Do you ever wonder what your legacy will be?
It’s something I think about as my son grows older and older and my career reaches a mid-point.
Each of us wants to leave a legacy. And this desire to impact the world around us grows stronger as we age. As I struggle to balance full-time employment outside of our home, motherhood, friendship and marriage, I find myself continuing to ask the question, “Am I spending my time doing something that matters?”
When time is a premium in your life, purpose is everything.
My father suffered a stroke while my family was living abroad on an expat assignment. When it was time to return to the US, our family made the decision to leave our jobs, friends and a fairly secure life in Minnesota, to move to Michigan. The move allowed us to live closer to family and friends and forced us to explore different careers. My husband has an impressive background and easily landed a great job, at a great company with a lot of growth potential. But, his new role was in a small town and as the trailing spouse, life was not as easy for me.
After a frustrating job search, I quickly realized that I wasn’t going to be able to find a job that would allow me to continue to maximize my professional potential. We live in a tiny town, and the possibilities to pursue an amazing job do not exist. Frustrated but determined, I decided to do something else entirely: I looked for a job that would allow me to leave a legacy.
Each of us has the opportunity to impact the world around us in ways large and small. I’ve worked outside of the home since I graduated from college. I’ve held a variety of roles, some more fulfilling than others. Throughout my professional journey, I’ve continued to sharpen my skills and expertise, and I’ve realized that much of my energy can and should be channeled to support someone else.
I ended up finding a job at a company I knew very little about. It turns out, there’s an international company in west Michigan that happens to be the largest manufacturer of vitamins and nutrition supplements in the world.
As the largest manufacturer of vitamins and nutrition supplements, the company wanted to give back and improve society. They developed a micronutrient powder and were partnering with organizations around the world to distribute it to children between the ages of 6 month and 5 years of age in Mexico and Zambia. They understood that childhood malnutrition was preventable, and that something could be done to address the issue if awareness and funds were raised.
As the parent of an only child who was growing up way too fast, I felt that accepting this job was a good opportunity for me to make a lasting impact on the world. So far, I’ve been in my current role for two years. During that time, our team has expanded the program: and we’re now helping children in 14 countries and counting.
Like any job, it’s not perfect. There’s a lot to do and we have limited resources. Most days, it feels like there isn’t enough time to accomplish everything. And sometimes, that’s frustrating. But, because we’re committed to innovation, we also are encouraged to push boundaries and try new things.
This spring, I had the opportunity to travel to Africa and film a short movie that describes what we do. I realized we would never have the opportunity to take everyone to the field to see our program in action, so I lobbied for our team to produce a film that would showcase our efforts to address the very preventable issue of childhood malnutrition. Making the movie was a lot of fun–and is a great way for people to see what we’re doing.
As I think about the role that my current job, and future jobs, I know that it’s important for me to have employment that brings me personal satisfaction. I want my job to be more than a paycheck. Regardless of where you work or what you do for a living, each of us has an opportunity to leave a legacy.
Leaving a legacy at work isn’t just something you should do for yourself. If you do it correctly, you can have a lasting impact on your co-workers, your company and the clients or consumers you serve. When you leave your job, what legacy will you leave behind? What will people remember about you? What will you remember about your role when asked 5, 10 years from now?
I’m challenging myself to leave a legacy at work. To make it happen, I’ve created 3 rules for myself:
1. Find Joy Everywhere.
I believe that having a positive attitude reflects on what you do, and is contagious. In my experience people who have a positive attitude at work tend to accomplish more, manage stress better than others, and have a reputation for projecting an optimism that tends to overcome impossible odds.
Having a positive attitude can help you succeed at work, and survive even the most challenging and brutal of days.
2. Tell your story
Each of us has the power to share our skills and experience with someone else. Regardless of your level in your organization, you can offer counsel or advice to someone else simply by making yourself and your expertise available to someone else. Experience is a fantastic teacher and one of the most powerful things you can do is share your journey with someone else.
3. Live your passions.
There’s nothing worse than going to work at a job you hate. Life is too short to be miserable for 40 hours a week…or more. If you are working at a job you hate, there’s only one person who can change your fate: you.
Living your passion doesn’t mean saving the world or irrationally quitting a job you can’t stand. Work isn’t everything, and it’s certainly not the only thing. If you find yourself less inspired and low on passionate it’s time to recalibrate. This has happened to me several times since returning to the US. Each time, I’ve found that it’s important to re-commit to living my passions. Sometimes that means calling a friend, other times it has required me to learn something new, or re-shape a portion of my current job to better align with my current interests or curiosities. Living your passion isn’t easy, and it requires a lot of creativity and support. But it’s important because life is short and each of us has so much to offer. If you’re stuck in a rut, channel your energy, reach out to your friends and family and take a critical look at what you can improve in the short and long term. You owe it to yourself to dedicate your time and energy to something that fuels your passions!