These days, one reads a lot by the pundits of presidential politics about legacy. What will be your legacy? "Hold on," you say? "I'm just beginning my engineering career." Stephen Covey describes Habit Number Two of his Seven Habits of Highly Effective People as "Begin with the End in Mind." It's a good way to consider one's career.
Often, we are immersed in our everyday challenges. We're too caught up in the projects of the moment to consider the larger context of our work. Beginning with the end in mind allows us, in our quieter moments, to plan our career in the larger context. Is the end I seek long term, served by the position I hold today? For many, the only time we consider the question, "Where do you see yourself in five years?" is during an interview. One day we wake up, deep in our careers, and find that we are unchallenged, uninspired and unhappy. Better that we consider our career from the perspective of its end. What will we want to have achieved in our lives? Do we want to build great things? Design products that enhance people's lives? Manage other people? Make a difference in the world? Certainly we all aspire to earn a good living and live a balanced life, but what goals do we want to achieve in a lifetime of work?
Is the path I'm on today leading me toward achieving my life's goals? Covey suggests that we consider each step along the way as part of the great arc that constitutes our career. Is what I am doing today keeping me on purpose or off purpose? Will I need to acquire new skills, take additional classes, befriend new technology, learn better communication skills, get closer to the customer? What is my personal mission?
Developing a personal mission statement is a start to creating personal direction in your life. I encourage you, today, to consider your legacy. Today!