In a landscape that seems to change the moment we get comfortable, staying relevant is rarely a case of sitting back and switching on the autopilot. It’s no secret that the current crisis has left swathes of the population questioning whether they have been moving or hustling in the right direction.
In our opinion, there has been no better time than now to take stock and start charting a course for professional growth – but where to begin without a map?
To help our network navigate this challenge, we were delighted to host renowned author, executive coach and workshop facilitator Jeff Gothelf for a talk on how to become ‘Forever Employable’ for the launch of his book of the same name.
Taking stock and making change
The year is 2008: Jeff Gothelf is the Director of UX at NYC tech company TheLadders. Having incrementally clawed his way up to middle management and become a proud husband and father to two children along the way, anyone would agree that Jeff has – to quote a phrase – “made it in life.”
Yet, on the morning of his 35th birthday, he woke up in a cold sweat, overcome by a flash of panic that his skillset would soon not be enough to compete with the hoards of younger UX designers that were charging their way up the career ladder at an alarming pace.
Competing in the jobs market had suddenly become a terrifying prospect.
No one wants to go the way of the dodo, and no one wants to be replaced by a younger model. In acknowledging this, Jeff had a starting point for becoming invincible.
He decided he was no longer going to look for jobs, but that jobs were going to look for him.
Laying the foundations for employability
According to Jeff Gothelf, creating a situation where you are in demand requires you to treat your career as though it were a product you were developing. The journey begins with 4 key questions:
- Does anyone know who I am?
- Why would they look for me?
- How would they find me?
- What kind of work do I want?
Only by assessing where you are and defining where you want to go can you start making changes to realise your goals. Applying principles of product management to career development, Jeff explored the 5 qualities he believes are the building blocks to becoming – in his words – ‘Forever Employable’. These are:
You might not think of yourself as an entrepreneur, but if you’ve ever poured time and effort into any passion project, then you have entrepreneurialism. Rather than shying away from it, lean in.
Self-confidence is typically the most challenging issue to overcome, but it can be built by pushing yourself outside your comfort zone and starting small, trying out mediums such as video and podcasting.
3. Continuous learning
Results from a poll conducted during the live talk suggested this quality is the one most participants felt confident they were doing: reading articles, listening to podcasts and watching talks are all extremely important in upping your game.
There’s no use amassing information if you aren’t going to use it. As you pick up new learnings, you will find ways to increase your value, whether it’s as a UX designer or an entirely different field.
To stay relevant, we must learn to rise to the perpetual challenge of taking what got us here and reinventing it to get to the next step. That could mean a new delivery channel or applying the principles of your specialist area to a new field. For Jeff, it meant bringing product thinking to non-product teams such as legal, finance and HR.
Removing the ‘use-by’ date on your career
During the insightful talk, Jeff walked the audience through the five steps he found effective in establishing himself as a leader in his field (and thus warding off the competition.)
Plant the flag
Make a decision about what domain expertise you want to own. For Jeff, the perfect pitch to plant a flag was Lean UX: it was an area that he not only felt well-versed in and passionate about but one that aligned with current trends and would resonate with his target audience.
To decide where to plant your flag, ask yourself who you want to influence and how big this community could be. The next step? Test your hypothesis; start answering key questions and solving common challenges for your target audience. If they bite, it could be the right place for that flag of yours.
Tell your story
What unique story do you have? It may not seem extraordinary on the surface, and you may feel the message you are expressing has been told before. Yet, your unique story is yours alone: it doesn’t have to involve celebrities or ground-breaking discoveries to be a compelling story. The experiences you and you alone have gained in your professional (and personal) life can all help in shaping your message, solving a problem and creating an authentic connection with your audience.
Follow a new path
As Jeff began to see success through public speaking, teaching classes and book deals, he began to worry that his design skills would suffer. In fact, this was a new path that had emerged; it was an opportunity to tell his story and help others in a new way. He advised attendees of the talk to be ready to take advantage of unexpected paths if they prove to have potential.
It’s no secret that teaching makes you better at what you do. Jeff explained how participation in workshops, webinars, podcasts and conferences had all helped to enhance the value he offered his audience and encouraged attendees to do the same – be it through a MeetUp group or an internal session within your workplace.
Give it all away
Simply put, the more you give away, the more opportunities come back to you. Becoming forever employable is not a quick win – it’s an ongoing effort to engage your community and to establish yourself as the go-to person for your subject of expertise. The nature of trends means they are ever-changing: if you want to stay relevant, stay active.
Overall, the talk was a success and we’re delighted to have received such positive feedback from everyone who joined. Thank you to Jeff for sharing his expertise, we hope to have him back soon to enlighten you with more advice on how to stay employable in a continuously changing workforce.
‘Forever Employable’ is available to purchase today.