Forever Employable – Jeff Gothelf

In this article I will review the book Forever Employable from Jeff Gothelf, with subtitle “How to stop looking for work and let your next job find you.”

Furthermore I will share complementary info about the Strategyzer webinar Forever Employable: How To Make Your Career Invincible’ with Alex Osterwalder and the Forever Employable Stories on Jeff’s Blog.

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Forever Employable Book Structure

The Strategyzer webinar of course reflects the contents of the book. Below you can see the five steps to becoming Forever Employable as chapters in the table of contents of the book.

#Chapter descriptionPage
00Foreword by Dorie ClarkV
01Introduction: Why We’re Gathered Here Today01
02My Story: Scared Shitless07
03Step 1: Plant a Flag15
04Step 2: Tell Your Story31
05Step 3: Follow the (New) Path43
06Step 4: Teach55
07Step 5: Give It All Away73
08Future-proof Your Career70
09In Closing83

Dorie Clark, Executive Education Faculty , Duke University kicks-off the book with a catching foreword. If you don’t know Dorie Clark, check out her about page. For me an essential sentence from the foreword is:

“It takes you—your willingness and commitment to putting in the hours required to build your expertise, your knowledge, your platform, and your standing in the community that you are gathering together.”

In the introduction chapter the five qualities to become Forever Employable (also in the webinar above) are briefly covered. Jeff Gothelf than tells his story and please note that story telling is also Step 2 from the FE model.

Step 1 – Plant a flag

From my point of view this is the most important, but also the most difficult chapter when it comes to personal development and becoming forever employable. Despite having gone through an MBTI Assessment, Big Five Personality Assessment, Willem Glaudemans Talentenspel v2.0, Gallup Strengthsfinder 2.0, Management Drives and a couple of other tests during my times at Microsoft and BCT Enterprise Information Management, I could learn a lot from this chapter.

Jeff Gothelf provides you with a three-step lightweight and agile process. Just like innovation experiments, make sure these are simple and low cost.

  1. Declare your Assumptions;
  2. Write Hypotheses;
  3. Run Experiments;

Plant a flag – Write Hypotheses

From innovation theory and the invincible company you simply know there is a conversion ratio when running explorative experiments, which potentially can be transformed into exploitative business. So also break-up your big career goals into smaller parts that you can run experiments against.

I believe that <this tactic/content/idea/service/etc.>

Provided to <target audience>

will <achieve this outcome>

I will know I am right when I see <these quantifiable changes in the behavior of my target audience>

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Plant a flag – Run experiments

In the run experiments section Jeff Gothelf advices to keep an eye on what’s going on in the world around you. More specific:

  • Trends
  • Technology
  • Opportunities
  • Your own expertise
  • The intersection of all these things

And on this intersection of things is where Jeff did plant his flag back in 2009, to become the Lean UX guy. 🙂 Closely related to the approach above of identifying experiments is the so called IKIGAI, which is a Japanese concept meaning “a reason for being”. IKIGAI is seen as the convergence of four primary elements:

  1. What you love (your passion)
  2. What the world needs (your mission)
  3. What you are good at (your vocation)
  4. What you can get paid for (your profession)

I hope you can see that both concepts have overlap and can complement each other. For a more extensive information please read the article: “Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life Might Just Help You Live a More Fulfilling Life”.  Also note that on you can find tools that will help you experiment canvas, storytelling canvas and the IKIGAI canvas.

Step 2 – Tell your Story

It is all about storytelling. Jeff Gothelf provides the easy building blocks of every good story (characters, plot and story arc) as well as “7 tips for giving the best presentation of your life.”

  1. Have an opinion
  2. Stay practical
  3. Keep it Genuine
  4. Write it down first
  5. Imagery over text
  6. Be funny
  7. Practice !

While it might seem simple to do, not everyone is comfortable enough to share stories in an easy and authentic way. This reminds me of a SlideShare from Alexander Osterwalder: “Good PPT Design!” that I’ve build-upon when I started creating PowerPoint decks. I’ve shared this SlideShare many many times … 🙂

The do this right now section of this chapter is focused not on just telling your story and having an opinion, but about joining and creating conversations. This section gives you a framework to gradually build an audience.

Step 3 – Follow the new path

In this chapter the efforts to follow a new path are described by Jeff. Also he decided to publish a book as part of the content-creation efforts. Since Jeff has experience in this area, he has some solid tips to get books in the hands of readers in order to build an grow a platform and thus a foundation of thought leadership. I won’t spoil all the details … so if your are interested go get the book.

The do this right now section of this chapter is even more interesting and gives you guidance in how you can move forward on this new path.

  1. Take the risk;
  2. Make bold asks;
  3. Reciprocate;
  4. Don’t be afraid to kill your darlings and reset;

So again actionable steps you can take.

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Step 4 – Teach

Being the son a math teacher, I’m probably biased through my genes. 🙂 However I’ve always shared my knowledge, experience and provided advice. In other words this is teaching and role modelling, just like I do with my daughter.

