How to be Forever Employable with Author Jeff Gothelf

Summary

Mike welcomes Jeff Gothelf, author of Forever Employable: How to Stop looking for Work and Let Your Next Job Find You.Jeff starts by talking about his early days in rock’n’roll and Web 1.0. Leading a design team in the early days, he and his team had to find a way to match their processes to the then ascendent agile software development process. Jeff was then able to leverage this new approach into a book, Lean UX, and from there into teaching.  

More recently, he has responded to his audience by expounding on a “continuous pull” model of letting clients come to you. You need to establish credibility with your audience, and then frequently and consistently provide them with what they want, adapting to the signals they send you.

Jeff elaborates on finding the right focus, and how you can deal with “imposter syndrome” by just “shipping it”. Jeff also notes how you can learn from thought leaders both within your field and beyond. Mike asks about the future, and Jeff says he plans to continue deeper into the “creator economy”. He finishes explaining how Forever Employable can provide you the freedom to work when and how you want.

If you like what you’re hearing, follow us at TrendinginEducation.com and wherever you get your podcasts.

Read more in the show notes.


Episode References

Abrams, A. (2018, June 20). Yes, Impostor Syndrome is Real. Here’s How to Deal With It. Time. https://time.com/5312483/how-to-deal-with-impostor-syndrome/
Castro, F. (2016, February 29). OKR: Learn Google’s Goal System with Examples and Templates. Felipe Castro - OKR Trainer, Speaker, Author. https://felipecastro.com/en/okr/what-is-okr/
Gothelf, J. (2020). Forever Employable: How to Stop Looking for Work and Let Your Next Job Find You (1st edition). Gothelf Corp.
Gothelf, J. (2020, September 28). 12+ Icebreakers to kick off your next zoom meeting. Jeff Gothelf. https://jeffgothelf.com/blog/12-icebreakers-to-kick-off-your-next-zoom-meeting/
Gothelf, J., & Seiden, J. (2016). Lean UX: Designing Great Products with Agile Teams (2nd edition). O’Reilly Media.
Maltby, J., & Flybridge. (2020, September 22). The Rise of the Creator Economy. Medium. https://medium.com/@flybridge/the-rise-of-the-creator-economy-7ee5ff32977f

Show Notes

Mike welcomes Jeff Gothelf, author of Forever Employable: How to Stop looking for Work and Let Your Next Job Find You.  Jeff talks about how he arrived at this point:  early rock’n’roll years, and then working as a designer in the primeval days of the Web.  At that time, Agile had taken over software development; Jeff and his team had to adapt their process to meet the needs of the developers.  He shared their solution in his first book, Lean UX.

[00:03:02] Mike and Jeff note that Agile has now spread far beyond even product development.  Jeff now does similar work at the organizational level.  Once the book was published, Jeff found himself called upon to teach the material in it.  He had never taught, but with help learned how to do so.  Jeff then went on to publish 3 more books, extending what he had learned.

[00:06:40] Forever Employable came about when people started asking Jeff how he had built his speaking and publishing career.  The book covers his career post-35-years-old and posits a “continuous pull” model of building a stream of inbound opportunities.  He notes that those who have followed this model have done well, even in the face of the pandemic.

[00:10:12] Jeff recommends that you use the tools available today to build your public credibility. He also suggests you find opportunities to teach what you know.  You can do this part-time, and the key is to be generous with your community.  

[00:13:30] Jeff admits there is some risk in this, and notes the ways you can use Lean and Agile in promoting yourself as a product.  Writing hypotheses regarding what you will achieve can help.  You want to focus not just on output, but outcome:  focus on the behavioral change you observe in your audience.  

[00:16:31] Explaining that he was first concerned about abandoning design work for his new career focus, Jeff still felt that the market was signaling that this was a good choice.  He explains that it is important not simply to focus on the work that you like, but on what your audience appreciates.  You must let go of what doesn’t work for them, and embrace what does.

[00:20:45] Mike asks how you might speak to an audience of educational professionals.  Jeff explains that you need to use those tools and platforms that are popular in your community, whatever that is.  Finding the proper focus–neither too wide nor too narrow–is key.  Then consistency and frequency of effort are required.  And, in the spirit of generosity, do some free work to build that audience.

