How else do you get noticed? “Create some YouTube videos on your topics. If they don’t do well, find out why. For example, if you create YouTube videos for accountants to build better practices, what if no one watches them?” While that’s a fairly discouraging outcome, he advises viewing these experiences as experiments. “The purpose of experiments is to learn,” says Gothelf. “Find three or four accountants and put the video in front of them, and see what they say,” he advises.
Gothelf has learned for example, that some professionals think YouTube is for their kids and simply don’t watch it. “The goal at this stage is to learn as quickly as possible and invest as little as possible until [your efforts] begin to bear fruit,” he says.
Tell Your Story
Gothelf maintains that everyone has a unique story to tell, and he recommends telling it “every chance you get to promote the brand that is uniquely you.” Making it compelling involves telling both the highs and the lows, the hits and the misses.
Join the conversations that are already taking place to get the ball rolling, Gothelf advises. “There are conversations on everything going on all over the place. Insert yourself into them, respectfully, with the intention of adding to the conversation, adding your expertise, your unique story. As you become a regular fixture, you can begin to direct people back to you and your organization,” he says.
“Focus on a challenge that many people have,” he recommends. “When you find common ground with enough of an audience, you and your story have a chance to become popular.”
Use your actual real-world experience in the story, he adds. “For example, explain that “when I faced this issue, I tried X, and this is what happened.” And be humble. “Share the things that worked and didn’t work but that you learned from and became better for it. Try to provide some practical, tactical advice that someone can apply to a job the next day. That resonates significantly.”
Steps to an Invincible Career
Gothelf offers these tips for economy-proofing your employability:
- Look deep within yourself and identify the core value you have to offer. Once you do, you’ll find that your core value can be delivered in multiple ways.
- Plant a flag in that area of expertise and stay active in that place by building a presence, a platform, and a conversation around your experience.
- Make your work and yourself easily findable and accessible. Share your materials—papers, videos, presentations—for free while you get yourself established.
Gothelf says he estimates that he still spends 50% of his time creating conversations “as opposed to delivering work.”
And what of the wallflowers of the world? “You need to figure out how you’re most comfortable communicating your expertise and thought leadership,” Gothelf advises.
He acknowledges that some core skills and values all of us offer today may someday become automated—even if we can’t envision that happening. He assumes, for example, that aspects of cybersecurity and IT operations will become automated, but that skills in collaboration and communications and empathizing with customers will long remain resilient.
“Coaching, speaking, training, and writing are what I do now, but if that gets automated, I’ll figure out a different way to deliver that core value. My background in design makes me want to believe that design can’t be automated, but the truth is, some of it can. The writing’s on the wall. You just have to be willing to see it.”
The challenge, he says, is to experiment to find new delivery channels. “How do we deliver our core skills and value in new ways to future-proof ourselves? If you’re going to rely on your employer, you’ll be disappointed.”
As the world anxiously awaits the end of the global COVID-19 pandemic, how to weather its economic ups and downs is on the minds of many. “The reality is this,” says Gothelf. “The folks that have been working for a while to build a platform around themselves with a personal brand and thought leadership are doing pretty well in the pandemic. And they’ll come out fine on the other end.”
Today Jeff Gothelf works as an independent consultant to large organizations struggling with their digital transformation, increasing their agility and integrating good product management and User Experience practices into their ways of working.