Written by alumna Salwa F Darraj (MSc Economics and Strategy for Business 2014) Senior Consultant at EY and Champion of the Women’s Network. She is also a member of the Business School’s Alumni Advisory Board, a Fellow at the UK Chartered Management Institute and Imperial College London student mentor.
The world is developing faster than ever before, new technologies are swooping in and disrupting our day-to-day lives; the concept of a stable, more predictable, life no longer exists. These changes undoubtedly prompt us to constantly think about how we can stay relevant. Staying relevant does not merely mean fitting in, but instead focuses on staying on top of new, evolving information and disruptions. As the work environment becomes more challenging and our education becomes partially outdated, staying relevant becomes a key component of success.
Prepare for a lifetime of learning
The second we finished our higher education and attended our wild post-graduation party we thought that the days of books, exams, and that annoying last minute revision session were all behind us. Little did we know that these were simply the pre-workout stretches preparing us for the serious marathon that was yet to come. A couple of years into joining the workforce, you will start to realize that obtaining additional degrees and certifications is not a luxury but a necessity, and that continuous professional development is key to greater success.
The most important aspect of staying relevant is to stay informed about all the new developments and trends taking place in the world, be it in business, technology, medicine, fashion, or any other specialization. You do not need to master all the new trendy concepts like AI and blockchain, but, at the very least, it is essential to know the basics of these fast-developing concepts. This will allow you to spot new trends in your field and better prepare you to face challenging times. Staying informed is a form of constant learning, where exploring new concepts can open new doors to better opportunities.
Part of staying relevant relates to staying connected. Maintaining a wide network of strong professionals from diverse backgrounds can prove to be very helpful in getting introduced to the ins and outs of different industries. It goes without saying that being surrounded by a strong professional network provides access to tapping into new industries.
But how do we stay relevant?
Become a master of research
Read, research, and read! The importance of reading and regularly researching new ideas, terminology, and scientific revelations cannot be underestimated. This can range from terms mentioned in a Netflix show to concepts discussed during a business meeting. It does not matter where you get your inspiration from, the key is to scratch the surface and dig deeper into the application of modern-day knowledge.
Live to learn
In one way or another, we all remain students throughout our lives. As we get older, our methods of learning become less conventional, our teachers take on unusual forms, but the desired result remains the same. Some of the best ways to continue your professional development is to take online courses, attend evening classes, or to join summer school programs at your alma mater. From there you move forward to building expertise in a specialized area.
Ask to develop
No one likes a ‘smarty pants’, so always make sure to ask questions when you genuinely want to learn and not because you simply like the sound of your own voice! Asking the right questions to the right people can go a long way; it will help you to gain a better understanding of the world, open your eyes to ideas you probably never considered before, and might even be the trigger to more detailed discussions about new potential career opportunities.
Pursue a side hustle
Taking on a project as a side hustle keeps you in student-mode, it prompts you to research new topics and ways of doing business. This will ultimately benefit your 9-5 job, where the entrepreneurial mindset that you develop can translate into creativity in business. Having a side hustle helps you grow as a professional, gives you the freedom to choose what you like, and acts as a safety net for you to fall back on should things go south.
The important thing to keep in mind is that there is no expiry date on learning. We continue to learn in order to understand our present and to influence our future. When we stop developing we start to fade away as human beings and we lose our place in the ever-developing world that is pushing us to new heights.