[00:23:21] Mike and Jeff elaborate on the importance of metrics such as OKRs.  And Jeff goes on to explain how you can borrow from exemplars both within your community and without–for instance, from exceptional YouTubers.  They then discuss the imposter syndrome, and how Jeff believes the only solution is to “Ship it!”  Quantity prevails over quality.  

[00:26:27] Mike asks for a clarification of the relative value of Lean vs. Agile vs Design Thinking; Jeff notes he wrote a short book of that title.  Mike wants to know where Jeff is headed next; Jeff says he’s going deeper into the “creator economy”. Mike asks if Jeff has preferred platforms, and Jeff notes that you should use the tools embraced by your audience, and then try to move people to your own website, email list, etc.  Platforms that you control.

[00:31:28] For a final thought, Jeff notes that following his plan in Forever Employable puts you in control of your career.  If you put in the work, you get to make some decisions about how you spend your time.

If you like what you’re hearing, follow us at TrendinginEducation.com and wherever you get your podcasts.

Transcript

Mike Palmer: Welcome to “Trending in Education”. Mike Palmer here. I’m delighted to be joined by coach, consultant, and author of a recent book that’s really interesting for those of us trying to track where the world of work is going and how we can remain relevant.

The book’s called Forever Employable. The author is Jeff Gothelf. Jeff, welcome to “Trending in Education”. 

Jeff Gothelf: Thanks, Mike, it’s a pleasure to be here.

Mike Palmer:  It’s a pleasure to have you. You’ve written several books and I’ve been exposed to them in several contexts, so good job by you on that front.

We’d love to get a perspective to start on our guest’s origin story.  And I know that’s a big part of Forever Employable because in many ways you’re the protagonist of that book. Can you share with us what got you to this point in your professional life and why that might be relevant to our audience?

Jeff Gothelf: Absolutely.  After college, I had a brief stint as a wanna be rockstar, and touring in bands around the East coast of the United States that quickly failed–as most of those things do. And I ended up working in the Web. This is the late 90s, and in the late 90s, if you could spell HTML, you could get a job.

And so I was always gravitating towards computers anyway, as a kid. I found myself doing front-end design and development in the Web 1.0 world and the original .com world. Which was a really fantastic time to be working in technology because nobody knew what they were doing. I had no idea what I was doing. And we learned on the client’s dime.  I worked at an agency and the clients threw so much money at this internet thing. 

And so we learned a lot. We learned a ton. I learned a ton. I spent a decade doing design and as the Web became more interactive and more robust,  the nature of the design work that I was doing became more interesting: interaction design, user experience design.

And about 10 years into my career, I found myself managing a team in New York, actually at a company at that time called The Ladders, managing a design team. And struggling with figuring out how to do modern software design with modern software development.  The nature of modern software development has been changing radically over the last  20 years overall, but really the last 5 to 10, it’s really taken on a whole new way of working and with Agile software engineering. That’s the big trend. 

Design never originally was conceived as part of this new way of working. And so my job was to build my team and figure out how to make design work in this new world.  We spent a couple of years figuring this out inside the organization, outside the organization, and when we figured out a solution that worked for us, I began writing about it.

And sharing it, and speaking about it, because I knew this was a challenge, but not just us, but for other folks around the world. 

So I basically began to export it out from the internal work that we were doing. That turned into my first book. The book was called Lean UX–user experience. And I wrote that with my longtime co-author and collaborator Josh Seiden. And I’m also based in Brooklyn. And  writing that first book really changed my life.  Lean UX came out in March of 2013. It’s been almost eight years now. 

Mike Palmer: Just to jump in: that book was very prescient as well. Because you were able to identify the opportunity to extend Lean and Agile into design at a relatively early stage.  We’re a trend spotting show, so I’m just reinforcing your bona fides on that spot. In some ways maybe you caught a trend, in some ways maybe you even helped accelerate a trend.

I think for our listeners, who may be interested in learning and education, something I’ve seen much more of late is Agile and Lean practices now extending into higher ed, and extending into other areas of education. So I think there’s a lot to be learned around what led to you identifying this trend, writing a book about it. And in some ways that’s set the table  for the rest of your story. 

