No matter where you are in your career, staying relevant professionally will be a big part of your success. Staying current in your field will require a strong mix of hard skills such as computer programs and the technical know-how needed to do your job, and soft skills such as general industry knowledge and communication savvy. Here are six ways I work on staying relevant professionally.
Keeping up-to-date on the trends affecting your industry is a key part of staying relevant, because it can help you see how your career fits in with your industry’s ups and downs. Do you know your industry’s biggest trends right now? What are people predicting in the next couple of years? How about 10 years from now? Who are the big players?
Answers to these questions can change quickly, so it's important to pay attention to the news and what customers and analysts are saying.
1. Take control of your own education
Industry events can often be more useful to you than formal coursework and credentials. Try to attend a major industry conference once a year, if you can. Look into local chapters of professional associations and join up. The price of membership often includes access to robust educational programs, as well as opportunities to build your network.
2. Join the conversation
Keeping up with industry trends and insights requires almost continuous maintenance.
Subscribe to newsletters, participate in discussions online, set up Google alerts for industry keywords so you can read the latest news. It’s only by keeping up on this front that you'll even know about the technical changes on the horizon.
3. Make friends across generations
Don't assume you don't have anything in common with co-workers who are older or younger than you. Making friends with people who aren’t in your age group can help you communicate with a wider variety of people. Getting their perspectives can help provide new ways of looking at the business. Finally, they can keep you dialed into big-picture changes, as well as provide new tools and problem-solving approaches.
4. Make relevance a priority
The biggest barrier to doing the work to stay relevant is often just feeling like you don't have time to fit in professional development. But you HAVE to. Think of it like brushing your teeth: It's so much easier to do a little each day, week or month than try to catch up and deal with the consequences after you neglect it for years. I aim to spend a minimum of 2-3 hours a week on professional development.
5. Be aware of the consequences
As relevance slips away from you, the biggest danger is that you slowly become unemployable on the open market. It's totally possible to stick it out “safely” in a certain job for a while, but always try to keep your skills fresh to the best of your ability.
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