In a changing world, what does it mean to stay relevant…or competitive…or better yet, to get ahead.
One benefit of COVID has been reinvention. For example, we are all now questioning whether we need to work in physical offices, or if remote can be just as effective (or effective in different ways). We’re questioning what it means to have work-life balance in a world that is constantly connected. We’re questioning whether the work we’re doing is fulfilling, if we would rather do something else, and what new opportunities we may be able to consider now as opposed to two or five years ago.
As a result, we have found ourselves in a bit of a “make-it-up-as-you-go” situation (in a good way!).
This period of reinvention has accelerated business — and competition — in ways we couldn’t have predicted or even imagined. Today, priority number one is thinking critically about what we want (our goals), why we want it (why those are our goals), and how our decisions will impact both the immediate and long-term future.
If you are a working professional, this means questioning your current role in the context of the broader world and whether or not you see a clear path forward for upward mobility. And if you are a business owner or entrepreneur, this means questioning the viability of your business in the context of the way the wants and needs of customers are changing by the day.
So, in a highly competitive, make-it-up-as-you-go environment, how do we stay ahead of the game?
1. Double down on what is unique to you.
COVID showed us how many things in our lives didn’t matter.
All of a sudden, many of the things we thought we needed, we didn’t anymore — including everything from physical workspaces to everyday household items and goods. Will some of these purchasing decisions come back after everyone has moved on from the pandemic? Maybe. But many have changed for good and will continue to change as broader trends like remote work and direct-to-consumer keep accelerating.
The takeaway here for working professionals and business owners should be that unless you are doubling down on what’s unique to you (and only you), then you’re probably replaceable. And if you’re replaceable, then you’re probably also forgettable. And in a world that is changing by the day, what’s forgettable gets left behind.
So pinpoint that unique quality, skill set, or advantage, and go all-in on it.
2. Read, observe, and keep an eye out for emerging trends.
Change can be exciting. Plus we’re overwhelmed by content and ideas coming at us from every possible direction.
The more curious and proactive you are about the changes happening and the more you act on that curiosity by reading, exploring, sharing, and discussing, the more likely you are to discover a unique place where you can play and capitalize. These new ideas may spark a business idea, a new job or client opportunity, a new approach to doing things, all of which could be game-changers in your world.
Observe, learn, and act accordingly.
3. Identify and capitalize on new efficiencies while maintaining your core approach.
There is no one right way to have a career or build a business.
Technology shifts and opportunities are giving us access to clients via Zoom, new job opportunities via remote work, quicker and more efficient communication with teams via Slack. Brick and mortar companies are realizing that everyone can and should lean into ecommerce (who knows when we might have another pandemic, plus margins can be much higher!). Every day we’re finding newer, better ways of doing things.
However, in order to have a long and successful career, you have to play the long game. And in order to be successful over the long term, you have to look ahead: “How is the world changing, and will my skills hold value as time goes on?” AND, you simultaneously preserve and protect the things that are core to your values, business vision, and the processes that are already working well (objectively…not just because they’re comfortable to you).
It’s a balance: embrace the new while preserving the (best parts of) the old.
4. Bring your best.
It may go without saying, but probably more important than all of the rest is the energy and desire and ultimately the doing that will keep you ahead of the game.
A constant state of questioning and challenging and pushing is what will ultimately separate the winners from those who will come in second (or even fail). Recognizing we need to keep learning and growing and that it requires constant work and commitment… that is what will ensure we’re out ahead.
Staying competitive has always been a moving target. And today, that target moving faster than ever so embrace it and enjoy the ride.