Jeff Gothelf: For us, in 2008, 09, 10, 11, 12, this was a necessity.  The software engineering team was starting to work this way. And because Agile came from software engineers, they had a recipe, so they could follow that recipe. We had to figure out how to insert ourselves into that recipe successfully.

So the work that we were doing there, it came out of the necessity of simply doing our jobs with our colleagues in a way that made sense for everybody involved. Now what’s interesting, is that you’re right:  the scope of Agile has actually broadened significantly.  Today, I find myself doing very similar type of work like I was doing with my design team in 2008, 2009, 2010, but I work either at the organizational level or I work with learning and development inside the organization: HR, finance, legal, sometimes certain markets or non- product disciplines applying these same ideas because they are applicable.

Lean UX— it’s really done well, and really created a movement around the book and a new way of thinking about design. And that really changed what I was doing professionally. All of a sudden, instead of actually doing the work, I was being asked to teach the work.

So I began teaching the work. I didn’t know how to do it. I had no formal training.  I recall the first time I ever had to teach a class about Lean UX. I had no idea how to do it. I worked with the organizer of the event who hired me to do this, and I was upfront with him. I said, “Listen, you’re hiring me to teach a full day class about this topic.

I don’t know how to do it.” And he said,  “Okay. I’ll walk it through with you and I’ll help you.”   I’ll never forget that; I’m super grateful to him to this day. 

And that was the first time that I led a room through a course that I designed. And since then, largely that’s what I’ve been doing is I’ve been teaching the material, consulting and coaching, getting more material, and then building courses on top of that. 

Since Lean UX, I’ve published three more books. So the next book after that was a book called Sense and Respond. That was a business book that Josh and I wrote to broaden the conversation. So we talked about, “Hey, we’re talking about software development in Lean UX. How do we broaden the conversation to the entire organization?”  And Sense and Respond was really that aspect of it.

And then we began to teach that material. I wrote a little pamphlet, a very short book, 6,000 words. So a long essay called Lean versus Agile versus Design Thinking. And that really helped us prove out a model for a publishing business that Josh and I had been running for a while called, Sense and Respond Press.

And the most recent is Forever Employable. And Forever Employable is really interesting because  over the years, as I’ve been building  my business–I’ve been self-employed now for 5 years– my personal brand, my network, my platform, my reputation. 

Mike Palmer:  I like to use the word oeuvre. Your oeuvre. I know you’re in Barcelona, so I was trying to try to add a little bit of Continental flavor.  

Jeff Gothelf: Thank you. I appreciate that.  And so  regularly, it happens weekly for the last several years, I get inbound email, or comments, or tweets or whatever they say, “Hey, Jeff, how did you get that speaking gig?

Or how’d you get a book deal? Or how did you do this? Or how did you get that?” So this is a signal coming in from my audience that’s telling me that there’s demand for this content.

And so I decided to write a relatively short book about how I built my business and how I’ve become, what I call forever employable. And fundamentally, if you boil it down to the elevator pitch, it’s the subtitle of the book, How to Stop Looking for Work and Let Your Next Job Find You.  What I’ve worked hard to do in the last 10 years or so is to reverse the dynamics of employment,  the traditional employment model is a push model. You’re pushing yourself into the market, you’re pushing yourself into opportunities, and then you leave the results of this in the hands of other people.

I wanted to create a pull model, a continuous pull model, so that any given moment, my brand, my platform is attracting opportunities towards me. So that no matter what happens to work that I’m doing, employed full time or consulting or whatever it is, there’s always a flow, a steady stream of inbound opportunities. So that I’ve got this kind of career safety net. If one client goes away, there’s three others in the inbox, that type of thing. And so that’s what the book is about. 

As you said, I’m the protagonist in that. It’s a semi-autobiographical story starting on the day I turned 35.  If you want to find out what happened before I turned 35, you’ve got to ask me, but from 35 on, it’s in the book. And then other people’s stories as well, lots of case studies to prove that this isn’t like just another tech bro, talking about this kind of stuff.  This is stuff that lots of people have done, different kinds of people in different industries, in different ways.

