The Power of Relevance: Four Ways to Get It & Keep It

What makes people tune in to watch a 71-year old singer in glitter and pasties belt out her biggest hit, circa 1989?  How about an 82-year old business legend who still commands upwards of $150k in speaking fees, and an 86 year old Star Trekker who made $600m from one of the web’s hottest online travel firms?  Setting aside the rich and famous, what about the 86-year old “Baddest Great-Grandmother on Instagram” with over 3 million followers?  Certainly, it’s their talent and perseverance.  But we believe it’s also due to their unrelenting efforts to remain relevant in an environment known for a 15-minute shelf life, and the most fickle minded consumers that have ever walked the planet.

Relevance means being relentless – and fearless – about self-growth and innovation.  Yet, people “are afraid to ask the ‘relevance question’: Is what I am making or selling still relevant, and will it be five or ten years from now?” says innovation expert Debra Kaye, author of the book Red Thread Thinking. “But they need to ask it every year, because if a person (or company) loses relevance, it dies.”  As relevance slips away from you, the biggest danger for any professional that you slowly become uninteresting, disconnected and quite likely unemployable on the open market.  Sure, it’s possible to stick it out “safely” in a certain job for a while, but who wants that?

So, now this begs the question, how does a person stay relevant especially in a dynamic, constantly evolving society?

Be Open to Evolving

It’s been said that your job description gets stale the moment that it is first given to you. Your real job is to figure out how to evolve it. It’s more than change.  We can all follow the cheese and say we’re adapting and changing.  But evolving requires interest and desire.  Ask yourself questions like: What business outcome does my work drive?  What does my work cost?  Where is there growth and ability to scale?  The answers will help you figure out how to evolve your job, nay your career, over time and make darn sure you are staying relevant, while adding enough value to the business.  We wholeheartedly believe that a system like ThinkTank can be part of any business leader’s arsenal of evolution and transformation. After all, it’s purpose is encourage deep engagement and high-performance in the workplace.

Network

We trust that you’re visible on networking apps and we salute you.  But relevancy is more than posting updates to your resume or clicking the ‘like’ button on your co-worker’s blog post.  Yes, we know it sounds painful to hear, but it’s old fashioned networking.  Yes, it can be tiresome.  Yes, it can be time consuming.  But it’s about career and personal development and it needs to be done.  Block out some time, make the calls, have the lunches, follow those in your network and re-tweet the tweets, sip the margaritas and chug the IPAs.  Keeping up-to-date on the trends and rumors affecting your industry is a key part of staying relevant.  It can help you see how your career fits in with your industry’s ups and downs.  Trust us when we say that it doesn’t take long to fade from people’s memory.

Go Social

We are raving fans of social media.  It keeps us in the know.  We’re connected to news, trends, pop culture and key influencers.  Sure, you can lurk, you can even troll, but we encourage embracing social media in all its raging glory.  For most of us, it means Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat – all great vehicles for staying informed and up to date.    But don’t forget YouTube, because every product that’s ever been sold was already unboxed, reviewed, dissected and even blended before you ever heard of it.

Set up a handful of searches, subscribe to the “it” newsletters and identify publications that fit your interests and professional goals.   Tune into the Apple WWDC live blog, eavesdrop on Google I/O and live-stream Facebook’s F8,9,10 etc.  It’s only by keeping up on this front that you’ll even know about the technical changes on the horizon.  But here’s some advice.  Don’t subscribe or follow more than is realistic for you.   Nothing is more deflating (and time wasting) than deleting the contents of your email in box because you’ve checked off every box on every page on every site.  Worse still, good luck trying to unsubscribe from something you never made time to read, especially with certain sites and services.

Seek Inspiration

Inspiration, innovation and creativity come from anywhere you want to look.  You can get it from people you talk with, the things you read and the space you move in.  Do work that pushes you to your edges and challenges you out of your comfort zone.  It’ll help you learn, grow and try new things.  Get outside, breath some air (fresh or otherwise), surround yourself with positive people, eat carbs, watch a TED talk, try a sport that isn’t golf or spinning, read blogs written by people who have overcome adversity and volunteer at the local soup kitchen or shelter in your community.