The term “growth hacking” was coined about five years ago by marketing guru Sean Ellis, and it refers to a multi-step process used to create growth and increase sales for a company.
As it turns out, though, growth hacking isn’t just for organizations. The concepts behind growth hacking can actually be very useful for job seekers, too.
For example, here are five ways you can growth hack your way to career success in 2016:
1. Identify Your Target Market
If you are looking for a job, your financial concerns – and other factors – can make it tempting to cast a wide net. The only problem is that, in doing so, you won’t be giving yourself the best possible chance at success.
Instead, you should follow the example of growth hacking marketers, who ask themselves valuable questions like, Which demographic is most likely to be interested in my product? and Which demographic, when pursued, will be most valuable to the company?
As a job seeker, you should do the same thing. Which companies or industries can offer you the best opportunities for career growth? Which jobs will allow you to develop a professional profile that will get the attention of the influencers in your niche? Answer these questions, and then target that demographic when you’re on the job hunt.
2. Refine Your Skill Set to Meet Current Market Demands
After you define your target market, your next step is to hone your skill set to meet the demands of that market. Basically, that means you have to figure out what the employers in your target market are looking for in an employee, and then you have to become the candidate who embodies those skills and characteristics.
To do this, you’ll need to engage in some objective self-evaluation to find out which hard and soft skills you possess, which ones you need to develop, and how you can go about developing them. Specifically, you should pursue the skills that are most likely to bring you success, most likely to have a positive impact on your job search, and most “doable” (meaning these skills should be ones that you can realistically acquire, given your resources).
3. Hustle Your Way into Gaining Experience and Exposure
If you were a product, this is the stage whereat your growth hacking manager would begin taking steps to get you noticed. Because you’re a job seeker, this means it’s time for you to get over anything remotely resembling shyness and put yourself out there.
Talk your way into shadowing somebody in your industry for a day. Find yourself a temporary position in the industry during a busy season. Volunteer your talents at a relevant nonprofit. Help someone out with a difficult project. These sort of experience-building actions will seriously raise your profile with potential employers.
To gain exposure, publish links to your online portfolio on your blog. Share your personal achievements on social media and keep your LinkedIn profile updated with awards, promotions, and projects you’ve worked on.
Hustling is strategic. You can’t just show up and demand an internship, for example. You have to think about what a potential employer needs. What are they lacking, and how can you help them fill that hole?
4. Create Appeal by Developing Your Personal Brand
Personal branding is complex, but it’s also extremely important. Branding is about the emotional and almost subconscious connections that people begin to make when they think about you.
To create your personal brand, you have to figure out what differentiates you from any other person in your niche. Then, you need to use these differentiators as a way to appeal to potential employers.
For example, do you possess any certain skills that are especially hard to find in your industry? Play these skills up on your social media profiles. Make it so that the first thing employers think about when they hear your name is your very unique skill set.
5. Be Prepared to Embrace Change – Even the Painful Kind
Growth hacking your career requires that you be willing to accept change, and not all of that change will be particularly pleasant.
For one, growth hacking your career usually involves introducing some unpredictability and instability into your life. You cannot growth hack your career while you hang on to a steady, well-paying day job. You need to make a leap of faith, in the sense that you have to through yourself wholeheartedly into your endeavor.
Growth hacking will also open you up to many frustrations and rejections, but the risk is definitely worth the reward. When you land that perfect new job, all the difficult times will melt away, and you’ll be right where you always wanted to be.