How do you stay relevant in changing times? The truth is that it's not easy to stay relevant — especially when times are changing so much, and you need to keep yourself educated, trained and up to par with the latest and greatest.
What does it mean to be relevant?
What makes a person relevant? A person who is relevant in their industry is one who comes to others' minds. These people are considered credible sources in their industry. When positions open up, when problems need to be solved, when people need professional advice, when opportunities arise, etc. it's the professionally relevant people who come to mind.
You want people to think of you when there's an opening for a job for which they think you might be a great fit, for example. Likewise, if someone is starting up a business in your field of expertise and they need an A-team, you want them to think of you. When a journalist is writing an article about a topic pertaining to your industry, you want them to consider you as a credible source. When there's a void that needs to be filled or an issue at your work, you want your company to know that they can rely on you as a professional to innovate and problem solve.
Simply put: You want to be on people's minds within your industry because they trust your skills and experience.
How do you stay professionally current?
Here are seven ways to stay relevant in your profession, even despite changing times.
1. Go to networking events in your industry.
Go to networking events in your industry like luncheons, dinners, workshops, trainings, talks and more. This way you are getting to know as many people in your industry as possible and staying relevant by always being present. Besides staying relevant, these events are also just great to go to in order to learn of new happenings, potential job opportunities and other news, and they're wonderful places to make friends and find professional contacts.
2. Stay in touch with former bosses and coworkers.
Stay in touch with your former bosses and coworkers. You never know when you might need a reference or even an introduction to a new company for which you want to work and where they've since moved. You don't want to burn bridges by ever cutting communication with professionals in your network, so it's important to keep up professional relationships with people in your industry — even if you don't necessarily directly work with them anymore.
3. Get more training when possible.
If there's more training to be had, get it (so long as it's accessible to and affordable for you). For example, if you're a developer and there's a new programming language that you don't yet know, get training so you can learn it. If you're a teacher, and there's a new teaching method many schools are practicing, go to seminars so you can be educated on these new strategies. If you're a yoga teacher, and you want to teach different techniques that you don't yet know, go get yourself more training and certifications so that you can teach other yoga types.
You want to know as much as you possibly can and develop as many skills as possible, all while honing the skills you already do have, in order to stay relevant.
4. Keep up with the latest industry news.
Keep up with the latest news surrounding your industry. You want to be able to keep abreast of what's going on and how different events and politics may affect your career. You also want to be sure you can carry a conversation with others in your industry by understanding what is going on around you. So be sure that you're following several news platforms or Twitter hashtags related to your industry; you may even want to sign up for email newsletters or set up your social media channels to alert you when there's news in your industry.
5. Specialize in one specific area of your field.
If you can, specialize in one specific area of your field. While being a Jack of All Trades can be hugely beneficial for you in landing different jobs, it can also be beneficial to be considered a specialist in your field. If, for example, you're a developer, you may want to specialize in front- or back-end developing, as opposed to pursuing a career as a full-stack developer. When your company needs help with a front-end-specific task, they may think of you first.
Of course, specializing over generalizing isn't always better. In many cases, being a generalist is preferable. Weigh your pros and cons and consider how specialists and generalists are treated in your company and/or industry before making this move.
6. Read as much as you can.
Read as much as you can — not just about the news, but also your industry in general. Pick up books on people within your industry who've inspired you, for example. You might be interested in autobiographies about literary greats if you're a writer, or about professional sports players if you're an athlete, or about engineers if you're an engineer. You can also read blogs by other professionals in your field, who might provide insight or whose content you may simply find interesting since it's so relevant to your life. Likewise, you can study science surrounding your industry, reading up on recent studies, for example.
7. Engage in online professional platforms.
Engage in online professional platforms like LinkedIn and even Facebook groups that pertain to your field. For example, if you're a designer, join design groups on Facebook. If you're a nutritionist, join groups for health professionals on Facebook. But don't just have a LinkedIn profile or be a member of these Facebook groups; rather, do your best to actually participate in these platforms. This means writing and sharing content, commenting on and reacting to comments and thread, and asking questions and responding to others' questions in these communities.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.