Pursue legacy, not job security
I grew up in an era that thrived on job security. Your aim was to get an education to get a job you could retire from. What I have found, however, is that life is not that predictable. There is so much that impacts the business environment that professionals in my view need to develop themselves not for job security but for career legacy.
How do you create career legacy?
1. Know your purpose or mission in life. Your career should be an outflow of your greater calling. Why do you exist? What problem do you hope to solve? What is the contribution you want to leave and to whom? Stephen Covey refers to it as beginning with the end in mind. In 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he asks you to think about what you want people to say about you when you die. Seems a bit gruesome and that’s one of those things like money, religion, and politics that we avoid talking about but is a necessary activity. All your efforts will lead to that final outcome.
2. Be a lifelong learner. Whenever you have discovered that ‘thing’ that you are giving your attention to, continue to grow and develop in that area. Stay current, watch trends, and keep evolving. There are careers today that don’t exist anymore, or don’t have the prominence or dominance they had before. There are more careers that artificial intelligence is seeking to replace. Are you paying attention? Are you replaceable or valuable? Don’t get me wrong. Valuable people aren’t layoff proof either. When business decisions are made, it is usually a numbers game. Being valuable may just increase your chances of staying off the list a little longer.
3. Embrace change and innovation. There was a point early on in my career where I had to embrace change and taking calculated risks. Not every move was a perfect one, but all critical to my growth to the next step in my career progression. I remember interviewing for a job and sitting at lunch with the Director of Recruitment, another of her colleagues came to join us and asked me what I was doing there. The recruitment leader excitedly told her I was interviewing and the woman responded, ‘You? You don’t know how to stay on any job.’ I couldn’t believe she could make such a mean statement to ruin my chances for a job I was never offered anyway. That particular establishment looks for people who will stick and stay. While it is understandable because turnover impacts an organization in many ways, no company should want to stifle the organic nature of someone’s career. Sometimes a person has to leave because there is nothing more for them at that company. That’s the trap. People get comfortable and stop learning and just maintain what they accomplished years ago. I’ve noticed that progressive companies now actually look for movement and progression in someone’s career. Fifteen or twenty years in one company isn’t necessarily viewed as personal progression. Yes, you may be stable, but are you stuck? Are you out of touch? Are you inflexible?
The late Myles Munroe put it this way: “People generally fall into one of three groups: the few who make things happen, the many who watch things happen, and the overwhelming majority who have no notion of what happens. Every person is either a creator of fact or a creature of circumstance. He either puts color into his environment, or, like a chameleon, takes color from his environment.”
Dr. Munroe was not just a pastor and spiritual teacher, he wrote books and documented what he taught, trained the people around him to pursue vision, purpose and potential, so that everything he did still remains, even though he has transitioned. The same holds true for other great visionaries like Steve Jobs, Dave Thomas, Colonel Saunders, Disney and the list goes on. You may say that your life and achievements are not at that scale. That’s true and not everyone will, but we all have the opportunity to make lasting impacts: on the people around us and in the companies we serve. There are projects that I initiated and created or doors I opened for people that I may never get the credit for or public recognition but it doesn’t take away from the fact that it was done and others benefit from it, even after I left the organization.
At the end of the day, job security is an illusion. Nothing is secure in business. Just when you feel it is comfortable is the moment when everything changes. The only thing that is secure is you, how you feel about yourself, and the contribution you make to the earth before you leave it. I leave this quote with you, as you consider how you will create a life and a career that is sustainable over time, even beyond time. That is legacy.
“The great use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.” William James
• Simmone L. Bowe, MSc, SPHRi, is a seasoned human resource and organization development consultant & trainer, speaker, author, mentor, and activist who focuses on helping business owners, leaders and professionals ‘live limitless’ by identifying purpose & vision, aligning to purpose through authenticity, and breaking free of limiting mindsets and practices. For comments, queries, strategic solutions, and bookings, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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