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Why Your Legacy Matters


It’s a common career scenario. You start out working day-to-day, living paycheck-to-paycheck just trying to keep your head above water.

It’s easy for that day-to-day approach to evolve to a year-to-year approach.  Before you know it, you are deep into a career that is going nowhere.  Your thirty years of experience is actually a year’s worth of experience thirty times over. What you call a career it turns out, was really just a job.

How do you convert that job back to a career? How do you shake that daily monotonous routine to make a difference for yourself and others that you work with?

Have a career strategy. Determine your end-game.  Have a vision of your retirement.  Where do you want to be when it’s all over and you begin wintering in San Juan Capistrano?

Once you picture that, you need to figure out how you will get there.  Develop a thirty-year plan and then a five-year plan that will help set the path for that plan.  Then, develop a one-year plan and then a 100-day plan. All of these plans should feed into the master plan.

I use the 100-day plan regularly, breaking it into ten 10-day increments to achieve quick accomplishments. I review my progress and then plan the next ten days.

How will you affect others? Picture your retirement dinner. Imagine that all of your former bosses, co-workers, and past employees fly in for the big night to help you celebrate. When everyone goes around the room, what will they say about you?

Did your hard work help make others successful while it was making you successful? Did you mentor others, giving them useful advice that helped them achieve their goals and advance their careers? Did you help others create better legacies?

Related post: 10 Ways to Mentor

Did you do meaningful work? Did you seek out projects that would leave the world better, or did you select the highest profit margins.  I recently had lunch with a colleague that was managing a project for a company in the health care industry.  He told me, “This is a great project because I feel like I’m contributing to improving health care and lowering costs at the same time.” He was leaving a legacy and was mindful of it.

Is your example worth following? Do you act in an ethical way? Do you practice sound decision-making and teach others how to make good decisions? Were you fair to people that you worked with? Did you show compassion and understanding when dealing with human beings, or did you focus only on the bottom line. When a co-worker lost his family member, did you attend the funeral or express your sympathy in some appropriate manner, or did you ignore it assuming they probably didn’t want to talk about it anyway.

The small actions you perform on a daily basis, which you may never remember, may be remembered by your colleagues long after you are gone.

Are you consistent? I remember once when a well-known and well-respected politician was brought down because of a sex-scandal.  He was forced to resign and his career was over. I had lunch with my boss and we discussed this man’s humiliating disgrace. I remember him saying, “It takes so long to build a good reputation and it takes only one act to destroy it forever.”

Once you begin building your legacy, it has to be a consistent effort to live it.  One misstep could destroy any credibility you built up.

Who do you want to be like? When your career is over and all people have is your memory, do you want to be known as a Gordan Gekko, of Wall Street fame?  The semi-fictional Gekko stepped over everyone and screwed anyone who got in the way of his selfish climb up the ladder.

Do you want to be Joe Nobody, who never really accomplished anything?  He kept his head down, never made waves, and never helped anyone.  His wife made him a nice retirement dinner that the two of them enjoyed in their kitchen.

Or do you aspire to be known as a leader, who had a successful career and inspired others to do the same.

It’s your choice, but it has to be a conscious choice and a consistent strategy to determine who you want to be and take the necessary actions every day to become that person.

For more information, check out Career Management for Mentors

If you would like to learn more about mentoring between Millennials and Baby Boomers, get Lew and Jeff’s book The Reluctant Mentor on Amazon.

I welcome your comments and criticisms.