Tag Archives: Career

Is Your Organization Going Senile?

The social contract, the implicit agreement that once bound workers to organizations for entire careers, is no more.  Off-shoring, right-shoring, belt tightening and a tsunami of technical innovation shifted job demand from trade skills to knowledge work and changed the career landscape in less than a generation.

Hierarchical command-and-control structures that simply asked employees to “show-up, shut-up and do it our way” were replaced with a bottom-line, “what have you done for me lately” mentality that offered no guarantees. As a result; employees have become willing to change jobs with increasing freedom and frequency, reducing job tenure by 2/3, from 11+ years to about 3.5 years.

With employees just as likely to move out as they are to be moved up, our organizations simply don’t have the capacity to retain memories, experiential lessons, recollections and the know-how that only comes from having been there.

So what does this mean for your career?

If you’ve been around for a while, market the benefits of your longevity… to both your productive prowess and the value of what you remember!  Over 95% of all information goes unused or lost, so if you can access what’s in your brain – that may be worth something.

If you’re a new to mid-career worker, as you consider job promotions or job moves, also consider the types of experiences you’ll have right alongside of the other benefits you’ll receive, because someday your memories of those experiences may be a big part of your personal brand value.

Let’s face it, many of our organizations are graying right along with the workforce. A graying organizational design can’t cope with the winds of change and the opportunities that ride them… They might have once but who can remember?

As always, I welcome your thoughts and questions at jeff@jeffkaplan.com

Until next week, STAY CONNECTED!


Renegotiate Your Future

Lifetime employment is a thing of the past — it’s gone. So gone in fact, 20-somethings look at you funny when you even mention the concept.

Today, our ‘forever-and-ever‘ jobs have been replaced by “what have you done for me lately” or even worse, “…who are you and what do you do around here?”

Let’s face it, our professional self-worth is under assault. Our jobs, the thing we do for a third of our waking lives, can be phased out, outsourced or simply left out of the latest reorganization with the brush of an eraser.

Work is a big part of our lives and therefore who we are and if our jobs, our professional contributions, can be so easily brushed away, our self-respect can’t be far behind.

Sure, lifetime employment may not even be desirable by an evermore mobile, evermore virtual society, but what’s taken its place?

Our research indicates–not much.

The NEW DEAL of work-life feels more like a hippie love affair, “let’s not put chains on each other, let’s just hang out as long as it feels good.”

I say, enough is enough, it’s time to renegotiate our future and take charge of our own professional development. In a recent survey, readers gave us some interesting insights, making it clear that organizations have washed their hands of professional development.

Here’s an example. Nearly all respondents reported that they participate in an annual review process BUT 80% also indicated that their leadership development program had no connection to the feedback from their evaluation. In most cases, employees were simply left to pick and choose developmental activities based on interest. Worse yet, as I share these findings with executive leaders around the county, the facts are met with confirming nods.

So there it is… if we want to take charge of our futures,

If we want to insure against indiscriminate and sudden job loss,

If we desire something more from tomorrow than we got today…

Then, we need to create and control our own professional development!

Over the next weeks and months, I’ll be sharing how people across the world are doing just that–living lives that are richer, fuller and more rewarding–without the worry that tomorrow’s opportunities will pass them by.

As always, I welcome your thoughts and questions at Jeff@jeffkaplan.com

Until next week, STAY CONNECTED!


It’s a Puppy-Kicking World…

Dr. Clark Quinn “wants you to join him in a revolution to overthrow the crap that our once proud profession has come to.”

Writing to an audience of fellow Training and Development professionals, you might think Dr. Quinn speaks from the fringe, but he expressed his outrage in a book he co-published with the American Society of Training and Development – the profession’s governing body.

The assessment seems especially harsh in light of the fact that corporate training investment has posted double-digit increases since 2011, bringing the total annual cost to $130B worldwide.

This week, I am asking for your help to investigate professional development from the perspective of those it’s intended to benefit – you!

Our goal is to receive feedback from 1,000 professionals, so I’m not only asking you to complete the questionnaire, but to encourage others to do so as well.

