8 Ways to Build A Meaningful Career Legacy

Business woman holding the earth against climate change background. Global awareness concept

Imagine you’re at a funeral.  

Soft organ music is playing in the background. The scent of flowers permeates the air.

You look around, and you see all your friends, family, colleagues, direct reports and clients are gathered.

Suddenly, you realize, it’s your funeral.

One by one, your family, friends, colleagues, clients, and loved ones go up to the stage to make their eulogy to you.

They talk about all the great memories they have of you, and the wonderful legacy you have left behind.

Now, come back to the present.

I love this exercise from Stephen R. Covey’s book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”

It allows you to begin with the end in mind. To re-evaluate whether the way you are CURRENTLY living your life is in alignment with the legacy you want to leave.


Take a pause from reading this article. Bust out your journal or pull up a google doc and answer the following questions.

  • What do you really want people to say about you when you’re dead?
  • What kinds of things do you want them to say about your character? 
  • What contributions did you make in their lives? 
  • What kind of career will you feel proud to look back and think…. “I did that.”
  • What did you accomplish? What goals did you meet or exceed? What was your greatest career achievement?

And here are a couple more career legacy thought-starters:

  • Did your career enable you to spend time with your family?
  • Did you work for a mission-driven company?
  • Did you build a business to create your life’s vision?
  • Did you work in a career that aligned with your values?
  • Did you have the courage to go after your dream?

Now I want you to imagine continuing down the career trajectory you are currently on.  

Imagine if nothing changes. 

You continue to do the same type of job you are doing now for the rest of your life until you retire.

Does this career path line up with your vision of the legacy you want to leave behind?

The truth is that every career choice you make from here on out (including staying put) will either move you closer to the legacy you want to leave….

Or it will move you further away.

Will you decide to proactively take steps towards creating your career legacy?

Or will you passively go through the motions, simply showing up to work each day?


A legacy is defined as something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past (Source: Merriam-Webster)

Your legacy is how you will make a contribution to future generations. It’s your mark on the world.  

The question is…. At the end of your life, will you have had a great career?  Or will you have created a legacy?

What is the difference between a great career and a legacy?

Sarah Roberts, author of “Nimble, Focused, Feisty: Organizational Cultures That Win in the New Era and How to Create Them” shares the succinct difference.

“A career is a collection of individual accomplishments that can be assessed, applauded and recognized. 

A legacy, however, is the lasting impact someone has on other people and a gift they leave for the world.”

Each of us was born with a gift.

Have you identified this gift and fully embraced it?

Or will you leave this universe without fully sharing your gift with others, leaving a lasting impact on the world?

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Perhaps you are reading this and feeling it’s a little grandiose.  

But the fact of the matter is, you are WITHHOLDING your gift from the world when you don’t fully step into your legacy.

Once you identify your legacy, you will live your life as if you truly matter (You do.)

Your life will have deep meaning & purpose. (It does.)

The legacy you are building will determine how you show up each day. You will begin doing what truly matters in the here and now. You’ll use time and resources wisely.

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1. Find your passion. Live your passion.

Can you think of anyone that left a career legacy… that was NOT doing something they were incredibly passionate about? Neither can I.

Your passions are your legacy.

How to find your passion?  

Explore your natural talents. Identify your strengths. Consider how your personality type plays into what you love doing most.  Decide what your ideal day at work would look like. What job functions would you do all day if you could? Find a role that will allow you to live as close to that ideal as possible. Identify interests and ideas that make a difference in your life. Seek out work where it doesn’t feel like work, but rather a constant state of flow.

Find a career that allows you to remain authentic to who you truly are (versus playing the role that “they” tell you to play.)

Once you find your passion, your legacy will become very clear.

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2. Share your gift.

What good is a gift, a passion, if you keep it all to yourself?

A legacy is not about you.  

It’s about what you are contributing to the greater good.

How will you make the world a better place to live? How do you want to impact your community? How will you serve?

Will you make the world more beautiful? Will you spread kindness? Will you streamline a process that used to be painful for people? Will you bring people together? Will you create understanding? Will you help people achieve their goals? Will you invent something? Will you change perspectives?  

How will you share your talent and knowledge with others?  

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3. Create your personal mission statement. Live your personal mission.

What is your WHY? Your intrinsic motivator?

What drives you?

What were you put on this planet to do?

What kind of a world do you want to help to create?

What is going to inspire you to FLING the covers off Monday morning because you can’t wait to get to work?

CHECK OUT THIS ARTICLE for a step-by-step on how to create a personal mission statement.

As Simon Sinek tells us, when you begin to align your life and career around your why, the “what” and “how” will become clear.

Don’t stress about how you will achieve said legacy until you first uncover why it’s important to you.

4. Build something.

You are not a sheep. You aren’t here to just show up. Take orders. Keep your mouth zipped.

This is about you CREATING something.

Perhaps it’s within a company. Creating a process, a system, a team, a policy, a strategy, a direction.

Perhaps it’s a new company all together. Something you built with love and care from the ground up…… that you can look back on some day thinking, “I did that.”

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5. Touch someone’s life.

A legacy is created for the world at large. But it’s also created by touching someone else’s life. Each relationship you nurture is a part of your legacy. This is you handing down your knowledge to someone else.

Who do you want to impact? Your team? Your colleagues? Your employees? Your customers? Your family?

How will you be a coach? A mentor? A leader? A teacher? A confidante?  

How can you take your successes and failures and help others learn from them?

What kind of significant truth will you impart to someone else?

6. Inspire someone.

You never know who you are inspiring with your words and deeds.

When you inspire someone, you are planting the seed of your legacy. 

Perhaps by simply having the courage to go after your dream – you are providing inspiration to others.

Or perhaps you have grown or transformed your life in a way that may inspire others.

When you speak and live in your truth, you inspire others to do the same.  

7. Align your actions with your values.

In order to create your legacy, you need to walk the talk.

This means living your life in alignment with your values. And building your career in alignment with your career values.

Think about the core values that have shaped your work ethic, your leadership style, behavior and attitude.

My career values include: freedom, authenticity, and following my passion. No wonder I felt stifled in my corporate communications job before I built my own business as a career coach.  

Once you identify your values, you can create a legacy that honors them.

8. Build a legacy strategy.

It’s not an easy feat to identify your dream career AND build a strategy to achieve your legacy by yourself. 

Nothing of lasting value is created in a vacuum.

Consider the help of a mentor or coach who will guide you through the process and keep you accountable to what you say you are going to do.

As a career coach it is my job to inspire you to think BIGGER and GREATER than you might otherwise do by yourself. I’m going to call you out when you are playing small and challenge you to stay true to who you really are.


There is something inside of you RIGHT NOW that is bursting at the seams to get out.

Are you withholding that gift from the world or embracing it?  

How many lives might you change for the better once you fulfill your legacy?

Start today.  

A legacy is created by taking a series of small actions day in and day out that support the bigger picture.

But you must have the courage to start.  

If right now, in this very moment, your life or career is not currently aligned with the legacy you want to leave…..what is one step will you take TODAY?


Start the discovery process to uncover what your dream career truly is.

CLICK HERE to download your Free Surefire Guide to Finding Your Passion.

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Let’s do this.

Betty Kempa, CPC, ELI-MP, is an executive career coach helping mid to senior-level corporate women transition out of unfulfilling jobs and into their dream careers. 



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