Jeff also shares that this step has most surprised him and most pleased him. Jeff also shares that he regularly teaches by the way of:

  • Workshops;
  • Conferences;
  • Meetups;
  • Webinars;
  • Podcasts;
  • Guest articles and interview;

For each of these teaching-mechanisms Jeff shares practical tips and logical goals, for example lead generation or opportunities for teaching or simply improve your own storytelling and presentation skills.

The do this right now section of this chapter, gives tips to become a better teacher.

  1. Identify key thought leaders in your space;
  2. Watch listen, read and see these leaders present;
  3. Make a list of techniques most effective;
  4. Eat your own dogfood by teach your material in the real world with real people;
  5. Rinse and repeat;

Step 5 – Give it all away

Well this final step is covered by a smaller chapter. “The right way to give it all away is to ensure that when you give away your content, your time or anything else of value, your create a positive outcome for building your personal brand.”

The do this right now section of this chapter, gives five tips as you get ready to give it all away:

  1. Aggregate everything;
  2. Update your social media profiles;
  3. Create a newsletter;
  4. Notify your social media contacts;
  5. Make a splash;
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Bonus Tools from Jeff Gothelf

Jeff Gothelf is not just delivering a book, but also complementary material. For me the tools are as important as the book itself.

  • Plant Your Flag Exercise with the Forever Employable Assumptions Canvas;
  • Building your Audience exercise;
  • Hypothesis Cards
  • Experiment Guide;

When you purchase the book simply head over to the website and submit the receipt, and the bonus material is being sent to you. The tools in the self guided workbook will help you in your process of letting the next job find you.

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Forever Employable Stories

If you think it stops with publishing a book, sharing knowledge in webinars and giving away bonus tool is enough, you are completely wrong.

Jeff Gothelf published Forever Employable Stories on his blog, interviewing a super interesting and diverse set of people who have valuable stories to share that reflect the main theme of being forever employable.

  • FE Stories:  Tendayi Viki, Innovation Consultant, Author and Professor;
  • FE Stories:  Alden Mills, Ex Navy Seal, Entrepreneur, Author & Speaker;
  • FE Stories:  Mathieu Bitton, Celebrity Photographer and Designer;
  • FE Stories:  Joel Hoekstra, Guitarist for Whitesnake;
  • FE Stories:  Alisa Cohn, #1 Startup Coach in the World;
  • FE Stories:  Lindsey Pollak, NYT Best Selling Author and Multi-Generational Work Expert;

Personally I think it is worth the time to read through the different stories, because it will give you inspiration and food for through when you are on your own journey of planting a new flag. Learn from others, who followed a similar path. 🙂

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Strategyzer Webinar Forever Employable: How to Make Your Career Invincible

“In this fun and interactive presentation Jeff Gothelf will share content from his upcoming book, […] , where he applies the principles of continuous learning, improvement, experimentation and agility to professional development and career growth. […]”

So let’s have a look at the content, and summarize the main knowledge. 🙂

Jeff states that career and professional development need to be treated as a product (and please don’t forget the experience of Jeff in the agile and ux world).

The mathematical formula is a matter of adding 5 (personal) qualities to 5 steps to becoming Forever Employable (= FE).

5 qualities to becoming Forever Employable

  1. Entrepreneurialism
  2. Self-confidence
  3. Continuous Learning
  4. Improvement
  5. Reinvention

Continuous Learning was labeled as the most important personal quality, and I also see this coming back in the book High Performance Habits of Brendon Burchard.

5 steps to becoming Forever Employable

  1. Plant a flag
  2. Tell your story
  3. Follow the new path
  4. Teach
  5. Give it all away

The steps to build an invincible career are covered in more detail in the section below. It is the essence of the book structure.

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Concluding thoughts and wrap-up

Jeff Gothelf and Alex Osterwalder organized an solid webinar that triggered me to follow the Forever Employable movement of Jeff Gothelf. After the webinar I joined the launch group and purchased the book to support him and the idea.

While the Strategyzer webinar was an excellent summary and overview, the Forever Employable book itself provided much more details and an easy to read storyline. Jeff also shared these details in a couple of webinars, so he definitely “practices what he preaches.”

What I like is that the Forever Employable book comes with bonus materials (tools you can use) as well as some inspirational Forever Employable Stories on his blog. The latest addition to the agile approach in which Jeff is building up his thought leadership is an educational program called: The Becoming Forever Employable Program.

From an approach or framework perspective it feels like I see similarities with the Disruption Mindset of Charlene Li. Especially the way of creating the movement … 🙂

The price point of the book is € 14,95 which is very very fair for the value you get. Book, bonus material and stories or blogposts. When you are in the process of pivotting your professional direction than this is a must have book to have in your collections. Simply because it gives straight forward and actionable tips & tricks.

Please check out my other book reviews and articles in the category personal development:Gallup StrengthsFinder 2.0 – Book review” and “Peter F. Drucker – Managing Oneself (Harvard HBR)” can help you with identifying your 5 qualities. 😉


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