• Toby Sinclair

Book Summary: Forever Employable by Jeff Gothelf | 5 Step Approach



Forever Employable: How to Stop Looking for Work and Let Your Next Job Find You

Gothelf, Jeff


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The Big Ideas:

Dont look for jobs. Make Jobs go looking for you. This will make you Forever Employable.

Forever Employable Approach:

  • Plant a flag by becoming the go-to person—the expert—in some aspect of what your business does or how it does it.

  • Tell your story to people both inside and outside your company—solving real problems using your real-world experience and then sharing your work regularly in a humble and practical way while building authentic connections.

  • Be prepared for new opportunities in your organization as they arise, then follow the new path wherever it may take you.

  • Teach others in all sorts of different venues—from workshops to conferences to webinars, blog posts, and much more.

  • Give it all away, offering the wealth of your knowledge and expertise freely to those with whom you work, and to your entire organization and industry.

Five Foundational Principles:

  1. Entrepreneurialism.

  2. Self-confidence.

  3. No one has your story.

  4. Continuous learning.

  5. Improvement.

  6. Reinvention.

Toby's Takeaways:


This book helped me reflect upon "What is my flag?". I tend to write and share content on a wide range of topics. Perhaps I should narrow my interest? I also wonder how others might describe my flag today? I think I'll ask a few readers of my blog to share how they see my flag.


Another takeaway was the power of teaching. I've known for a long time that a great way to learn is to teach. This book reinforced this idea.


Finally, Jeff shares the importance of Storytelling. I recently blogged how I wrote my story using the Story-Driven Framework by Bernadette Jiwa. This book doesn't go into depth on Storytelling so I highly recommend Story-Driven as a follow-up read.

The Big Ideas Expanded:


Jeff Gothelf's (Authors) Story:


To be honest, I was scared shitless about the career path I was on. I thought I was doing everything I was supposed to be doing, but I began to notice that not everything was going according to plan. My salary was going up, but my expenses were also increasing. When I woke up that fateful morning, I realized I was screwed. I was screwed because in five years I would be overpaid and unemployable. Positions that paid the money I was making would be very few and far in between. My career was anything but future-proofed. It was future-screwed.

Forever Employable Questions:

  • Does anyone know who I am?

  • If people are going to come looking for me, how do they know me?

  • Where do I exist for these people, if anywhere at all?

  • Why would they look for me?

  • What problems were they trying to solve that would make them look for someone like me?

  • How would they find me?

  • What would set me apart from the rest of the crowd?

  • What kind of work do I want to do?

  • Where do I want to take my career?


5 Steps to become Forever Employable:

  1. Plant a Flag

  2. Tell Your Story

  3. Follow a (new) Path

  4. Teach

  5. Give it all away


1 - Plant a Flag


A flag is a topic, expertise, or a point of view that you’re going to own, and then go all-in on.


Your Flag will become your brand:

  • Steve Jobs was the product visionary and marketer extraordinaire

  • Brené Brown is the courage guru

  • Eric Ries is the Lean Startup guy

  • Oprah Winfrey is the queen of all media

  • Seth Godin is the king of marketing.

Pick a domain, gain expertise, claim it as your own, build fans.

You only need 100 True Fans:


Li Jin, a partner at Andreessen Horowitz, a well-respected venture capital firm, suggests that the number is surprisingly lower: just 100 True Fans. To be more specific, if you build a committed group of 100 True Fans, who each are willing to pay you $ 1,000 a year, then you’ve got a financially sustainable platform funded to the tune of $ 100,000 a year.


Three persona groups:

  1. Free content consumers (Many)

  2. Donor’s/Patrons (Some)

  3. Subscribers and Premium purchasers (Few) (100)


Demand for Thought Leaders is high:

According to a recent Edelman-LinkedIn survey, fully 89 percent of decision-makers report that thought leadership can be effective in enhancing their perception of an organization. Surprisingly, however, just 15 percent of decision makers said that the thought leadership they read is either very good or excellent. That leaves 85 percent of thought leadership rated at either good, mediocre, or very poor.

Use Lean UX cycle to test your expertise:


2 - Tell Your Story


It’s important to tell your story because this is how you start to develop a voice and build credibility about your flag.


Good stories:

  1. Solve a real problem

  2. Share your wins and losses

  3. Make it practical

  4. Don’t overwhelm

  5. Create a connection


Storytelling is like joke-telling:

“knowing your punchline, your ending, knowing that everything you’re saying, from the first sentence to the last, is leading to a singular goal, and ideally confirming some truth that deepens our understandings of how we are as human beings.”

Know your audience

  • What do they care about?

  • What language they speak Are they finance people? Technical people? Customers? Partners?

  • What makes them successful? To themselves? To their boss?


My post on personal branding can help you build your story


3 - Follow the (New) Path


The new path may consist of:

  1. Working “two” jobs for a period of time

  2. Deciding when to jump full time into a content creation role

  3. Creating and selling businesses

  4. Writing books (and other forms of content) - Two-Thirds of the job

  5. Public Speaking

  6. Workshops/Training

  7. Partnering with others


4 - Teach


Teaching helps you learn and build your personal brand.


A great example you can try:

Whiteboard Friday. Fishkin started an SEO company called Moz, which originally started as a blog that turned into a consulting company and then a software business. Every Friday Fishkin—a hipster dude with a funky moustache and beard—would post an entertaining video in which he made a (surprise!) whiteboard presentation teaching some aspect of SEO, and people ate it up. The series grew to millions of views.

Teaching content ideas:

  • Workshops

  • Conferences

  • Meetups

  • Webinars

  • Podcasts

  • Guest articles and interviews


Workshops in particular are a great way to:

  1. Exercise your ideas.

  2. Improve your storytelling.

  3. Generate revenue.

  4. Generate leads for other business.

  5. Create new opportunities.


5 - Give It All Away


I’m convinced that the more you give away, the more success you’ll drive for your business.


Three ways to become a recognized expert:

  1. Content creation

  2. Use social proof

  3. Build a network.

"What’s going to change in the next 10 years?” And that is a very interesting question; it’s a very common one. I almost never get the question: “What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?” And I submit to you that that second question is actually the more important of the two—because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time." - Jeff Bezos

You don’t need to invent something new to be successful, you don’t need to change the world to make a difference.


Five ways to get started:

  1. Aggregate everything. Bring everything about you in one place online—

  2. Update your social media profiles.

  3. Create a newsletter.

  4. Notify your social media contacts.

  5. Make a splash.

  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter

©2020 by Toby Sinclair.