Published on LHH.com 09/15/2016
During a presentation I gave a few months ago, I tried to emphasize that the key to getting and keeping a good job was to stay up-to-date with current events and industry trends by reading as much as possible, as frequently as possible. Remarkably, my comments caused more than one person to fidget nervously in their seats. As we discussed this point, the people attending the presentation began to come up with a litany of excuses about why they couldn’t stay up-to-date. “I don’t have time to read the paper or check online news in the morning,” one person said. Another commented that she could “only read when I have a minute or two at the end of the day.” These responses showed pretty clearly to me that this was really low on their priorities list. That was a remarkable revelation for me given that staying current is so critically important to securing and keeping a meaningful and rewarding job. It is simply unacceptable, particularly for professionals, to be unaware of what is going on in the world around them. Although we can’t anticipate every event or trend, we really have no excuse for being taken by surprise by news that affects our organization or profession. Staying up-to-date on national and international news is essential. So is trade, profession or industry news. This information directly impacts your organization and job. You bring value to your employer by staying informed on news of all kinds. How do we keep up with current events, industry trends and the latest news and developments? The solution is quite simple: read. We must read on a daily basis. And we must read a broad variety of publications. Remarkably, this is not something that many of us build into our daily schedule. However, true professionals read voraciously. Ideally, we should read books, newspapers and magazines. We should subscribe to various business and trade magazines and journals, and read local and international news. And while general current events and industry trends are extremely valuable, there is one area in which we should have a particular focus: technology. It matters little which profession or industry we are in – technology is both an essential part of how we do our jobs, and how our jobs will look in the future. We need to be confident in using the Internet to find important information quickly and efficiently. We need to know how to use information technology tools so that we are efficient and productive. We also need to know how to navigate social media, and use it to enhance our personal and organizational connectivity. These are skills that are as essential to our jobs today as being able to write, add and subtract were for previous generations. However, technology affects more than just how we do our jobs. It also defines our career profile. We need to be constantly fine-tuning our digital identities, continually updating and refining our social media profiles. We must be proactive in building a positive, impactful personal online brand, and use it to broaden our personal and professional networks. Remember that unlike previous generations, the Internet is the first stop when people want to know more about us. We are profiled and tracked in all sorts of ways and not making an effort to stay current is detrimental to you professionally. In the final analysis, we must begin to look at staying up-to-date and working on our online profiles as an essential part of our working days. At the seminar I referenced at the beginning of this article, I asked one of the more skeptical participants if he brushed his teeth before coming to the event that morning. “Of course,” he said. I went on to ask him why he did this every morning? “Because it’s important,” he responded. Just like brushing your teeth, reading and staying up-to-date on current events, industry trends and technology is important. And just like bad oral hygiene, not staying up-to-date on the world around you will ultimately lead to decay in your career.