How to be Relevant (and Ensure You are on the Right Track)

Three men and a woman having a conversation

rel·e·vant [rel-uh-vuhnt] adjective: bearing upon or connected with the matter in hand; pertinent: a relevant remark.

I wanted to put that definition out there because, so often, folks equate relevancy with vast amounts of influence. But that’s not always the case. People can be relevant without having the level of influence that is experienced by the giants in a given field. Not everyone can have that kind of influence. Not everyone wants or needs to. Determine your comfort level and go with it.

With that, here’s how you can become relevant:

Read. With the Internet and the rise of e-books, getting the latest information and opinions on virtually any topic is easier than ever. There are a myriad of blogs to be read, and obtaining the latest publication of an industry leader takes only a few clicks to purchase and download to your e-reader, smartphone, or computer. So just start reading!

Listen. This is valuable in two ways. Like with the reading material that is readily available, podcasts and videos with important information are also easy to access. Find them and listen to them.

You should also spend more time in your conversations listening to what other people have to say. It’s not just about you and your ideas. Really hearing out others gives you the opportunity to learn something new or appreciate a different perspective.

Stop giving knee-jerk reactions. Especially online, an immediate response is not necessary. If you read something that you adamantly disagree with, don’t pound out your rebuttal right then and there. Use the time that you have to formulate a well-reasoned response that logically supports your stance. You don’t want to spout off opinions that have no support or sink down into personal attacks. Both will just make you look bad.

What if you are in a conversation and you don’t have that great response at the tip of your tongue? Simply say, “That’s an interesting perspective you have. Let me get back to you on that.” Then do the research necessary to have that logical answer that supports your point of view and email the person the next day. In the short term, you may hate how it feels to walk away from a debate, but you will be better off in the long term for not just spewing out whatever was right there in that moment.

Say you just met the person and you don’t have his/her email address? LET IT GO. Far better for you to keep quiet and go on to have other intelligent conversations during the event than to say something and look the fool.

Share what you know and what you learn from others. The more you share, the more people will see you as a knowledgeable person of authority in your field.

Synthesize. Like I said a few points ago, it’s not all about you and your ideas. With all the reading and listening you are doing, you are acquiring a lot of information. However, if all that information isn’t used, it does you no good! Integrate them into how you do things at work. The will actually strengthen your sharing because you can speak to how well something worked when you applied it in a real-world scenario.

‘OK,’ you may be thinking, ‘if I do all of that, how do I know if I am being relevant?’

That’s a good question. After all, what good does it do if your efforts are not effective?

This doesn’t mean you should be feverishly checking your Klout scores or meticulously tracking who lists you on Twitter (though both can be indicators of your relevancy online). Instead, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do people want to talk to me on XX subject area?
  • Are colleagues I know introducing me to others in the industry?
  • When I meet new people, do they say, “I’ve been wanting to meet you! Georgia has said many good things about you.”
  • Do they want to partner with me on ventures?

If the answer to those questions is “yes,” then you are probably on the right track!

There’s a couple of caveats here (aren’t there always?)

  1. Make sure that the folks talking to you aren’t trying to scam you.
  2. Do a reality check — are the folks that are fawning all over you really just sycophants who will bail at the first bump in the road?

I know, the thought of those just takes the wind out of your sails. But it’s far better to honestly appraise the situation than to be played.

How else do you work to be relevant?

Image courtesy of Joi

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