And it’s a viable way to rethink your career and really recapture control of it and reduce the stress, especially  in these uncertain times. My goal is really to help folks reduce the stress of employment and employability because, hey, pandemic hit a year ago and a lot of people lost their jobs. The people who have done well in the pandemic or the people who do what I talk about in the book. It’s not to say that other people haven’t done well, but the people that I know that do, what I talk about in the book have survived. And in a lot of cases, thrived in the pandemic as well. And so I’m hoping that the book helps folks.

Mike Palmer: It’s a fantastic read. It’s a really relevant topic, particularly for a lot of the reasons you were describing. One of the trends that we’ve been tracking on the show is resilience and also antifragility, which is the other flavor of it is folks who thrive in disruptive environments.

Can you talk a little bit about how some of the recommendations in here and some of your insights can help folks become more resilient and start to thrive in somewhat chaotic times. What types of tactics or mindsets you think are relevant for folks to take away from this conversation. Clearly, they need to go out and grab this book,

But in addition to the book, anything you can share around shifts of your mindset or your approach to your professional life,, that will help you  weather some of the tumult that we’re all living through these days. 

Jeff Gothelf:  I think we have a tremendous opportunity today with the tools that are available to literally everybody.

So first of all, you have an opportunity  to share your story, your experience, and your expertise broadly in a variety of different ways. In the ways that best suit you, best suit the people that you’re trying to reach with that conversation. And what that does is it starts to build your credibility publicly.

It’s not to say that you’re not credible today. But if nobody knows about you, then you have to prove yourself every single time that you seek a new job, a new opportunity, a teaching gig, whatever it is. So by sharing your story, by telling your story, you start to build that public credibility and that reputation, that network and that audience.

So that’s the first opportunity and there’s a lot of noise out there but nobody has your story. Nobody has done the things that you’ve done in the way that you’ve done them. So your perspective is the thing that you want to share  the steps that you’ve taken to get where you are today.

The other opportunity is teaching. There’s a whole section in the book called,”Teach”. And for me again, 15 years ago, if you ever said, “Jeff, what are you gonna be when you grow up?”  I guarantee you 100% the last thing that would have come to mind would have been “teacher”. Because it just didn’t dawn on me that that was something that either that I was good at, or that even played a role in my career path that I had envisioned for myself when I was in my thirties.

Today, I’m a teacher. You asked me what I do for a living. I teach every day, like I’m teaching right now in this conversation. That’s the way that I see it.  There are so many opportunities to teach today, from live webinars to completely self-service courses on services like Udemy and Treehouse and that type of thing. You can write books, you can self publish those books.

There are so many opportunities for you to be able to share your expertise. To again, build not only an audience and a reputation, but also a secondary revenue stream. You don’t have to quit your day job to do this. And eventually if this starts to build you, you can actually shift from maybe full-time employment or that, to this other stuff, if you want to.

But the idea here is there’s a giving back mentality. So the last step in the book that I talk about is the generosity of giving back and giving a lot of your expertise away for free, and then thinking logically.  Eventually, you create some opportunities to monetize some of that expertise.  What I found is that the more generous that you are to your community, so your target audience, the more they repay you in the future.

Mike Palmer: Yeah.  The world has changed in that respect too. Where in many ways your audience is driving. I was struck by that too, where on the one hand the importance of storytelling to remaining relevant and getting out ahead of trends and staying employable. And then also thinking about yourself almost as a product and leveraging some of the Lean practices and the Design Thinking that you and others have taught us all to think about–software products, and then UX, and these other things. In many ways in the modern workforce, we need to think of ourselves to some extent as a product and then get the story so that  people understand what that product is. 

Jeff Gothelf: Look, there’s risk in this, right? So  people listen to it and say, “Jeff, that’s nice, but I have a full-time job and I have a family. And if I sneak away to do this, or I invest my time, what if my boss sees it? ” And that type of thing. There’s a risk, a hundred percent, right? There’s risk in making the shift. And especially if you don’t already have a following or an audience or a network, and you’re starting from zero, there’s a lot of work to be done. No doubt about it.

And so these Agile and Lean principles work equally as well here, because what you’re ultimately doing is you’re building a service. The service that you’re building is the sharing and monetization, ultimately, of your expertise. The book talks about writing hypotheses about how you think you’re going to reach an audience. What you’re going to provide, what format you’re going to provide it in, who you’re going to provide it for. And how do you know that it’s working?  What are the behavior changes that you want to see in your target audience? 

