Insights from practitioners in Information Management

Issue 87 – Your Professional Legacy

There is a little bit of a theme happening with these first few editions of Information Overload for 2010, February we spoke about Customer Relationship Management, March we looked at Referees and who we would ask, this month we look at your legacy. What are you going to leave behind after you have moved on?

In this issue we will look at:
•    Other People’s Perception
•    Creating your professional legacy

Other People’s Perception
Have you ever given a thought to how well you have done / or are currently doing a job? Not many people do, but can you do me a favour and stop now and think about it. Given last month’s edition related to who we ask to give us a reference when we need to get a new job it is really quite relevant.

In thinking about your current position, what would your current manager / line manager / CEO say about your:

•    Time management
•    Project management skills and abilities
•    Interpersonal relationships and skills
•    Attitude
•    Quantity and quality of your work
•    Difference you made to the organisation when you were there

Given these are the types of questions a new organisation needs answers to (amongst other things) it is interesting don’t you think. We may think we have done a good job, in some cases we may consider we have done an excellent job, but what we think doesn’t matter as much as what “other” people think about what and how we did – especially when it comes to someone giving us a reference.

•    We may have rolled out a new system on time and under budget but in doing so alienated so many people with our demands, time pressures and tantrums they were glad to see the back of us.
•    We came, we saw, we made a mess and we left again.
•    They have no idea who we are – if you wander in, do your job, rarely make a comment let alone a ripple and leave again, they may have no idea who we were let alone the job we did, or worse still
•    The only comments relate to how well our social network “worked”

In any of the above scenarios, you are going to have a problem.

You may say – but this is all about perception, and you would be right. What we perceive to be true about ourselves will not be the same as what someone else perceives about us, but again I would stress, if you want to leave a positive legacy behind you it’s important to not burn too many bridges.

Creating your Professional Legacy
I am going to make an assumption here. I am going to assume you want to do a fantastic job with the job you have. It doesn’t matter what position you hold within an organisation, you simply want to be known for being the best person who ever did that job.

And I am being serious. There are no – “but I’m only a ….” comments to add here.

If you are employed to fill shelves, fix toilets, wash windows, manage a company, lead a team of people, roll out a new system, then all you need to be is the best person to …….

Easier said than done? Well no, I don’t think so. But how?

Well I consider there are some basic principles at work, regardless of the job you do, and most of them don’t relate to the job itself, rather “you” as a person that makes the biggest impact.

Do you:

•    Take pride in yourself? My litmus paper test is always – What would happen if you had to apply for your own job today? We all know first impressions count – so would your choice of clothing make a good impression or a bad one? A recent comment I heard was “people shouldn’t judge you by what you are wearing – but on your skills and abilities” unfortunately everyone does – and when it comes to the workplace it is even more evident. If you had to step in for your boss today and meet a potential client – would your appearance make or break the potential relationship?
•    Smile? This is one thing we should all do more often and it doesn’t cost a cent. And no I don’t mean we should go around grinning like Cheshire cat’s, but having a pleasant attitude towards yourself and your fellow employees is contagious. Have you also noticed – a genuinely happy person tends to look younger than those who seem to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders.
•    Greet customers and fellow staff members with a cheerful demeanour or are you the person no-one likes to make eye-contact with? This one goes hand in hand with the previous comment.
•    Are you helpful? What happens when the telephone rings, are you pleasant, happy, surly, annoyed? The way you speak to people makes a huge difference to the quality of your relationships, and yes it is obvious when you are having a good day and even more so when you are having a bad one. But obviously it’s not just what you say, but how you say it that makes the difference. You may say the words, but the way you uttered the sentence made the person back off completely or ask for your manager.
•    Do you follow through with your promises? Don’t say to people, I’ll have that on your desk by 5 if you have no intention of starting on the job until tomorrow. This is just classic customer service. We know what it’s like when we have been poorly treated by someone – so aim to treat your “customers” with respect. And it should come as no surprise when I say that everyone you interact with every day are your customers.
•    Do you take pride in the job you do – no matter what it is? It has been said we should autograph our work with pride. Would you be happy to die today knowing what your desk / office looked like? What would they find when they went through your filing cabinets, drawers, email folders etc. This also goes for when we do decide to pack up and move on. What are people going to find when you leave for the last time? Would they find your work up to date? Would they be able to find out where you got up to? Did you meet the requirements of your position?

On your CV do you have a section under each job / position that you have held that says “significant achievements?” We can list the duties relating to each position, but that doesn’t tell a potential employer what you consider you were good at or what you achieved during your tenure. These claims will of course be verified during the reference checking process, so be careful about what you claim.

With many thoughts