When you reflect on the last 5 years in Australian politics and the fact that we have had 5 changes of Prime Minister in that time, 3 of whom lost their jobs whilst in the ‘top job’, you begin to wonder about job security. All of those at the top of their game spent many years working towards the goal of the most powerful job in the country, only to have it ripped away from them without an apology. A number of those PM’s commented that they had “unfinished business” but were proud of the achievements they had made.
Have you had the experience of having your job ripped out from under you? You must have been devastated. How did you console yourself? Were you proud of the quality of work you produced, of what you achieved, of the team you left, of the changes you made or the service you provided?
Are you still in your job? When was the last time you thought about your career direction and what you are achieving? I am reminded of a classic quote (I’ve paraphrased) that said, “I spent my life climbing the corporate ladder, but when I got to the top it was leading against the wrong building”. Which gets me back to the idea of legacy; the effort you expend in the climb up some invisible ladder of ambition and the long hours you spend at work (whether or not you are being effective), actually have an impact on what you produce. Those on the receiving end ‘inherit’ what you leave behind, just like the next Prime Minister. In the context of your life’s work or career, what will those who follow you inherit because you have been here? Sobering? Powerful? Scary? Challenging?
I choose to look at it as a personal challenge, to take time to consider what I want to leave behind. I want to leave something positive behind each day. For the people I make connections with I want to leave a little more confidence, self-belief, clarity and focus. But, I can’t give what I haven’t got. I can’t lead where I haven’t been and I can’t teach what I haven’t learned. A Chinese philosopher said that “a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” If I can help the people I meet make one step in the direction they want to go, I will feel I have succeeded.
So what about your legacy? Everyone has the capacity, whether you’re Richard Branson, Mother Theresa or your kid’s footy coach, to leave behind a lasting legacy, but we don’t all find the inspiration to fulfill that potential. Most of us probably go through our whole lives and never give it a second’s thought. If you want to take that first step toward leaving a wonderful legacy where would you start?
May I suggest you start with your values? You may ask, “How do I really know what my values are?” Well, what you value is what is important to you. If it’s important you will make it a priority, you will give time, attention and resources to it. Gandhi said, “Your actions expresses your priorities”. The Bible says, “The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be”. What we treasure in effect, is what we value. So we can look at our actions, particularly what we put our time into, and this will give us a clue.
However, you may find that you are forced to spend time doing what is not important to you, and are at the mercy of the ‘Tyranny of the Urgent’, to quote Steven Covey. If that’s the case you may need to go back to identifying your key personal values and lining up your current lifestyle against those values and check what changes you may need to make.
A professional career consultant is ideally suited to help you with this. As you live more congruently with what is important to you, including your career/work life, you will find greater satisfaction and guess what, your legacy will start to take shape into something that you want to invest in more, so that it becomes something you are proud to leave behind.
This article is written by Meredith Telfer, Career Consultant Geelong