So for example, one of the fundamental practices that I talk about in my day-to-day job, which is product development and coaching of Agile teams, is that the production of the product is not a measure of success. Just because you made a thing doesn’t mean that it’s a good thing.  We call that output. The thing that you’re actually looking to generate is outcome. You’re looking  generate a measurable change in the behavior of the people who are consuming, the thing that you’re making, 

The same holds true here. Producing the book, producing the blog post, producing the podcast, or the online course is not a measure of success. Did anybody listen? Did anybody download, did anybody share with their friends? Did they come back and listen to two podcasts episodes?  

And so we set those success criteria, which is actually liberating because it gives you the opportunity to then explore different approaches. You’re giving yourself the okay to say, “I did it this way. And five people listened to my podcast. So let me try something else”. It makes it okay to be like, “I did that. Okay. Eight people listened that time. Okay. That’s good. That’s  60% improvement. We’re doing great.”  It gives you the permission to continue to iterate and explore and make things better and move things forward. 

As you’re holding yourself accountable to these metrics of behavior, rather than the production  of course, you have to make stuff.  But the idea is that you don’t spend too much time on it until you can prove that this is a viable channel, that’s a viable format, that there’s an audience there.  All the same principles that I work with teams who build digital products and services apply here to this content service, this education service that you’re building.

Mike Palmer:  Yeah. And what struck me there, and it was challenging for me thinking about it on the product development side, was letting go of things that I thought we’re valuable and pivoting based on those inputs that you’re describing. It does seem as though it’s almost the harder part of your lesson is learning to let go of things that may not be working, because I think a lot of us tend to hold them more closely when we feel at risk or threatened. Can you talk a little bit about the courage it takes and how to let go of things that you may in your heart of hearts think work? 

Jeff Gothelf: Yeah. there’s really two sides to that answer. The First side is about your current work and your current job and your current employment situation. 10 years into my career, I was a designer. That’s what I did. That’s what I was good at. That’s how people knew me. That’s what it said on my resume. I was managing a design team. I had enough credibility to lead other designers, and that’s what I was doing. 

After I wrote Lean UX. I began to get pulled away from day-to-day design work. Somebody asked me the other day if I was still doing UX consulting. And it’s been a really long time since I designed an actual digital product. I’ve designed lots of things: courses and classes and talks and whatever–organizations–but an actual digital product. It’s been a long time. That terrified me.

As I was being pulled away to do this teaching stuff, I was already worried that I was not going to be employable for very much longer as a design leader. However, as I was being pulled away from design, I was terrified to let that go because that was my income, that was my identity.  So that was the first thing that really was tough to let go. But there was such a clear inbound signal from the market to me, that there was an appetite for this content, that I took the risk and I jumped.

So that’s  one side of the answer to your question. The other side is once you start doing this thing where you’re like, “Okay, look, I’m going to create a reputation for myself, some social proof that I’m smart and that I know what I’m talking about.” So you start to write, or you start to create some short videos, or maybe some presentations or whatever it is.

And then no one pays any attention to it. So you poured your heart into a blog post, and seven people read it and 4 of them share the same last name as you. It’s stuff like that. You made a video and it got two views and one of them was you. That kind of thing. And it’s soul-crushing. It sucks. I hate it. I love my ideas. Everyone loves their ideas. I love the things that I produce; I take pride in them. Doesn’t matter how long I spend on them. I take pride in them and sometimes they don’t work. Nobody reads the blog post, or not enough people buy tickets to the workshop.

At some point, you have to listen to  what your target audience is telling you in those situations. And what the market and your audience is telling you is that they don’t want this. You might think it’s awesome, but they don’t want it.

And so you’ve got to let it go. Look, go talk to them and understand why they don’t want this.  That’ll give you a better sense of what they do want. 

But then let it go. That frees up cycles for you to do the next thing.  “Kill your darlings,” you’ve maybe heard that phrase,  I’ve been doing this, I’ve been working this way and teaching this way of working now for probably 15 years. And it’s the toughest part. The toughest part is letting go of your ideas because your ideas are awesome. My ideas are awesome.  And people who don’t like him are stupid.  They don’t know, they don’t get it.  

