Author: Daniel Bortz
Nobody wants to look like a dinosaur in their industry. Staying relevant in your field, though, isn’t easy. Unfortunately, a number of mid-level workers rest on their laurels and don’t bother with further professional development. “I think some people become content with where they are in their career,” says executive and leadership coach Jane Scudder, “but a lot of other people are hankering for more career development and want to continue to progress in their industry.”
Hiring managers want to see that you’re invested in your professional development, no matter what stage you’re at in your career. This shows initiative and curiosity, as well as the understanding that you can—and should—always learn new things. In order to be competitive, companies need to be at the forefront of their industry and adopt new innovations, setting the standard for others to follow. By adopting a similar work ethic, you’ll be a strong candidate.
But it takes work. Use these steps to commit to your professional development and stay relevant in your industry.
Focus on your skills development
Keeping your skills current is crucial. To do that, you’ll have to take ownership of your professional development, says Michael Melcher, an executive coach and partner at leadership development firm Next Step Partners. Be proactive, and don’t rely on your company to show you the way forward.
To determine what skills are in demand today, Scudder recommends looking at job postings for positions that are one or two steps above your current role. “It’s like reverse engineering,” says Scudder. “You’re seeing what core competencies and skills employers are looking for.”
Once you’ve identified the skills that you’re looking to gain, take a targeted approach by seeking out both internal and external training opportunities.
Pro tip: Many unions and professional associations offer free or subsidized job training to members. Seek out online classes to help you brush up on Excel, Photoshop, public speaking, and other skills—and you can learn at your own pace from your computer or mobile device.
Network, network, network
Building relationships with industry peers will enable you to gain a broader perspective of what’s going on your field, while also learning new work styles and problem-solving approaches. You can start by meeting employees of different ages at your current company (every generation of workers operates differently), and then branch out to industry professionals outside your employer.
Continuing to expand your professional network will also help you improve your visibility within the industry, says executive coach and leadership speaker Debra Benton. According to Benton, networking should be part of your daily tasks. “It isn’t easy, but the more networking you do, the more comfortable you’ll get at doing it and the more successful you’ll be,” she says.
Ideally, you want to focus on forming relationships with thought leaders in your field—people who’ve already proven their ability to stay relevant in your industry.
Build a presence on social media
In today’s workplace, simply being on social media isn’t enough, says Benton. To fully leverage these platforms, you have to be actively using these sites. This means taking the time to share other people’s tweets or posts, comment on industry news, and build your follower base. Consistency is key.
Looking to establish yourself as an expert on a certain topic? Consider starting a blog on the subject, and use your social media profiles to drive traffic to the site.