The survey is anonymous, contains only 10 questions and will take you less than 5 minutesto complete end-to-end… so… pretty please!

As Quinn says, “it’s a puppy-kicking world out there” but with your help, we’ll get a glimpse into how everyday people view the leadership development efforts in their organizations and maybe learn a few things to make it better for all of us!

Click HERE to go to the survey!

Until next week, stay connected.

P.S.: No actual or figurative dog kicking occurred in the writing of this blog.


Career Math 101

Adding value to what you do at work…

Mathematics isn’t just the study of numbers and shapes. Math (or Maths for my UK & Aussie friends) also concerns itself with patterns. Of particular interest to the career minded are the ‘patterns of value’ associated with what we sell and the worth of our professional contributions.

Value Math for Sales

Once upon a time calculators demanded top dollar. Now they are available at the Dollar Store – or free in specially marked cereal boxes!

But wait there’s more!

Value Rule: The more your product or service is like other offers, the greater the need to wrap what you sell with added value.

Value Math for Your Career

If you are depending on the functional value of your job to propel your career, prepare for disappointment.

The Rule: What got you here, won’t get you there.

So, to keep your stock rising on the job, find ways to wrap your functional output (marketing, accounting, clerical, whatever it is you do) with additional value.

Here are three ways to add value to what you do:

  1. Connect the Dots:  Be the one that knows who’s who and how things REALLY get done in your office.
  2. Living THE Way:  More of what you do every day is in your head than is written in a manual. Becoming the center of process knowledge – knowing how to do what needs doing – is among the highest career value adds.
  3. Prepare Before They Focus:  Executive A.D.D. continues to run rampant across the globe. If you know your boss or someone on your team isn’t focusing on a looming deadline, take the lead and help.  Sure they may come to depend on you… But isn’t that the point?

This week is cheers to former Southwest Airlines President, Emeritus Colleen Barrett: the Community College Graduate and Executive Assistant that turned being amazing at her job into a career that made her one of America’s most powerful executives!

It’s all about value!

Stay connected,


Down-Under or Up-Over: No Fear

Dateline-Melbourne, Australia

Reflecting on a tremendous week in Australia, it’s clear that while the conversations down under sound a lot like the conversations taking place up over, my interactions with a group of top-of-their-game executives is further evidence that the meaning of career is changing…

Lifestyle opportunities:

As organizations become increasingly virtual and global, younger executives seek out opportunities to work and live in different parts of the world. Extended vacations, taken to the extreme; many workers view their careers as tickets to the world, for themselves and their families. To paraphrase the comments of one young ex-patriot, “it was a great opportunity for our kids to learn a second language and experience life in another culture firsthand“.

Dynamic roles and true partnerships:

Increasingly, domestic partners approach the development of their careers as a joint affair, leveraging the opportunities created by one partner without regard to the traditional roles assigned in a double income family. Instead of one partner having a ‘real‘ career and the other simply working to generate a paycheck, double-income teams are combining their two jobs into one career;following opportunities without regard to which partner generated it.

No boundaries:

Industrial-functional typecasting, the belief that experience in an unrelated industry or unrelated function is non-transferable or even a disqualifying factor, seems to be melting away. My discussions this week included, among others, a well-established diamond industry executive seamlessly transitioning into high-tech business development.


During this trip, I also had the privilege of interviewing Abby Walsh, an upcoming cosmetics executive that’s redefining the art of the possible with the warp-speed development of her international sales organization. Abby’s entrepreneurial skills helped her move from first-dollar to 7-digit revenuesin less than a year.  When asked for the one piece of advice she’d give others hoping to emulate her success, the former nurse and mother of three (with another on the way) made it simple…

“If you want to succeed, you have to have the courage to stop being afraid and just do what you already know needs to be done.”

Great advice Abby!!

And a big cheers to all my new Aussie mates – thank you for a great week!

As always, I welcome your comments and questions directly atjeff@jeffkaplan.com.

Stay connected,


Still Sitting at the Kid’s Table?