You have to let it go. And it’s hard. It’s really hard. I blog every week. Every Monday morning, there’s a blog post that comes up there. Some of the blog posts  that I write. I’m like, “Man, that’s a really good one.” And then, relatively speaking, nobody reads it. And I tweet about it, and I LinkedIn about it, and nobody reads it. And then I posted this thing like a month ago. That  was just this crowdsourcing piece that I wrote. “12 Icebreakers to Kick off Your Next Zoom Meeting.”  Five times more popular than anything I’ve ever written in the last year, and I spent 15 minutes together. 

Mike Palmer: We might need to bring you back for that one. Because I think I may want to borrow from what you’ve learned from your audience. 

If folks want to find your blog, Jeff, or they want to track you or understand any of this stuff. Where should they go? 

Jeff Gothelf: Jeffgothelf.com. So that’s really the easiest place to go. And then LinkedIn is really good too. All my links are there as well.  Those two destinations are great.  

Mike Palmer: You did mention in addition to the book being out that you’re running some workshops for Forever Employable. We’ll share all this out in the show notes, but just while we’re talking, where should folks go if they want to track any of that stuff down around Forever Employable. 

Jeff Gothelf:  Foreveremployable.com will get you to the book website. Obviously everything’s on jeffgothelf.com.

And if you’re curious about the workshop, you can go to becomingforeveremployable.com, which is a 10- week course. We’re in the middle of the cohort right now. The next one kicks off in April. So there’s still time to join, and there’s always limited capacity. 

Mike Palmer: Great stuff.  I was struck by the importance of teaching. You just mentioned it. And I think a lot of our listeners are, if not teachers, they’re likely teacher-adjacent.  You have specific advice for folks who are in the education community? I like to call them learning professionals.  If you are someone who’s made a career in education, whether you’re a teacher or an instructional designer or someone who’s in ed tech, or in administration anywhere across the spectrum, if you’re in learning and talent at an organization–anything that you think is specifically resonant to that audience>

Jeff Gothelf: Absolutely. Look, every industry has a community,  And every community has leaders in that community, thought leaders, experts, the people that you look up to. The ability today to become one of those leaders, to become present in that conversation, is easier than ever,  But it does take effort. It takes effort, it takes consistency. 

The first part of the book is called “Plant Your Flag.” And really it’s the first exercise that I recommend, which is to decide what you want to be known for in your community. What do you want to build your reputation around? An exercise in right-sizing the flag that you’re going to build as the foundation for your reputation and your network. You don’t want to go too broad, but “education” is enormous, huge, enormous, right? It’s just way too broad, way too generic. You don’t want to go too narrow, which is “German language education for veterinarians.” That feels like that’s a little it’s niche. There’s an audience. 

Mike Palmer: Yeah. There are German shepherds out there, but there are other varietals of poochy.

Jeff Gothelf: Exactly. It’s somewhere in between those two that leverages your passions, your expertise, and your experience. And then it’s an effort in consistency  and frequency in establishing yourself as the person who knows about that. 

Wherever your community hangs out, participate. Just participate in the conversations, join in the conversations, pay attention to what the thought leaders are already doing. Submit to speak at one of your industry conferences. Post some ideas in the discussion forums, wherever your folks hang out and see what kind of feedback you get. Offer up a free presentation. I did one yesterday. I did a free webinar yesterday and objectives and key results. It was an hour long presentation. That’s it? One hour literally.  I did 90 minutes of prep for it. So a two and a half hour effort. Roughly speaking 315 people signed up, about 150 showed up. But that’s a terrific way to test it 

Mike Palmer: Our audience should track if they’re not aware of it: OKRs  is the initialism that goes with objectives and key results. So a lot of the things that you’ve identified are what I like to call “zeitgeisty”.  

Frequently, you’re saying things or you’re identifying things that if you’re not aware of these topics or these ideas you can also borrow from folks like yourself, Jeff, to see what’s working. What are the thought leaders doing, or what are the terms of art that are picking up traction? And then does that relate to me? Do I have the permission to be a thought leader  in that realm?  If you’re interested in doing this kind of thing, there are folks in your industry doing this, and I would look to see what they’re doing and learn from them.

