Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Transcript: Have you taken a look at your career math? It might shock you

Career Math

KARL MOORE – This is Karl Moore of the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University with Talking Management for The Globe and Mail. Today I am particularly delighted to speak to Brian Fetherstonhaugh who is the CEO and Chairman of OgilvyOne in New York City.

One of the things I have heard you talk about a couple times and just love is the idea of career math, what is career math?

BRIAN FETHERSTONHAUGH – Career math is a couple of simple questions I encourage people to ask themselves because the answers can be quite enlightening.

Story continues below advertisement

Question No. 1 – take the number 62 and deduct your current age. People in their 20's and 30's are often in my audience and they do that and the answer to my question is the number of years left until early requirement. Most people are stunned and shocked at how big a number it is and the key point is a career is a marathon, not a sprint, and it's the most fundamental principle of effective career management – it is a long journey.

The second question relates to what percentages of your personal asset do you accumulate after your 40th birthday? People guess 30, 40, or 50 but the answer is 90 per cent. The vast majority of our personal assets and person wealth are accumulated after our 40th birthday partly because we have more years of career after our 40th birthday, they are all the big ones, we have the benefits of compound interest, etc. Most people miss not only is it a long journey but it is very very back-end loaded.

Another question I ask people are how many Facebook friends and Linked-In connections do they have?  Young people will answer 1,500 or 2,000 and I use that to contrast with another question. When people have long and successful careers and they are at the podium at their farewell dinner, how many people do they comment on who have had a huge impact on their career? The answer is often five – it's a handful of extremely meaningful high-impact relationships and the point is don't confuse those high-impact people you will meet in career heaven with Facebook friends and Linked-In connections. It is not a quantity game; it's a quality game. Listen for those high-impact people, listen for those champions and mentors, they are the people who really make a difference in an individual's career.

KARL MOORE – How do you find those five people?

BRIAN FETHERSTONHAUGH – To find those five people you will meet in career heaven I think you will need to listen well and you also need to nurture those relationships. Many people will go to university and there is somebody out there from their family or community life, or a former employer from a summer job, who really champions them – they are an advocate and it's like having a wind at the back of your neck throughout your life. Along your career you will find people who champion you, who promote you, who back you up in various situations and I just encourage people to listen to them but also give them a little bit back. You don't need to give them money but you need to give them a little bit of news and a bit of attention.

If someone has backed you to go into university then just let them know, "I finished my first year," "I am loving marketing," "I am struggling with finance." Whatever your comments are they would love to hear from you. The same is true of your mentors and those champions as your career unfolds. As you get to moments of truth let them know, "I am at a crisis situation and I am seeking your advice," or "something great just happened to me and I got a great job in Asia." Let them know and I think that will bring out the full value of those kinds of special relationships in a career.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
As of December 20, 2017, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this resolved by the end of January 2018. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to