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The Legacy Formula

by Randall Craig on January 13, 2009

Filed in: Blog, Career Planning, Make It Happen Tipsheet

Tagged as: , ,

Is there a magic formula for job success? Could it be as simple as “work smart” and “work hard”?

While working smart and working hard are important, success in a particular role is determined well before we’re even aware of the role itself. And we often don’t know how truly successful we are until well after we leave. Consider these factors:

Your success is determined by what you did earlier – much earlier. Each course you took and each role you held gives you a reservoir of experience that qualifies you for more responsible positions. This reservoir is also called upon each time you make difficult decisions later in your career. If we take career short-cuts, we often miss out on this experience, and our decisions are either riskier, or poorer. Even if we have the greatest education and the greatest experience, we always could use more – which is why mentors are so important.

Your success is determined by what you did the few weeks before you start.
Each time you change your role, there will be differences: in geography, industry, your function, internal processes, culture, etc. If you can identify these differences, then you can prepare for them beforehand. Part of that preparation can be done through your independent research, part through networking, and part through material that you request from your new manager. The goal is to reduce the surprize factor, and hit the ground running. (Or rather, at least to hit the ground walking.)

Your success is determined by the impression you make during the first day. On your first day, you will be under the microscope. Everyone will be making quick assessments of your competence, work style, and priorities. The first day (and beyond) should be spent primarily in listen-mode, learning, comparing the reality of the job with the preparation you’ve made beforehand, and developing relationships with those who can help you integrate.

Your success is determined by what you do each day. Reputations are made by consistently delivering on your promises. Consistent performance is worth far more than a one-time “win” that can’t be repeated.

Your success is determined by the legacy you leave well after you’re gone. Thinking about your last role, what is the one thing that you are most proud of? How would your colleagues answer that question? If the answers to these questions have made a positive impact on the organization as well, then you have left a fine legacy indeed.

This week’s action item: To determine your true success, first think of your legacy, not in terms of ego, but in terms of how you can make your organization better than it was before. Once you know the legacy you want to leave, then it’s easy to work each day towards that goal. It’s easier to make that best first impression. It’s easier to prep for your role. And it’s easier to assemble the experience that will make it all possible. What legacy do you want to leave in your current role? If you can name it, then you know the magic formula.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)



Randall has been advising on Web and Social Strategy since 1994 when he put the Toronto Star online, the Globe and Mail's GlobeInvestor/Globefund, several financial institutions, and about 100+ other major organizations. He is the author of seven books, including the recently released "Everything Guide to Starting an Online Business", and speaks across North America on Social Media and Web Strategy. More at and

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