What will you be known for? The 35-word challenge.

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In the application to the PRSA College of Fellows, candidates are asked to distill their achievements and legacy by answering this question: what should you be known for? Answers must be 35 words – or less.

I love that question. To me, it’s at the heart of leadership at every stage of our careers.

Many leaders wait until the end of their careers to think about their legacy: what they will leave behind for the organizations and people they serve.

Leadership and legacy aren’t based on your age or how long you have been in a job. They represent your body of work at each stage of your career. It isn’t about counting projects and activities. It’s about your personal impact. Making every day count.

Your legacy grows with every experience: the decisions you make and the actions you take. No matter your age or work experience, you have already begun to live your legacy.

Wherever you are in your career, I’d like to offer one piece of advice that I wish I had realized sooner. When you have a chance to try something new, say yes.

You will never regret trying. Even if a project doesn’t turn out as you had hoped, you will learn from the experience. Don’t look back with regret at opportunities you didn’t embrace.

If you were asked to describe your career and accomplishments today – in 35 words or less – what would you say?

How would your colleagues and friends describe you? Would their words match yours?

Are they what you want your 35 words to be?

If not, what do you need to do – now – so your 35 words truly reflect who you are, what you have done and your aspirations for the future?

Remember: you are forging your legacy every day.

Barbara Kerr, APR, Fellow PRSA, is the 2021 Immediate Past Chair of the PRSA College of Fellows. She served as president of PRSA’s Portland Metro Chapter (now part of PRSA Oregon) in 2014 and was the 2016 recipient of the chapter’s William W. Marsh Lifetime Achievement Award.

For her College of Fellows application, she provided this 31-word profile: “Recognized for leading change and honoring institutional history, Barbara Kerr preserves the past and embraces the future by inspiring a shared vision, striving for excellence and leading with energy and passion.”

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