According to the Oxford English Dictionary “relevance” is defined as “the state of being closely connected or appropriate to the matter in hand.”
We experience the need to be relevant in most aspects of life. At work, for example, relevance means being important to your company as well as to your customers. It means keeping up with new methods of production, sales and the latest trends.
Unfortunately, in recent years, technology has made many employees, and even some entire industries, far less relevant than in the past, such as printing businesses, photo developers and video stores.
In our personal lives, we try to stay up-to-date with the latest fads, fashions and fiction our kids are following. But we typically feel less relevant as they grow up, get married, and have families of their own.
In our communities, many people are so consumed with long work hours and family issues that they have little time to stay involved in local activities. They become irrelevant and blend into the crowd.
So How Do We Become More Relevant?
To some degree, relevance is a perception so someone’s relevance depends on who you ask. Your skills or personality traits may be very relevant to one person who needs what you have to offer, but not as relevant to someone else who has those skills already covered.
As a culture we need to improve ourselves from a personal and social perspective as well as at work and in our communities. From a personal perspective you want to develop your interpersonal and communication skills, and work on what you can do to benefit the closest people in your life, even as they grow and their needs change. Many parents become very relevant in the lives of their grandchildren.
At work you can learn the newest programs, processes and skills. You want to stay abreast of the latest trends and products, or services, in your industry. Consider the NYU college student who valued his education but wanted mastery in some area of technology. On his own time he learned as much as possible about a new thing called apps. This was before apps became a household word. His early mastery led him to be quite relevant and highly successful as an app designer. The more skills you master the more relevant you become.
In your community you need to carve out just enough time to become active in organizations, community activities or helping people running for local office… or run yourself! You’ll also find many ways to make a difference by volunteering, and believe me, the people you are helping find you very relevant.
You Could Always Reinvent Yourself
Some businesses, as well as individuals, in order to stay relevant, go as far as reinventing themselves. One New York dentist turned comedy writer can attest to that, as can many others who have switched careers along the way. We see celebrities reinvent themselves all the time. Consider Baltimore native Babe Ruth, the Bambino, who went from a pretty good pitching career in Boston to a legendary home run hitting outfielder for the New York Yankees. Actor Robert De Niro went from serious roles to comedy films and Lady Gaga went from pop/dance music to singing the classics with Tony Bennett. There are plenty of other examples.
Some businesses, in an effort to stay relevant, have even done total overhauls, such as Nokia that went from selling rubber boots to becoming a cell phone giant, or Amazon which began as online book sellers and branched out to selling just about everything. And then there’s Lego, which started out making wooden toy blocks until a fire nearly put them out of business. They shifted to plastic and created interlocking pieces and we all know how that turned out. More recently, they branched out to a range of other toys, videos and even feature films – now that’s reinventing themselves and staying relevant.
What we do in business to stay relevant is keep up on the latest news in our industry and the latest materials being used in replacement windows. We also keep in touch with our clients to see what they are up to and what their needs are. Being relevant in business is largely a matter of knowing the needs of your customers, and your employees, and staying one step ahead of them.