For the better part of my career, professional nirvana has been getting a seat at the strategic table (oh, yeah… swimming pools and movie stars!).

Few topics capture our professional imaginations more than joining the organizational in-crowd and gaining a voice in setting strategic direction.

Departmental leaders want in as a way to validate the critical contributions their departments make.

Vendors dream of being invited in the strategic conversation because their participation is a public acknowledgement of their favored-status and allows them to steer future needs of the organization to solutions they’re uniquely prepared to solve.

Individuals want in that room too. Earning a seat at the table as an individual is better than inclusion in any high-potential leader program because you get to be there – visibly doing the job that leaders do – anticipating change, aligning resources and crafting vision.

Here are a few things to consider as you find your way into the strategic conversation:

  1. Validate that the conversation exists in your, or your customer’s, organization.  For some organizations you are more likely to spot a Unicorn than you are to find a formal strategic conversation.  If you find yourself in this situation, identify the informal process that drives strategic development and jump in. Chances are you’ll have multiple entry points into the discussion – work it and it could work out nicely for you!
  2. Create your own table…if you missed out on the big strategic discussion, that’s okay, the organization still has lots of strategy work to do to bring their vision to life… think though what those actions may be and inject yourself into those conversations – in effect, create your own table. Often, the value of your contributions may be greater in helping turn strategic direction into tactical actions.
  3. Hang with the big dogs… If you want to be a part of the strategic conversation, find some way to be a part of the executive team – and I’m not talking titles here. It is not uncommon that executive assistants, interns and other people find a way to become part of an executive’s day-to-day operations, simply becoming part of the team because they are always around… so, hang out!
  4. Take your shot… When you do secure a spot in the strategic conversation, be prepared with your best contributions and don’t hesitate to speak up. Quite and polite might make your mom proud but it generally won’t impress top executives.

It’s time to move to the big table… you get better dishes, cushions on the seats and there isn’t a TV-tray in sight!

Stay connected,


A Marriage of Convenience? Why Our Relationship With Work is Broken (Part 5)

The results are in.

The data is clear.

And the message is unconvincing…

Results of last week’s survey suggest that you have a pretty healthy relationship with work:

  • A vast majority (86%) of you understand the mission of your organization beyond financial success
  • Two-thirds of you (66%) feel your work is an extension of who you are and not some other thing you have to do, just to make ends meet
  • About a third (34%) of respondents still believe a single job should span most, if not all of a career and also about a third (38%) of respondents have done just that, having worked in the same organization for 16+ years…

Let’s sum up… our readers understand what their organizations are trying to achieve, feel their work enriches who they are and most either aspire to, or have, attained long tenures with the same organization.

BUT (you knew there was a ‘but’ coming) the data also suggests our relationship with work might not be as harmonious as we’d like to think it is.


  •  Individuals and organizations did not agree with a single core value
  • Ordering of values varied drastically, except ‘integrity’ which ranked high on both lists.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve interviewed top executives or heads of HR and listened to them tell me that people were their #1 asset and that they hire only the ‘best people’, people that shared their values! Similarly, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve conducted ‘comparative values’ surveys, only to find that what organizations and employees value to be entirely different.

Let’s put it another way. If you were selecting a life partner, wouldn’t you require some alignment of your core values? Certainly.

Yet, most of us are willing to accept a long-term relationship with little alignment of our core values – our relationship with work.

So…do values matter or have careers become a marriage of convenience?

As always, I welcome your comments and questions, directly at jeff@jeffkaplan.com. Until next week, this is Jeff Kaplan, reminding you to Stay Connected!


I Feel Like I Don’t Even Know You: Why Our Relationship with Work is Broken (Part 4)

What does your company stand for?

Not what does your company sell…

Not what does your company do….

At the end of the day, when we’ve folded up all the spreadsheets, what is your organization all about?

While a few of us would have no problem answering this question, far too many of us can’t.

Sure, we make products or provide services valued by some set of consumers… but is that really what we are spending our lives doing?

For a growing number of workers, the answer is NO… and that’s a pretty good indication that your relationship with work is broken.

