Barry O’Reilly and Jeff Gothelf have been best friends ever since Jeff reviewed Barry’s first draft of Lean Enterprise and told him it sucked. They have worked together as co-authors of the Lean series, and as consultants to Fortune 50 clients. Jeff joins Barry on the Unlearn Podcast this week to talk about his new book, Forever Employable: How to Stop Looking for Work and Let Your Next Job Find You.

Push vs Pull

The higher up the corporate ladder you climb, the fewer the jobs and the fiercer the competition. You have to constantly push your way through. Jeff woke up on his 35th birthday and made the unsettling realization that he would soon be battling younger, better-skilled people for a job. He understood that this was untenable, so he vowed that he wouldn’t look for jobs anymore, rather he would have jobs look for him. He tells Barry that pulling job opportunities means telling the world explicitly who you are, where you could help them, where people can find you and what problems you can solve for them. [Listen from 1:55]

How to Be Forever Employable


First Steps

Why do you exist? How can you help people become successful? Being forever employable involves self-assessment. Jeff says that the first step he took was to examine what he was good at and what value he had provided up to that point. Then he thought about his audience and where the market was trending. “…if you’re going to plant a flag somewhere you want to plant it in a growing market rather than … one that’s shrinking,” he points out. [Listen from 5:25]

Your Personal Brand

You have a story to tell that no-one else has: storytelling is how you differentiate yourself. Jeff tells listeners that we all have a unique perspective, and it’s how we build our personal brand. He and Barry talk about sharing their stories and fighting the impostor syndrome. “People massively underestimate themselves,” Jeff says. He coaches people how to find the self-confidence to pursue their goals, a trait that is critical if you want to be successful. Barry says that doing something you enjoy gives you confidence because your passion shines through. [Listen from 10:50]

Catching The Wave

Recognizing a problem, tracking the trends, then adopting a position and sharing it, orients you to catch the wave of new opportunities. Jeff describes how sharing his ideas attracted many unforeseen opportunities. “All of a sudden this conversation goes global and that begins the pull,” he shares. “All of a sudden I start to attract new opportunities because the story and the conversation and the sharing has become so powerful. Giving all this stuff away starts to attract all these new opportunities my way.” He shares how each new opportunity gave him the confidence to take another step, until he could confidently transition into full-time entrepreneurship. Barry comments, “One of the things people also need to unlearn is this isn’t like from 0 to 100% overnight.” It takes small, continuous steps and a constant process of experimenting, evolving and reinventing and growing the things you already do. [Listen from 19:00]

Counterintuitive Leadership

A great leader does not purport to have all the answers, Barry says. Instead, it’s someone who is authentic and vulnerable and willing to learn. Jeff says that he is unlearning the fear of becoming vulnerable in public. He finds that his personal struggles resonate with people. He is becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable, which Barry notes is the mark of a successful leader. Jeff is driven by enthusiastic skepticism as coined by Astro Teller: there’s always a better way to do something the next time around. [Listen from 30:45]

Looking Forward

Jeff is looking forward to the launch of Forever Employable and the new opportunities it brings his way. [Listen from 39:26]