How to Be a Career Hacker

Are you a Career Hacker?

We define Career Hacking as identifying and executing the most direct path to launching a thriving career or startup both at home and abroad.

What does this really mean, though?

Like Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do, Career Hacking is not a rigid set of tactics and strategies, per se. Although there is a range of very specific techniques that one uses within the context of Career Hacking, it is more of a philosophy with guiding thoughts about approaching one’s career or business. Above all, you should seek the simplest, most effective, and most direct path to break through the barriers that hold you back from your goals.

Bruce Lee
Bruce Lee believed in balance: take what works, discard what doesn’t.


We live in a world that is stifled by bureaucracy, redundancy, and obsolete systems. While there is a place for organization in our world, when you are an outsider looking to get hired at a company, this order is of little value to you. The artificial walls that have been constructed to eliminate you from the recruitment/acceptance process anywhere – whether it be university, entry level jobs, business partnerships, or the line at the club – can all be reverse engineered and optimized for the results you want.

Let’s review some examples.

You want to get hired for a full time job in Seoul. However, you face a seemingly insurmountable list of obstacles.

  • You do not speak Korean
  • You are currently in California
  • You don’t know anyone in Korea
  • You have never been to Korea
  • Your work experience will not transfer well to Korea because it is in an industry like US politics or Teach for America
  • You are short on cash

And so on and so forth.

In essence you are a broke 25 year old American with a bachelors degree in a “useless” subject like Polisci or History. What to do?

Reverse engineer the result you are looking for. Always start with the end in mind. You want a position with a title like “associate”, “analyst” or “consultant”…..does that sound about right?

Break things down; simplify the situation.
Try to break your goals down into simpler forms.


Due to the obstacles listed above, you do not have an existing network in Korea and the risk of showing up with no options is highly risky. You do not speak Korean and can’t prove your worth in the job market compared to local graduates who are native-level-fluent in Korean. Moreover, you have no idea where to begin with searching for jobs. You scour through job postings listed online but all of them demand native fluent speakers who have more work experience than you who also do not need visa sponsorship. The situation is looking a bit grim.

If you find yourself in this spot, you might not be able to get hired right off the bat. Here’s one low-risk way to hack this situation:

  • Become TEFL/TESOL certified
  • Come to Korea and become an English teacher
  • You will be provided a work visa, housing, and stipend
  • Now that you are physically on the ground, you can build a network and learn Korean
  • 3-6 months into your experience, compile a list of companies that you know offer junior-level positions to expats
  • Connect to managers at these companies on linkedin and express your interest in an internship
  • Intern for several months while continuing to work your day job as an English teacher
  • Once the company is familiar with you and you are rooted into their daily operations, go for a full time offer

This strategy takes patience and obviously quite some time and effort. However, if you are really starting from zero, you will need to build a foundation for yourself. As noted, being physically on the ground in whatever country you want to work in will be incredibly important, and even more so if it is developing.

A career hack for someone who is more experienced might be more short term and logistical. Let’s say that a 28-year-old American just graduated from UCLA’s business school and speaks proficient Mandarin. This person wants to get hired in Beijing but doesn’t have a network there and doesn’t want to commit to the trip without several interviews lined up. The career hack he can use here is to identify UCLA alums in Beijing through his network and get in touch with them to see if he can source interview opportunities. Moreover, he can directly get in touch with hiring managers through cold calling or linkedin and request a skype interview while he is still in Los Angeles. By conducting a round of first-round phone interviews before booking his tickets and visa, he can mitigate the risk that he would otherwise be taking by flying to Asia before having legitimate opportunities available.

We often hear expatriate careerists describe their career path as a random and chaotic series of serendipitous events. However, if you take a closer look, you’ll notice that there are critical people they met and special situations that moved them forward, seemingly without their knowledge. When career hacking the international job search, it’s important to understand what barriers and obstacles you face and how you can systematically move past them.

It’s critically important to identify the main events, obstacles, decision-makers, and potential competition you will have for what you want to accomplish. You can thus prepare yourself for those pivotal moments and hack the system so that you can place yourself in an advantageous position to take action when necessary.