In this ever-changing global economy, it’s more important than ever before to continually find ways to stay relevant in the workplace. The uncertain economy, outsourcing, downsizing and mass layoffs present a challenging and precarious work environment. You need to keep your skills fresh, which has the dual purpose of investing in yourself and adding value to your company. Today’s employee must constantly keep a finger on the pulse of his or her industry. Adapt or perish.

Take Charge of Your Own Career

It’s true the 21st century workplace can be filled with challenges. But successful individuals have always taken steps to stay relevant in life and work. American writer Susan Sontag once said, "Existence is no more than the precarious attainment of relevance in an intensely mobile flux of past, present, and future.” You have always been in charge of your own professional destiny, but there is less room for error in today’s highly competitive workplace. So, how can you effectively take charge of your own career? Own it. And take advantage of every opportunity.

Create an Individual Development Plan

From day one, you should be developing an individual development plan that includes, short and long-term goals and a specific course of action for improving your skills. Take advantage of company training, professional workshops, conferences, tuition reimbursement benefits and the like, to burnish both your hard and soft skills. Companies promote employees who devote the time and effort into developing coveted leadership, organizational and people management skills. Make sure your supervisor is aware of your career plan and get him or her on board to help you implement it.

And be sure to put your company’s employee evaluation process to good use, by requesting additional opportunities for training and showing an interest in accepting greater responsibility and more challenging assignments.

Stay Ahead of Trends and Become a Lifelong Learner

Staying relevant requires a commitment to lifelong learning. The world is moving so fast; you could become irrelevant in the blink of an eye. Constantly being open to learning new things is even more important for older workers. There’s no getting around it. Age discrimination is alive and well in a competitive workplace. It’s also important to stay on top of emerging trends in your industry, by reading journals and participating in online forums. Another way to stay informed and show off your expertise, as well is to teach a class or volunteer to lead a training workshop.

Proactively managing your career and staying relevant in your current company takes dedication and effort. But the rewards and benefits of increased job satisfaction and professional development are well worth it.

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