The other day, as I sat in my office, lost in thought, my attention diverted to a poster-sized enlargement of my company ID badge that hung on my office wall that had been signed by everyone in the office and was given to me as a gift when I was moving on from the first job I had at my company to a new role (…and yes, I admit it’s kinda weird to have a giant photo of myself hanging in my office, but I didn’t know of any other place to hang it, definitely NOT in my apartment).

While I “look at” this poster everyday, I rarely make the effort to “see” it. This time, I began to focus on the small notes that people left with their signature; a bit like browsing through your old high school yearbook (minus the “K.I.T” notes). Most were very complimentary and made me realize the positive impact I had on those I worked with. This got me thinking about the legacy I left since moving on to future opportunities.

For most, our natural tendency is to start thinking about legacy right before leaving or after moving on once some time has past. But as I thought about it, it became clear to me that the best way to create a lasting legacy is to be mindful of the legacy you are leaving from the beginning.

When doing this, you can develop a strong brand from the start that when paired with unique impact will lead people to remember you long after you have gone. Here is how to create a lasting legacy:

  • Create fans: One of the first steps is to develop some fans. People who love your quality of work can in turn become your own PR team, telling others about how great you are to work with. These fans will also help you get your work done (since we rarely work in a solitary silo).
  • Be humble: It’s easy to fall into to the trap of feeling like you need to tell people how great you are. This can create a legacy for you (but it will be a negative one). Moreover, if you are younger and go the telling route you will be branded as cocky and naive. To build the foundation for a positive legacy, focus on showing people how great you are. Let your actions speak louder than words.
  • No “Buts“: In a past blog post I talked about the importance of having no buts, no negative traits associated with your brand. As you build your legacy, make sure there are no negative marks to tarnish your image. It is better to have only one or two key strengths and no career derailing traits than to have many strengths and even one really negative branding attribute.
  • Team over Self: In my book, I talk about the importance of  aligning your goals with those of the team to achieving career success. The same is true for your legacy. A legacy of making the whole team successful is more lasting than your own personal accomplishments because people will see how you made them better.
  • Set Expectations: Often times when you don’t set expectations right and ultimately fall short, it negatively affects your brand. It’s as simple as remembering to always under promise and over deliver. Know what you need to do, learn how to do it and be professional in the process.
  • Leave Your Mark: The best lasting legacies are those marked by great accomplishments and consistent results. From the beginning, look for and take action in areas where you can leave your unique mark on the organization you are a part of.
Don’t think about your legacy after the fact or as you are leaving. Be purposeful from the beginning and conscious throughout. Follow the rules outlined above and although you might not receive a life-sized poster of yourself (nor would you want to), you will still leave a lasting positive legacy.