Do you feel like you don’t even know your organization anymore, or maybe you never did?

Does what you do for a living align with who you are and what you hope to be… take this simple survey and we’ll share the results with you next week…

As always, I look forward to hearing what you think at jeff@jeffkaplan.com.

Stay connected,


For an audio version of this blog, click HERE!

The Codependent Executive: Why Our Relationship with Work is Broken (Part 3)

Is your boss broken?
You may be working for a codependent executive…take the test!

Strongly Agree = 3
Agree = 2
Somewhat agree = 1
Don’t agree = 0

  1. Micromanagement is a nice way to describe the details my boss wants to manage.
  2. My boss’ desire to manage everything does NOT extend to using his/her time wisely.
  3. Our team is often scrambling at the last minute because our boss failed to focus on what needed to be done – when we brought it up weeks before.
  4. My boss is my boss, even when we aren’t at work.
  5. My boss is the most intense person on our team.
  6. My boss has up and down relationships with nearly everyone on the team, with one person being bosses-pet for a while and then falling out of favor to be replaced by a new favorite employee.
  7. It seems like my boss is most happy when leading the team during crisis and never lets us forget the sacrifices he/she made to get us through the crisis.
  8. My boss is always around.  Even when he/she takes time off for family vacations or to deal with health issues, he/she calls and texts, while supposedly out.
  9. My boss loves it when anyone on the team tells him/her a secret.
  10. My boss loves-loves-loves interpersonal interaction, preferring meetings, planning sessions, lunches and social events to time alone in his/her office.
  11. Everyone knows what’s happening in our boss’ life, from the biggest drama to the smallest detail.
  12. My boss loves to be loved—what other people think of him/her really matters to them.

So add up your scores from all the questions and if your boss scored 24 or higher on your quiz…I am SOOO sorry for you…

Here are some things to watch out for from your codependent executive:

  • Draws self-worth and self-identity from the job
  • Intense and unstable interpersonal relationships
  • Hates being alone
  • Often bored, even when you’ve shared things that need doing
  • Puts the job first and let’s everyone know of the sacrifice
  • Craves acceptance
  • Has a low self-worth…

Our relationship with work is broken, in part because work related stress has become a leading heath issue. Sometimes our relationship with work is broken, because our boss is broken – a tough issue because it’s not our place to fix anyone, so our relationship with work suffers as a consequence.

As always, I look forward to hearing what you think at jeff@jeffkaplan.com.

Stay connected,


Work or Death? Why Our Relationship with Work is Broken (Part 2)

Our relationship with work is broken.

While we may not YET classify work as a disease, mounting evidence suggests that work can make us sick and is often deadly.

Last year, Forbes reported the annual healthcare cost for work related stress had risen to $190B. The number swells to $300B when factoring in lost productivity, absenteeism and related employee turnover. That means for every $1 Americans spend on cancer related healthcare expenses, we spend $3.5 on work related illnesses and it doesn’t stop there, more people die of natural causes (namely heart attacks) during one five hour period each week, year after year, decade after decade… can you guess what part of the week it is? You got it!

Monday morning between the hours of 5AM-10AM, the hours leading into the start of a new work week. It is as if we are visited by a Monday Morning Angel asking each of us a simple question…work or death?

The vast majority of the time we wouldn’t even consider the question, until one darn day, we think — I can’t go into THAT PLACE any more! I choose death today!

Our relationship with work is broken, not only because our jobs have become one of our greatest health risks, but also because the fundamental deal between employee and employer has changed.

No longer are fresh-out-of-college-new-hires just 40 short years away from a gold watch and a funded pension. That deal is no longer on the table. In fact, today’s college graduate is likely to have an average of 12 jobs in a given career. The implications for compensation, health benefits, financial planning and retirement – not to mention retirement age – are very real concerns and just one more reason why our relationship with work is broken.  Next week we’ll examine two more reasons as we ask some tough questions about some strange organizational behavior and discuss why you might want to keep a close eye on your boss…

As always, I look forward to hearing what you think at jeff@jeffkaplan.com.

Stay connected,