Interview by Jenn Long

Learning and leading in the brave new world of work

This article also appears in the 2017 Summer issue of Career Developments, the National Career Development Association (NCDA) print magazine.

Rich Feller, National Career Development Association’s (NCDA) past-president, Colorado State University professor emeritus, and President of Rich Feller & Associates, has committed himself to studying the changing workplace, with a focus on bringing new tools and solutions to help people navigate a lifetime of career transitions. Feller is also co-founder of OneLifeTools and the Who You Are Matters! narrative assessment game, facilitator of the Knowdell Job & Career Transition Coach Certification, and co-author of the CDM Career Decision Making System.

Q: What do you see as the key tenets defining the new and future world of work?

RF: Career counsellors and specialists easily tell stories about how workplace change disrupts lifestyles and career management rules. I see accelerating global connectivity, technology’s exponential gains, longevity, and the mistrust of educational training greatly shaping work. Machine learning, data science tools, the Internet of things and robotics are creating an “augmented workforce” within a skills-based gig economy. Business owners are piloting how to design, organize and pay for work. Workers are constantly asked to reinvent themselves, differentiate their value proposition, and use technology in ways that will hopefully enrich their lives.

Unfortunately, workers are not learning as quickly as the workplace demands, and labour relations have tilted toward the owners of capital and technology in North America. The human-technology tension will grow as opportunities relocate and learning agility is rewarded. Inflexible mindsets, immobility, immunity to change, and low “soft” and “basic” skills will increasingly limit social mobility and one’s ability to work, progress and prosper.

Q: Who are you following and learning from surrounding the current and future world of work?

RF: Dick Bolles continually teaches me about job finding. Nancy Schlossberg and Sunny Hanson clarified my white male privilege at work. Garry Walz, David Tiedeman and Phil Jarvis introduced me to trend tracking. Art O’Shea and Tom Harrington’s career decision-making ideas, Norm Gysbers’s life career development view, Dick Knowdell’s motivated skills, Mark Savickas’s life design, Fred Luthans’s psychological capital, Rich Snyder, Norm Amundson and Skip Niles’s views on hope, Richard Leider’s clarity about purpose, Philip Hardin about aptitudes, Mark Franklin’s storytelling, and Janet Taylor’s self-care at work shape my views about work.

Ideas about the future of work come from Tom Friedman, Robert Reich, Paul Krugman, Eric Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, Ray Kurzweil, Tom Fry, Karie Willyerd, Alan Webber, Lynda Gratton and Andy Scott, Kevin Kelly, Clayton Christensen, Peter Diamandis, Peter Cappelli and Dan Pink. McKinsey, Gallup, Deloitte and the World Economic Forum provide strong research sources.

Q: What models, theories, tools and best practices most closely align with the needs of the current and future workplace?

RF: Holland’s theory offers instruction about how the workplace is organized. Using it to suggest strong career fit needs to be done with care. Super’s reoccurring cycles of development support my experience when not tied to rigid “ages and stages.” Patton and McMahon’s Systems Theory framework offers a wider lens to the contextual nature of one’s experience at work. David Blustein’s Psychology of Work and attention to Work Adjustment Theory gives direction to new interventions. Promoting entrepreneurial talent is wise practice as portfolio careers, a multiple-stage life, longevity and the demise of defined benefits occurs. Promoting the notion of “ageless aging,” the power of peer-to-peer support, building community and creating tools to explore possibilities about “what’s next” is empowering. Boot camps, micro-colleges and DIY learning deserve more attention. The coaching industry’s growth instructs us about the demand for creative forms of individualized real-time support.

Q: What’s on the horizon? What is the next major shift that you anticipate will impact our work and the needs/demands of our clients?

RF: First, technology will not create as many jobs as it replaces. With too few liveable-wage jobs to meet the identity needs of those “who live to work,” work will be re-defined as “purposeful commitments.” These value-based commitments will create meaning, provide structure and socialization, and help distribute the wealth created by artificial intelligence, robots and affective computing. Second, the narrative that one can find secure and stable employment is no longer a realistic goal. Chaotic futures and adapting to turmoil demands a HEROIC mindset (Hope, self-Efficacy, Resiliency, Optimism, Intentional exploration, and Clarity and Curiosity) as well as flexibility, adaptability, mobility and authentic daily learning. Third, better career science will solve the new economy’s skills gap, tap into internal motivation, and reduce the career exposure bias related to income, race, gender and geography. Interest-centric measures rely on one’s exposure. YouScience assesses performance measured aptitudes and identifies “hidden potential” which expands career options and honours the diversity pool. Finally, employers racing to lower wages are alienating workers by not identifying natural abilities and developing their skills.

Q: What do career professionals need to pay attention to in order to embrace rapid career and workplace change?

RF: The diversity of what we read, scan and hear to gain empathy, and better information about how workplace change affects the human experience is key. With career needs expanding and resources stable, at best, our job is to scout for new tools and resources, and more inclusive insights. Accelerating and deepening life clarification and intentional exploration, and increasing social capital are the new metrics. I’m paying attention to how peer-to-peer support provides feedback and local career resources. I’m watching how storytelling creates confidence and clarification about possibilities. I’m using better career science to provide richer recommendations for intentional exploration. I’m hearing career and workforce program managers demanding interventions that are scalable, technology enhanced and less counsellor dependent.

It’s exciting to see Mark Franklin’s work in Canada and our Who You Are Matters! game expanding access. Drawing upon peer-to-peer support and storytelling, each time I facilitate a game play I better understand change and generating possibilities. I’m also paying attention to YouScience’s application of rich career science and technology to personalize self-discovery and provide aptitude feedback, and Type-Coach’s smart use of on-demand video coaching to improve our client’s use of psychological type. The National University of Singapore’s work with soft skills and future-ready students ( is very timely.

Efficient career training certifications like Job and Career Transition Coach and NCDA’s Career Development Facilitator are redefining professional development. Attending to these trends and finding identity within the Canadian Education and Research Institute for Counselling (CERIC), the National Career Development Association (NCDA) and the Asia Pacific Career Development Association (APCDA) can help career professionals grow confident about workplace change.

Learn more about Feller’s work at, and follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter (@Rich_Feller) and Facebook to stay connected to new demands of career and workplace change, along with cutting-edge best practices and career solutions.


Jenn Long, MEd, NCC, JCTC/JCDC currently serves as Director, Career Development Programs with Rich Feller & Associates. Her experience includes Manager of Career Counseling in the College of Business at CSU, business industry work with senior executives and high-potential employees, and Editor of NCDA Career Developments magazine from 2013-2015.

For more information on the theories and concepts mentioned in this article:

Glossary of Career Development:

Literature Search: Career Development Theories and Career Management Models

2017 Summer Skills Academy

Join Rich Feller for a special one-day intensive and interactive training opportunity on Life Reimagined: Career Development for Living the “Good Life” on Purpose. The seminar will be held on Thursday, July 20 in Toronto.

For more information or to register, visit