Recently I had lunch with a friend. We met at a café and sat outside in the sunshine. It was a beautiful day. My friend was catching me up on her new job and life in general. She had just taken a job at an organization that not only would challenge her professionally but one that aligned with her belief system. It was cause for celebration.

We met while working at an organization a few years back. She left after less than a year and I, well, it took me about four years to see there was no growth. (I can be patient to a fault sometimes.) We were discussing some of our old co-workers’ new work adventures. A name came up of a person who in the relatively short time since leaving our common gig, had taken on a leadership role at a well-known non-profit in Chicago.

“I don’t know how you felt about her, but she’d be a good person to talk to,” my friend said. I shook my head, “no.” When we worked together, this person was a vice president in the organization; I was an admin. We were not fans of each other. And it got me to thinking: what impression have I left on my former co-workers? What will they remember as their experience with me?

Leaving a Lasting Impression

I actually think about this a lot. I know people often network with former colleagues and move around career-wise that way, and to some, it’s beneficial. For me, I have always gained a few friends from each job, and if I network at all, it’s in the form of genuine friendship. People that I have worked with that weren’t cordial or nice, or that I didn’t particularly like, I tended to keep it moving — opting to cement that relationship squarely in the past.

Mainly this is because my anxiety tells me that people are still mad at me from that time I may have had to remind someone of what my job actually entailed. Or a time we ran low on copy paper, and everyone thought the sky was going to fall. The sky didn’t fall, and I’m sure my face said as much when a panicked co-worker came crashing into my desk. I wholeheartedly understand my anxiety lies to me often, but what do former co-workers actually think?

My ultimate hope is when people look back, they can see the nuance of the daily work grind, which is usually just mundane tasks masquerading as emergencies that overlap into other mundane tasks masquerading as emergencies. Now that we are out from under that particular grind, they can see me with fresh eyes. I hope they see me beyond that place that we obviously, in due time, both felt wasn’t a good match.

It’s my anxiety that makes me approach new workspaces, being conscious of the impact I want to leave once I’m gone. And also, at the same time, I recognize, that no matter what my impact, being authentic serves me best. So no, I won’t be reaching out to that former colleague, but I have some genuine friends who also happen to be former colleagues, who I can depend on. And who’s professional advice, I’ve been grateful to receive.

If your former co-workers were asked about you, what would they say?

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash
What would your former co-workers say if they were asked about you today? Writer Maya James shares her thoughts on making a lasting impression.