If you mainly use your twitter for Instagrammed lunches, and your Facebook for hilarious quizzes, think again - there are industry insiders, niche magazines, and professional publications available through social network channels for even the most obscure of career choice, accessed simply by following a few new and interesting people and groups.
A quick google of a few key words will pull up a whole variety of sources of information, from the professional to the personal, the complimentary to the not so positive. Look out for blogs, consumer groups, professional bodies and freelance journalists covering your area, and have an occasional scan of the items to see what’s new.
Joining a professional organisation is a quick and easy way to keep abreast of all that is going on in your field. Typically information lands right at your door, in print or electronic form, organisations have archives of relevant training and information articles; and many employers will pay for your membership and see it as demonstrating your real commitment to the business if you ask!
Many professional service organisations and industry bodies arrange free seminars, book launches, speaker events or breakfast meetings; if you use solicitors, recruitment agencies, learning and development contractors or other outsourced companies, keep an eye on their websites and ask if they run such events. It can be a great way to network, hear about what’s new in the industry and get a free breakfast or lunch to boot!
Whichever area you work in, keeping an eye on the competition pays. If you work in retail you will be used to comp shopping to see the offers and ideas your direct competition are trying out, and this approach is equally relevant in other areas. Visit, call or review press information for your closest competitors and check out what they do well, what’s new and in which areas your business is winning, to give ideas of how to build business or defend against other companies.
Reading management books of any description can be appealing, with hundreds of choices from self help strategies, to leadership tomes and books proposing to make you excel at anything in no time. One of the most useful way to keep up with developments is to learn to think like a great leader in your field - and reading biographies of people you admire will help with this. Ask yourself, what would they do, and find yourself acting like the boss.
Build and use your network, talking to others in similar roles as you, in sectors that complement your own or in businesses that you work with. There is no better way to keep on top of the sector and office gossip!
Linked In, as the professional’s favourite stalking tool, deserves a mention of its own. If you only ever use it to see who has been sacked and who has moved on from a previous employer, then try to expand your thinking by reading some of the ’thought leader’ articles from people in your field - the ideas are free, and the insight is invaluable.
Don’t forget when trying to keep up with the competition, to spend time reflecting. Not all answers come from outside. Think about what others are doing better than your business, what ideas or insights can you take from other areas, what are the challenges and opportunities that are on their way. Use your ideas on these key questions to supplement your research and the brainwaves you come across from others.
Whenever you first join a company, the issues, challenges and opportunities seem to stand out for miles, and you wonder why nobody has fixed them yet. Keep ’first 90 days’ mentality, by asking the right people their views on what you could do better, what’s new and what’s changing in your field. Include people at the grass roots and new joiners to your business to gain the best insights and make sure you’re better informed than your peers.
Standing still is going backwards, so the saying goes, and keeping up with developments in your field of expertise is essential for everyone to be at their best in the workplace. But let’s be honest, it can be a bit of a busman’s holiday to scour the professional press for details and zoom in on every social, political or economic change that might impact your sector. Try these easy ideas to start off, and find the simple tricks that help you keep up to date, and keep on impressing the boss with your inside knowledge.