Jeff Gothelf: There are folks outside of your industry that are very successful at this as well; see what they’re doing, because you can always lift ideas from them and then recombine.  Everybody’s got a favorite YouTuber these days, right?  You don’t have to be like a 15 year old kid to have a favorite YouTuber. 

My favorite YouTuber is a guy named Rick Beato. Rick Beato is a musician. He’s in his mid-fifties, he’s worked with literally everybody in the business, and he’s particularly musically gifted. He’s got two and a half million YouTube subscribers to the channel, and he makes these amazing 15, 20 minute videos where he dissects songs.

He just breaks them apart. It’s a series called “What Makes this Song Great?”

And he’ll pick like “Tom Sawyer” by Rush.  Everything he picks is music that I know in love and the quality of his videos and the way that he edits and everything. So I’ve learned a ton from him. And as I start to think about making more videos, I’m definitely gonna focus on doing something like that. 

Mike Palmer: I was also curious to get your perspective on the imposter syndrome, because it does feel like  you’ve heroically powered through it a lot is what I’ve picked up on  from the book. But I’d love to hear you talk a little more about that.

Jeff Gothelf: The imposter syndrome thing. Everyone has it. Literally everyone. I don’t know any tricks other than the push the publish button. As we’re going through the “Becoming Forever Employable “workshop now with the cohort, I’ve got a few folks in that class who have great ideas and are terrified of pushing the publish button:. “There’s so much noise out there. Why would anyone listen to me?” Just ship it!  The work doesn’t count if you don’t ship it.

And I told you before you’re going to be shouting into the void for a while.That’s just something you get used to. And then thinking about the folks who’ve done this particular, there’s a guy named Gary Vaynerchuk. Gary Vaynerchuk is a marketer who has become remarkably successful over the last, I don’t know, 15 years or so based on creating content. And I buy into his philosophy that it’s quantity over quality. Make more stuff. And then you’ll start to make better stuff. 

But ultimately quality is in the eye of the consumer, the person who’s consuming your content. And so just make more stuff. I told you I was blogging every Monday. I started that last September. I used to blog once a month. Now I go every week. So I’ve quadrupled my writing pace. And in that timeframe, I’ve increased traffic to my blog by 50%. And again, some of those posts hit, many of them don’t.  And so the imposter thing, the only thing I can say is everybody feels it. We all have it. You just got to ship it.  The work doesn’t count if you don’t ship it. 

Mike Palmer:  I like to quote Nelson Mandela whenever I can. And he famously said, “I never lose. I either win or learn”. So once, once you publish, in some ways you learn more from the dismal numbers than the great ones. The hard work I think is frequently understanding why did it miss and trying to get some hypotheses about that. And then continue to get better at continuing to be iterative, adopt some of these Lean practices you’ve been espousing,  

Folks really should at this point understand Lean, but if they don’t understand Lean and Agile and Design Thinking, we mentioned Lean UX, but are there any other places you would recommend for amateurs or neophytes when it comes to lean practices, design thinking that kind of 

Jeff Gothelf:  At the risk of…I’m going to plug myself again. But I wrote a very short book, 6,000 words, called Lean vs. Agile vs. Design Thinking. And  it answers the question: 30 to 40 minutes worth of reading, depending on how fast you read. It literally has a very brief overview of each of those practices. And then at the end, I talk about the unifying principles across all three also.  That’s a great place to start; it’s on Amazon. It’s part of the Sense and Respond Press series. And It’s available in audiobook, if you want somebody to read it to you. 

Mike Palmer: I like to talk about how folks like stuff coming in from their “learn holes” at times, also known as their ears. So maybe the audio book makes sense. I did see also Forever Employable is on audible too.  And if you like what you’re hearing from Jeff, in addition to reading him you can listen to his words. 

As we’re rounding the quarter post here–I don’t know which posts were rounding, but we’re towards the latter half, latter third of the show, we also like to get our guests’ perspectives on, what do they see on the horizon? What’s coming down the road? I know you’re Agile, and you try to respond to what you see right now. So you don’t want to get too far out ahead or too far over your skis, as the parlance goes. Wayne Gretzky likes to talk about skating to where the puck is going. So where do you see things headed?  You’re someone who’s been sharp about getting out ahead of things. What are you seeing? Do you have any advice for our listeners? 

