As a coach, I read a lot of articles online and I’m seeing more and more ‘life hacks’ and all sorts of ‘hacks’ encouraging readers to believe they can significantly improve or change an area of their life if they adopt them. Hacks of any sort irritate me, although there may be a generational element – or even a certain old-fashionedness – to my loathing.
When I look at definitions of the word ‘hack’, I find a wealth of interesting ones: ‘a rough cut, blow or stroke’ as well as ‘an act of computer hacking’. The fact that the word has undergone a huge transformation points to the ever-increasing pervasiveness of technology and its associated lingo in our everyday lives. Generally, ‘hacking’ implies working through a problem by trial and error, often hoping for or finding a shortcut, without much regard to how often you fail before you succeed. It can also imply ‘breaking things’ to cut to the chase.
While in the tech world it’s undoubtedly a way to do things, can it be applied to life, and in particular, career choices and a longer-term career strategy?
Opting for a portfolio career or a gig career doesn’t mean that you have to live and work unconsciously and be tossed around by the waves of external circumstance and pure chance. Why not be clear on what you want, what you love and what makes you fulfilled and then pursue that? I will tell you why not – because it takes time and effort and involves assessing parts of your persona or character that you’d rather not, and often it takes you out of your comfort zone. You definitely cannot do this with a hack!
I sampled various articles and publications with titles like ‘The 9 things you can do to instantly turn around your career’ or ‘7 Secrets to success that are often overlooked’ etc, you get the gist. Some do offer genuinely interesting and fresh advice, but it seems call it a ‘hack’ to get more traffic to their article which devalues their content. Others supposedly offer new ideas – hacks, tips and tricks – but they appear to be tried and tested strategies ‘re-branded’ as hacks.
Sure, hacks are easy to apply (probably!) and may bring short-term relief and improvement. However, they totally ignore any deeper issues, limiting beliefs, entrenched habits or patterns of behaviour that require implementing a lasting change. And lasting change they do not bring. Let’s look at an area of life where people want speed or a hack, like weight loss More often than not, the weigh will return (yo-yo effect) just as quickly. When you treat just the symptom, the root cause will remain untouched and the quintessential problem unresolved.
Going back to that generational issue, I would like to ask Generation Y and Z whether they all want quick fixes, quick solutions, or hacks? This is what a young client recently told me, ‘I don’t believe in self-discovery. I look at my career the way I look at dating, you try and fail until you figure it out and find the right one.’ I am all for learning from failures, I truly am, but why switch through dozens of careers if you can learn what you want with just one or two. My young client didn’t realise that jumping around in her career, following opportunities without a clear direction and self-awareness would most likely result in a CV full of short bursts of employment or projects. No matter how much we are in the gig economy era, recruiters will still look with a suspicious eye at a CV which has a dozen or so stints of employment. This can seriously jeopardise your career prospects and your fulfilment in life.
If we avoid the deeper work on ourselves, we just skim the surface of life, deluding ourselves that this trick or that hack can sort us out. Taking shortcuts will inevitably prevent us from experiencing some of the most rewarding moments in life, deep learning which brings true fulfilment and growth. If you are using hacks as a starting point to explore the possibility of change – good for you! Don’t stop there, go deeper. Embrace life and growth with an open mind and open heart and your life will love you back.
Career Fulfilment Coach