In today’s competitive employment environment, it’s increasingly important to do everything you can to get and stay relevant in your organization and your area of expertise, and to be able to communicate that relevance to others.
From job knowledge and the latest trends, to technological savvy, employers have increasingly higher expectations that their employees will do their part to help the organization achieve and maintain a competitive edge. When it comes times for promotions, those who are relevant thrive. When it comes times for layoffs, those who aren’t, don’t survive.
Here are 9 things you can do to stay relevant and help prove your value to your employer:
1. Become an expert in the current technology and software used in your field. The quickest way to make yourself irrelevant at work is being unable to do your job because you don’t know how to use the newest version of a commonly used or field-specific software your company has purchased. If your employer doesn’t provide immediate training, find it elsewhere. A tip on where to start is to contact the software manufacturer.
2. Attend trade shows and conferences to stay ahead of the trends. Even if your organization doesn’t always adopt all the latest technology, just knowing what’s out there can make you a hero when a problem arises and you just happen to know of a tool, software, or other available option that will solve it.
3. Read! Read trade journals, news articles, and anything you can get your hands on related to your career field and the industry in which you work.Try to carve out 30-60 minutes a week to read the latest industry or career news. If nothing else, at least conduct an Internet search for news. Set Google Alerts for key words from your industry or career field, or the names of competitors (see #5 below). Be sure to communicate what you’ve learned by sharing in meetings, or sending links to relevant articles to supervisors, clients, employees, and others who would benefit from the information.
4. Get to know your clients’ needs and verify them regularly. Just as the world is constantly changing, and you’re going continually change to stay relevant, your clients and their needs will change over time. Most clients won’t communicate and let you know that no longer meet their needs, they’ll just find someone else who does. It’s important to meet with clients one-on-one to listen to their challenges and goals and identify ways you can help them overcome challenges and achieve their goals. Surveys are also a great way to gather information from large groups of clients and see trends where you can help and gaps where you might not be meeting their needs.
5. Know what your competitors are innovating and what they’re doing for their customers. Not knowing the latest products your competitors are developing or offering and the services they provide their customers is another great way to make yourself and possibly your entire organization, irrelevant. I’m not talking about corporate espionage or anything, a quick Internet search will likely give you the answers you need.
6. Take advantage of social media. Join online professional groups to stay on top of things. While you’re at it, don’t just be a lurker in the background, pose relevant questions and respond to those others post. In other words, be a contributor. Not only will this help you begin to build more professional relationships, but it will help you stay relevant by creating a reputation as an expert on topics related to your field and industry.
7. Take advantage of training opportunities. Don’t wait until the end of the year to cram in whatever training courses are still available so you can get your CEU’s completed before you performance evaluation. As soon as your organization (or industry professional organization) posts its annual training calendar, sign up for relevant training. Additionally, don’t just attend the minimum number of sessions to achieve your CEU requirement. Take advantage of as many quality training opportunities as your employer will allow you to attend so not only you, but your skills stay relevant.
8. Learn the long-term objectives of your organization and be the person that can help the company or department achieve them. Similar to the rational for becoming an expert, knowing your company’s goals for the future gives you the opportunity to stay relevant by becoming the person to help the company achieve them.
9. Become a great communicator. Of course, a person who writes a communication blog would say you need to be a great communicator. However, none of the tips above will matter if you can’t share what you know. Besides, the #1 relevance skill that trumps all others is communication. Year-after-year, surveys of industry leaders and managers find that communication skills are considered critical to workplace success. Take every opportunity to improve your oral, written, and nonverbal communication skills!
Amy Castro is a workplace communication expert, speaker, trainer, and writer of The Performance Communication Blog. She also authored the book, Practical Communication- 25 Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Getting Along and Getting Things Done.