by Shayne Thomas
23 Mar 2021
5 Ways to Stay Ahead of the ‘Industry Trends’ Curve
Keeping up with industry trends doesn’t have to be hard work
Trends, trends, trends. Everyone’s always talking about trends. Some end up being nothing more than (short-lived) hype while others, for better or worse, can have a seismic shift on society, culture, and, of course, the industry you work in.
Whatever the case may be, because everything in life is moving and changing so quickly today, chasing trends can sometimes feel like a race with no finish line, making it very hard to keep up.
But if you’ve lately wanted to be that person at a dinner party—that is, when we’re allowed to have proper dinner parties again—who sparks thoughtful discussions about the latest trends shaping our world, versus the person who constantly needs to be caught-up-to-speed, then it’s time to up the ante on how you can stay in-the-know.
Consider this article a starting point for determining the different avenues you can pursue to stay informed and eventually become the person people ask to weigh in on the latest trends.
Keeping up with industry trends is actually quite easy
When trying to broaden our own horizons, it may be a knee-jerk reaction to usher in some sort of massive change. But the truth is, a lot of the sources of information that can help you level up your knowledge of the latest industry trends are right in front of your face. In fact, becoming and staying informed is really more a change in mindset and priorities than anything else.
Here are a few tips to help you harness that low-hanging thought leadership fruit:
1. Follow industry influencers
Totally understand if seeing this made you roll your eyes. After all, we live in a day and age where virtually everyone can become an industry influencer in one way, shape, or form. Whether or not they have the proper education, qualifications, experience, or any other justification to hold that privileged “influencer” title.
But if you read any trade publications—online or print, because we know some of you are still “old school”—you’ve likely come to know a few people who just seem to always have a pulse on what’s happening in your industry. And it’s those people you should tune in to a lot more often.
So while you’re having your morning coffee, jot down a list of the people whose insights you value the most. Then search for their blogs, contributed pieces in trade publications, videos, LinkedIn profiles, and even social handles (depending on the industry) to make sure you’re one of the first people to know whenever they shed some new insights. But don’t just idly follow them; be sure to carve out a little time each week to see what’s on their minds.
Just keep in mind that it’s very easy to go down a rabbit hole here, which, if taken to the extreme, can lead you down the path of information overload. So be thoughtful in how you curate who you follow, especially in the beginning, and then grow from there. After all, those influencers are probably influenced by other industry leaders, so don’t worry, you’ll be able to grow your ‘follow network’ in no time.
2. Attend industry events
After (now) over a year of attending virtual events, who’s got a hankering to participate in an in-person trade conference once again? I, for one, am chomping at the bit.
While these events are always great for listening to the bold insights of keynote speakers and other industry luminaries, the real—or rather, untapped— value lies in the unexpected relationships you can make with vendors, partners, and other industry professionals in passing.
Remember, unlike those industry influencers you’ve chosen to follow above, just because someone you meet at an event doesn’t have a following well into the millions doesn’t make them less in-the-know about what’s happening in the industry. In fact, some people working at the grass-roots level are more specialized in certain aspects of your industry and can actually provide deeper and more actionable insights than those at the top of the influence food chain.
3. Build your professional network
One of the greatest perks of attending conferences and events is that, per the above, you get a unique opportunity to meet a lot of interesting people. Some who may eventually become friends, future employers, a source for referrals, and beyond.
Ever since we were kids, we’ve been taught the importance of building strong relationships. Little did we know that this important life lesson would come in handy once we grew up. The truth is, the benefit of building a strong professional network lies in the fact that you can create a community of friends and colleagues who “speak the same language” and can support each other in pretty impressive ways.
Pro-Tip: Industry organizations, especially those with local chapters, are a great way to grow your professional network of like-minded people while keeping a pulse on the latest trends.
4. Check in with your customers
Your customers can become a solid sounding board for how you, as a professional in your specific industry, can do better to make their lives easier. The same applies to HR professionals; the only exception is that your customers are the employees within your organization. But employees, like any other customers, have specific needs and, when tapped for feedback, can clearly communicate what they ultimately expect from you or your organization.
Customer feedback like this may not necessarily be an “industry insight,” per se, at least not at face value, but it can help you spot trends, either in your industry or simply for your business, before they come into fruition. And this can quickly turn you into a thought leader as well. So, listen closely to your customers because they can open your eyes to parts of your industry that you may have not even considered or thought about before. It’s ok, we all get “tunnel vision” every now and then, which is why it’s so important to step outside of the box regularly.
5. Keep on learning
You may have noticed that we talk about learning and skills development often. And it’s not just because a big part of our business revolves around it, via Cornerstone Learning.
For us, learning is the key to professional and personal growth just as much as it’s a way of keeping yourself relevant and competitive in the face of new and ever-evolving trends. But learning doesn’t have to be done in a vacuum either. By stepping outside of your comfort zone (i.e. your industry) from time to time, you can learn new skills and insights that can shape, refine, and even shift your perspectives on the industry you work in and also teach you new ways of providing long-term value in the various roles you (will) serve.
By keeping yourself open to learning new skills, you are basically making an ROI-positive investment in yourself and your future success. And following on the same lines of many of the tips above, you’ll likely meet other interesting and passionate people through your continued education who can open your eyes to new trends and insights that keep you one step ahead.
Don’t let the latest industry trends escape you
The good news is that there is no shortage of ways to immerse yourself more within your industry and the trends that will shape its future. Whether you tune in to the thoughts and insights of key industry influencers, strike up engaging conversations at industry events, or go down the path of continued education, there are multiple ways of staying in-the-know—some that require as little as an hour per week or stretch well beyond that. However you choose to build your journey, just remember that it’s not as daunting as you may think and, once you get going, can actually be a lot of fun!