Jeff Gothelf:  For me, it’s doubling down on this venture into the creator economy.  The other day 

I was watching YouTube with my kids. It was one of their favorite YouTubers I was watching, Mr. Beast. The statistic that he mentioned on his show was that 6,600 YouTube accounts hit 1 million subscribers in 2020. Almost 7,000 accounts hiit a million subscribers. And there’s about 25,000 accounts that have half a million subscribers. 

So there’s endless appetite out there for those people who are willing to take advantage of that reality and who are willing to figure out how to become interesting to their target audience to  iterate and to experiment and to learn.

There’s a tremendous opportunity. So for me, that’s where I’m headed. I’m headed in that direction. 

The Forever Employable content that I’m doing right now is high touch, high cost, low volume.  By the end of the year. I’m hoping to have an offering that’s the exact opposite of that. So it’s a self-serve, low cost, high volume course that you can get through. That starts to take me personally out of the equation on a daily basis. That’s really nice for me. And it gives me focus, it starts to fund my other activities. So really leaning heavily into this kind of creator economy world and doubling down on forever employed blind. I think it’s  the right idea at the right time, and it seems to be working. It seems to be taking off.. 

Mike Palmer: Yeah, I agree. I think you definitely caught a trend early once again–good on you   Real quick as we wrap, any thoughts on the formats or the platforms that people should use, or the approach to getting their message out there? You mentioned YouTube, you’ve talked about a wide range of content formats. Any insight, any recommendations tp folks  if they want to get themselves out there, how they should go about that? 

Jeff Gothelf: Yeah, so a little cliche, but fish where the fish are. So wherever your community hangs out, that’s where you should be. Whatever tool or social media platform or group they use, that’s where you should be. So for example, for me, It’s Twitter and it’s LinkedIn these days. And I used to write pretty heavily on Medium. 

Now, the downside to using social media…The upside is your people are there, the distribution algorithms are there and you can play them in your favor, And you can build an audience there. The downside is you’re renting that audience. You don’t own that audience. And so ultimately, what you want to do is you want to start to own your audience.

What does that mean? You bring them to your website, you sign them up for your email list.  You provide content that you own in a space that you own, ultimately. But if people don’t know you, that’s tough at first. So using Medium and Twitter and LinkedIn and Facebook and Instagram, to get your ideas out there is fine, but eventually you want to bring those people in house so that you own that audience and you’re not renting it from Facebook or from Twitter or from YouTube or whatever. 

Mike Palmer: Any final thoughts, Jeff? This was amazing. You were a teacher, so you did deliver on your promise. Hopefully our listeners got as much value out of this conversation as I did. Any concluding thoughts or things to take away from this conversation as we wrap up?

Jeff Gothelf:  I think that we all live in this sense that I have to provide for myself. I have to provide for my family. I’ve got to make sure that I can do this for the foreseeable future and beyond. The reality for the majority of us out there is that we are not in control of that. 

The ideas in Forever Employable, the ways that I’ve been building my career, shift that dynamic. It puts you back in control, and it gives you the ability through hard work. Let’s not BS it, right? You’ve got to put in the work, but through hard work, you can turn that dynamic around 180 degrees and put yourself in the driver’s seat and then decide what you want to do and how you want to do it. And how much of it you want to do. And do you want to take a break? And  to me that’s so empowering and liberating, that I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.  

Mike Palmer: That’s a great way to end. Jeff Gothelf, the author of Forever Employable. You can check him out @jeffgothelf.com. We’ll share links to his books and all the references that he made throughout the conversation. Definitely someone to keep an eye on and to track if you want to understand where the world is heading and how to build a resilient future for yourself. Which is something I think we all want to do.

If you like what you’re hearing follow us on trending in ed on Twitter, visit us @trendingandeducation.com and subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts. Jeff, thanks again for joining.

Jeff Gothelf: My pleasure, Mike, thanks so much for having me

Mike Palmer:  And for our listeners. We’ll be back again soon. This is Trending in Education.

More Information:

Regarding Forever Employable:

Jeff’s other books:

How to Find Jeff:
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