THE BLOG
02/22/2013 06:11 pm ET Updated Apr 24, 2013

Be PROactive, Not REactive! Four Habits to 'Stay Ahead of the Curve'

One of the primary truths we know about life is that change is constant. No one is immune to the awesome power of change. What is true today may not be true tomorrow. The trend last year will likely not be the trend this year. We see it all around us. Trends shift. Things are constantly being developed. The way consumers view and buy things can change practically overnight. Further, each generation is different from the last. Whether you're in business for yourself or working for someone else, there is no such thing as 100 percent job security. The best way to make sure your percentage of retaining your position or your success remains high is to stay ahead of the curve.

Only those who learn to stay on top of the news, properly identify future trends, network for the future, and absorb/adapt the latest technology can hope to survive in any economy or through any major industry change. A failure to stay ahead of the curve can have devastating consequences for the individual, the company (no matter how successful), and even the country/economy.

As you consider your own success, keep in mind the things that helped you reach the pinnacle in the first place, we know that change is inevitable and that success is only constant if you work at making it so. Consider, then, the following strategies for how to ensure that you and/or your company changes with the times while never abandoning the things that differentiated you:

1. Keep up with technology.

Subscribing to trade magazines is always a good idea. Mainstream technology magazines often help, as well. These publications are always on the cutting edge of what's fresh and what's coming out in the technology realm. Cross-training and earning new certifications will keep you relevant at work. Seminars will keep you in the know as a business leader. Becoming proficient in the latest technologies will always ensure that you're never passed up by someone who knows something you don't. If you don't know how to use the new technology, it's always best practice to learn. Even if it represents a couple hundred or even a couple thousand dollar investment, it will be worth it in the end.

2. Enhance your marketability.

As we know, branding is king. Like technology companies, brands must always stay fresh if they are going to survive. You already know the importance of cross-training, of staying abreast of what's going on in the market, and of focusing most of your energy on the markets that matter. But have you considered adding on to your core competencies? One of the surest ways to ensure that your customers don't start straying to the competition -- or your employers don't start thinking of other candidates for that promotion -- is to expand on the number of items/services you offer and the number of things you're qualified to do.

3. Use social media to its fullest.

Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are household names for a reason: they're great services, and hundreds of millions of people use them. Why would anyone want to pass up a captured audience of millions? It doesn't matter if you think of your company as a cutting edge movement or a button-down firm; there is opportunity to be had via social networking. Remember, every friend or follower is a potential lead -- for a sale and/or a business contact.

Your online presence is your brand manifested on millions of computer screens. Post only the things that are most relevant to the expansion and awareness of your brand. Second, always offer information. That information should speak directly to the definition of your brand. Third, as you attempt to make new connections, concentrate on people in your field.

The benefits of social networking are staggering. It's the best way to remain informed about current and evolving trends. And it's a wonderful (and free!) way to stay connected.

4. Talk to, associate with, and/or hire innovative young people

In matters of technology and culture, young people hold the key. Nearly all trends in business and in life happen from the bottom up in the demographic scale. Staying ahead of the curve is a matter of learning what you don't know -- and the best way to do that is to embrace your knowledge deficits and reach out to people who can help fill them. Where experts fall short or prove inaccessible, young people can often do just that. Young people are creative, energetic, and "in-the-know" about trends.

If you're an employee, you have to understand that in order to move up; you have to keep evolving in your position. Cross-train whenever you can. Learn new disciplines. Make yourself useful in a wider range of tasks. Show your employer that you can manage any task at hand without the need for any handholding.

If you're in business, you have to understand that your customer's needs are constantly changing. Keep in mind that your competitors are working hard to innovate the next big thing every day. For the entrepreneur, make sure you're always evolving as a company. Offer new things. Adapt to new technologies. Expand your brand. Diversify your customer base. Doing these things ensures that you're more immune to downsizing during economic downturns. It also ensures that, should an entire sector of your client base downsizes, you can survive on other resources.

As a final point, if you hope to avoid becoming obsolete, you must consistently offer variations of your products, services, and/or brand. If you're not evolving, you're fading. Maintaining success is a long-term investment that requires proactive strategies. Remember, the best way to make sure your percentage of retaining your position or your success remains high is to stay ahead of the curve.