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Five steps to securing success in product management in an uncertain world
Are you taking steps to make yourself more valuable to your organization or the next organization you want to work with? Arguably, all the topics we address on this podcast are about career development, helping you improve in product management and innovation.
However, occasionally we focus on the topic head-on, and with the impact of the pandemic on organizations, creating opportunities in some cases and hardship in others, now is an important time to discuss making yourself highly employable, or as our guest says, forever employable.
What is interesting is that our guest is now offering career advice after becoming known as the Agile Product guy who helps organizations build better products. You may know him from his past books, including Lean UX, Lean vs Agile vs Design Thinking, and Sense & Respond. His name is Jeff Gothelf and, as a product guy, he will give you the 5 activities for being forever employable.
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers
[5:37] You recently wrote the book Forever Employable: How to Stop Looking for Work and Let Your Next Job Find You. Who did you write this book for and what does it mean to be forever employable?
My target audience is mid-career knowledge workers, but the concepts apply to others too. Traditionally, job hunting is a push process, meaning we push our resumes and experiences into job listings. If we have to keep pushing for the rest of our careers, we’ll lose more and more often because as we rise on the corporate ladder there are fewer positions, and our skills will never be as good as when we were younger. Forever Employable changes the dynamic from pushing ourselves into jobs to pulling opportunities toward us. As you build a platform of recognized expertise around your unique experience and as you share generously and give back to your community, you create the environment for jobs to find you.
Take us through the steps to become Forever Employable.
[10:40] Plant a flag.
Decide which slice of your expertise you’re going to build a platform on. For example, product management is a huge field, so you might decide to plant a flag in product management for the real estate industry or product leadership.
[11:33] Tell your story.
Share your expertise. Participate in the conversation; have a presence in the industry; and give your knowledge back to your community. There are many ways to tell stories, so experiment to find one that works for you. Tell your story with persistence and consistency. As Jeff Weiner said, right about the time you’re tired of saying it is when they start hearing it. Persistence means continuing to tell your story even if it feels like you’re shouting into the void because initially no one’s ever heard of you. Consistency means you’re on topic, wherever you planted the flag.
[16:44] Follow the new path.
Take the new opportunities that telling your story generates. That could be talking at a meet-up, attending a conference, or writing a book. Following the new path may stretch you in new directions, and you won’t be doing exactly what you used to do, but the whole reason you’re following the new path is to attract new audiences and reach people in different ways, driving even more opportunities toward you. Not everything you try will work out 100%, but the nature of becoming forever employable is experimenting and learning, then following the paths that generate bigger and better opportunities.
Teach what you know. Everything I do is teaching—conversations like this, workshops, coaching, speeches. Teaching is how you get better at your practice, because the better you can teach it, the better you can do it. Teaching is also how you get better at storytelling.
[23:27] Give it all away.
Share your expertise for free. This is hard because your expertise is valuable and you want to be paid for it. But I’ve learned that every time I give stuff away, stuff comes back in. When I give away free content, people see it and offer me new opportunities. The more you make your content available and easily accessible, the more traffic you drive to yourself and the bigger platform you’ll have.
It’s tough to give your hard-earned experience and knowledge away for free, so start small. Write one article about something that worked well for you in the last month. Post one comment on an online discussion in your area of expertise. Then do it again and again and again.
[29:24] In the midst of uncertainty, how can we future-proof our careers?
Future-proofing your career is putting in the investment of doing the steps I’ve just described. By becoming known and valuable to your community, you’ll begin to develop a steady stream of opportunities. During a financial crisis, whether a pandemic or stock-market crash, the people who survive and thrive are those who are known in their communities because companies go to people they know.
Action Guide: Put the information Jeff shared into action now. Click here to download the Action Guide.
- Check out Jeff’s website
- Connect with Jeff on LinkedIn or Twitter
- Buy Forever Employable on Amazon
- Learn more about Jeff’s events
“Do less more often.” – Unknown
Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.