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The Old and the New Employment Contract

You are what you are today primarily because of learned behavior. You may be tall or short, have blue eyes or brown, be male or female -- these are inherited traits. But our personalities are generally formed from what we've learned from our environment.

Most of your non-physical characteristics are the result of learning, which takes place in your environment. At an early age, you learned how to walk by trial and error. You learned how to talk by listening, repeating and remembering words. You began your formal education in elementary school, went on to high school and possibly college. During your formal education years, you learned various social, functional and job-related skills.

Finally, you were ready for the working world. Your formal education was complete, your skills were developed, and you had something to offer a prospective employer. You landed your first job and then, except for some brief, infrequent company training programs, learning stopped.

This scenario has been played out countless times in our work force. It is partly based on what might be labeled the "old employment contract." Generally, the belief was that once you got a job, became a reliable and productive employee, played the corporate game and did what had to be done, you would have job security until retirement. It was a very paternalistic situation. The employer would take care of you, and unless the employer stipulated that you had to learn some new skill, generally you stopped learning. Your learning skills and abilities began to atrophy.