changing, and most of us aren’t adapting fast enough.
When I was in school growing up, it was a given that everyone should go to college. Everyone around us — our parents, teachers, the media, etc — told us that it was pretty much a requirement. And the subtext was that anyone who didn’t go would be a total loser in life.
And after college, we’re told to get a stable job. We’re told to be happy with whatever we can get. And we’re told to stick with it.
But this is terrible advice.
Don’t get me wrong. All this advice is given by good, well intentioned people. Nobody is trying to throw us off track.
And 20–30 years ago, this advice worked.
It was totally possible to go to a decent school, get good grades, and get a good job handed to you right afterwards. And then you could coast for years and years.
But this old way of doing things was actually bad for companies. There was a lot of “fluff” — a lot of employees who weren’t really adding value, but just showing up every day from 9–5 and collecting a check. They didn’t provide a good enough return on investment.
So companies started eliminating them.
Here’s a little secret that might blow your mind —
James Altucher wrote this in his bestselling book, Choose Yourself:
“I spoke with several CEOs around [the 2008 recession] and asked them point blank, ‘Did you fire people simply because this was a good excuse to get rid of the people who were no longer useful?’
Universally, the response was a nervous laugh and a ‘Yeah, I guess that’s right!’”
Very few people realize this.
The media talks about how companies had to resort to layoffs in 2008 because they ran out of money. And it’s true, quite a few of them did run out of money.
But many companies had TONS of money circulating at the top, but they decided only to give it to those who they thought deserved it. And used the recession as an excuse to eliminate the fluff.
And since that time, companies just aren’t hiring like they used to.
The criteria has shifted.
What companies are looking for has shifted.
The market has shifted.
Yet most career advice hasn’t shifted.
There is such a big gap between what we’re told to do and what we actually need to do to get what we want today.
So many of us did exactly what we were told. We went to college. Maybe we even went to grad school. We got good grades.
But years after we graduate, we’re like “wait… where’s all that success and happiness I was promised?”
We thought that if we just “checked the boxes” and did what we were told to do, we would get the type of jobs we wanted.
The truth is, people who expect to be able to “coast” are screwed.
When a company hires you, you’re a big expense to them. They have to pay for your salary, your benefits, your bonus, and miscellaneous expenses like your computer, office space, training, and the server space you take up.
The problem is that many of the employees who coast aren’t generating good enough ROI. And these days, the mechanisms for determining who’s generating good ROI and who isn’t are getting better and better.
So people who are just showing up and clocking in everyday are slowly getting eliminated. And it’s becoming harder for them to find great new jobs if they can’t prove that they can generate ROI.
Many of us are slowly waking up to this new reality.
The “new economy” is more of a hyper meritocracy, as Taylor Pearson says.
And as a result, it’s becoming harder and harder for people to land their dream job if they’re not insanely proactive.
But people who are proactive have more opportunities than ever before.
If you can prove that you can generate ROI, there’s virtually no limit on the number of opportunities you can get. In fact, you can even get jobs you’re unqualified for.
How to land your dream job in the “new economy”
1. Prove that you can do the job beforehand.
The best way to prove you can generate ROI is by actually doing the job in advance.
For example — if you’re a sales person, try sell some of the company’s products in advance and tell them about it. Or write a cold email pitch. Or if you’re a designer, run a usability test on a company’s product and send them design suggestions.
When I was applying for a design role at Shutterstock, I came up with some ideas for how they could improve a feature.
And they ended up creating a position for me in a department that wasn’t planning on hiring.
I did the same thing for Quora. The director of product design emailed me the next day to schedule an interview.
Charlie Hoehn used a similar approach to get dream jobs created for him out of thin air working alongside bestselling authors like Tim Ferriss as a marketer and videographer.
Noah Kagan got a job as the director of marketing at Mint.com by sending the CEO a 90 day plan of what he would do if he got the job.
The point is to get as close as you can to actually generating ROI for the company.
That way, not only will you remove all doubt that you’re the person they should work with, but it becomes virtually a no-brainer to work with you.
2. Get results, and then talk about it
During student elections in high school, some of my friends and I used to say things like “it’s only the popular kids who win”, “the people who could actually do good work don’t get noticed.”
As if everybody was supposed to somehow recognize the ability of every kid who never speaks up.
Jay Abraham, the legendary copywriter and marketer, says that you need to teach people to appreciate your work. They won’t do it on their own.
Even if we work hard and produce great results, we can’t expect our boss to magically take notice and give us all the recognition. If we’re doing good work, we need to tell them about it.
There are three key steps to becoming virtually indispensable:
1) Figure out what metric your boss cares about the most. At any given time, there are multiple different things that everyone thinks they should be working on. For example, as a designer, you could be designing beautiful icons, or you could be redesigning the buying process to skyrocket revenue. Which one does your boss think is the most important?
2) Grow the hell out of that metric. Some of the most successful people I know align themselves as closely with the bottom line as possible. Even if your role isn’t directly related to sales, there’s always a way for your contribution to be quantified. Ask your boss what the most ideal quantifiable results would be, and blow past those numbers.
3) Let it be known. It could be as simple as a quick email — “Hey [boss], we chatted a few months ago about the primary metric I should be focusing on. To recap my progress, I grew [metric] by [number]. Just thought you’d like to know!”.
One of the most important steps to craft an incredible career is to tie yourself to at least one important metric, skyrocketing it, and then making sure that everybody knows it.
3. Focus on your behavior first, not your mentality
As time passes, we become more and more risk averse.
And it makes sense. Doing everything we thought we “should” do and still not getting results can take a hit on our confidence.
We become more and more afraid of wasting time. We’d rather continue doing something we KNOW doesn’t work rather than try something new that MIGHT not work — because we’re afraid of being disappointed yet again.
But the secret to overcoming this is not focusing on boosting your confidence.
It’s getting results.
If something you’re doing isn’t working, try another approach. It doesn’t matter if you’re discouraged. It doesn’t matter if you don’t think it’s going to get you results. It doesn’t matter how you feel.
Do it anyway.
As results slowly start to build up, you’ll have reason to be confident. You’ll slowly start to think of yourself as the type of person who could have an incredibly successful, satisfying career.
And from there, it’ll snowball into greater things than you could ever imagine.
Like this post? In my private email list, I share specific strategies to help you:
- Figure out what your dream job is
- Make the right connections without coming off as “salesy” (even if you live in the middle of nowhere)
- Craft your application in such a way that the hiring manager can’t ignore you (even if you’re underqualified)
- Crush every interview
- And much more
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