Eventually we all leave the employer we’re working with now, be it retiring, quitting outright, taking a leave of absence that turns into moving on, getting laid off or yes, even terminated. What if anything, will you leave behind that would mark your contribution?
I suppose one key question is whether or not leaving behind anything of a lasting nature is even important to you. It’s kind of like when you and I – all of us – pass away in life really. Well it is isn’t it? I mean, do we want to leave behind some sign of our passing? The big difference here is that we’re not actually dead and so yes, we can look around us while we’re still in our workplace and point to things we’ve had a hand in creating. Conversely, we can just walk away, never look back and not give it a moment’s thought.
Consider though the number of hours, days, weeks, months and years you give to an organization. When it all adds up, you’ve invested a great deal of your life sitting at that desk, standing on that line, traveling in that vehicle etc. You’ll have a lot of mixed memories no doubt when you move on, perhaps all the way from great ones to ones you’d rather forget. Those memories are important not just now but in the years to come because they mark the time you put in and they’ve had a hand in shaping who you are.
Not unlike the impact the experiences have in shaping you, your time in an organization contributes to it. Maybe you’ve affected a policy or procedural change. Perhaps you mentored some others who in turn went about their business differently because of your influence. Perchance there are things you’ve created like manuals, filing systems, software designs, physical spaces, programs etc.
Here’s something to think about. If you were to go back now and visit the places where you put in time in your past, what would you find? Depending on how large the organizations are that you worked for and how long ago we’re talking, they may or may not even remember you. Maybe your co-workers and the management of the day have all moved on themselves. No one even recalls your name. It’s different I suppose if your name adorns some oil painting in a hall of founders.
So how would it make you feel to go back and discover its as if all your years working for an organization never even occurred? That no one remembers you? If you couldn’t point to a single thing you’ve done that had any lasting impact, would you care? I’m not suggesting you should of course, but it’s an interesting thing to contemplate. Again, you may or may not be concerned one way or the other; comfortable in the knowledge that you contributed while there and the only lasting memories you want could be the day you walked out the door.
Still, you were there for a chunk of time weren’t you? Yes when you add up the time you worked for this place and that place and oh yes, that place too, you’ve put in a significant amount of energy. Hopefully those places appreciated your contributions. Then again perhaps the organizations themselves have ceased to even exist; they went under, relocated, disbanded or dissolved. No wondering then if you’re remembered!
Maybe – just perhaps – the real key then for some of us is not to put much energy and time into making a mark on an organization; the physical bricks and mortar. Maybe the real key for at least some of us is to make our mark on the people we worked with. While they too will eventually pass and move on, if we influence others by the way we work, the things we say, the actions we take, the training and advice we pass on, maybe what happens is they are shaped by us in part no matter where they go. So it’s not a physical building, a policy manual or a plaque on a wall that we seek to leave behind to mark our time, but rather the interaction we had with those we worked with.
So, can you look around where you work now and honestly see any influence you’ve had on others? What of yourself? Can you see how what you do is because someone in your past or present passed on something to you? Maybe you work smarter, act kinder, put in more effort, smile more etc. because somebody you admire passed on something that affected you.
Here’s the thing reader. Unlike when we die, you’re still alive and have the time if you choose, to make your mark. Whether you use the time you’ve got to positively or negatively impact on others, your workplace itself or not, you’ve got the luxury of having the choice. You can therefore choose to consciously contribute to your workplace in such a way that you do make your mark, or you can opt just to do the minimum, take your pay and move on.
Where you work now, I bet you can think of at least a few people who have retired or moved on in some other way. Do you recall their faces and names as well as their legacy or do you struggle to even recall what’s-his-name?
Either way, it’s a life.