One of the big challenges professionals face is remaining relevant in their industry, especially when that industry is shrinking.
Let's face it. Business come and go, in all disciplines. No matter where yours is now, employees, leaders and entrepreneurs alike can’t ignore the potential that someday, perhaps sooner than they think, their services will no longer be needed. No matter how good you think you are or how high your revenue numbers are today, you’re not immune to the possibility that you can be thrown out with the old to make room for the new.
So, how can you keep yourself relevant? It is all about the client. Whether you own a business, run one or simply work at one, we all have clients to serve. And following these steps to best serve them is the key to staying relevant and keeping their business:
Always put your clients' needs first. It’s normal to think that you know what’s expected of you based on history or based on your job description. But it’s very easy to get lost in what we know and forget that our clients’ needs are changing constantly and, therefore, so should our approach to our work. If you’re not clear every single day about your clients’ needs then you can’t possibly do your job well. Be innovative, no matter where you are along the corporate ladder. If you’re a business owner, adapt your business to meet your clients’ expectations and anticipate those needs changing based on trends in your industry and in related industries. If you’re an employee, it’s important to do the same thing. Remember: If your clients don't benefit from what you’re doing then your work becomes irrelevant -- and so do you.
Avoid getting set in your ways. By nature, humans are creatures of habit. Some of those habits work for us, but many of them keep us stuck in a pattern that, leads us down the path toward irrelevance. Many professionals get comfortable doing things in the way they know. Variation or deviation from the status quo makes them uncomfortable. But pushing yourself every day to change your routine is a good way to avoid becoming so rigid that you fail to see where you need to make changes. This will also prepare you to be nimble in situations where challenges arise and will also send a message that you can be counted on to rise to the occasion when called upon by your client.
Be open to new ideas, no matter from where they come. A good idea can as easily come from your manager as it can from your client, your employee or your friend. Get ideas from talking to a stranger in your daily travels, from participating in an activity that you enjoy away from work, from watching television or from reading something of interest to you that has nothing to do with your field. You never know where an idea comes from so be open no matter where you are. Use your creativity to take an idea from an unlikely place and apply it to your work. That’s the true meaning of “out of the box” thinking. And remember, your job is not isolated from the rest of your life, so while it’s good to shut off work mode whenever you can, there’s something powerful in allowing creativity to come from time away from the office.
Related: When It's Appropriate to Micromanage
Realize that your business, and your career, is a journey, rather than a destination. As that saying goes for life in general, it also applies to your business and career. If you want to remain relevant and ensure your business or your career is successful, remember to move the target you set for yourself when you get close to reaching it. What you don’t want is to think that when you reach your goals you can sit back and coast. If you remember that your business is a journey then it will remind you to always be moving forward.
Understand that the road may be bumpy along the way, but your attitude is your suspension system. No one wants to work with a downer or someone who always sees the glass as half empty. Sure, your industry is shrinking and the sentiment among your employees, colleagues, vendors, and clients is pretty glum, but that doesn’t mean you have to be. If you are in tune with your clients’ needs and how those needs are changing, then you will be thinking about how to adapt the work you do to fit the environment. Perhaps that means learning a new skill or finding a new career path that takes your experience and meshes it with the changing industry. But we can’t stop evolution and we can’t control the bumps and challenges from appearing. What we can control is our attitude. Like a car, the quality of your attitude will determine how much or little of the shock you absorb, which will determine how much you feel those bumps.