Whether you’re looking for a new job, moving up the corporate ladder, or changing careers, staying on top of the current issues and trends in your market or industry can give you a competitive advantage. While experience can go a long way in your career goals, not having the expertise to back it up can influence employers and decision makers. If job seekers and workers aren’t learning about their industry on a regular basis, it may seem like they aren’t taking advantage of their experience.
The good news is that you don’t have to go to school to increase your knowledge base. There are several ways, including free methods, you can use to give yourself that extra knowledge to not only improve your trade but help you be more marketable. Here are a few easy steps to help you go from beginner to expert in your industry.
1. Follow and Network with Industry Professionals
Try attending meetings with professional organizations in your field. Not only will you get to watch a good discussion or presentation on current trends, but you’ll be able to converse and listen to your local industry leaders and experts. They generally have a great understanding of the latest developments in the area and the business as a whole. They can also give you good specific sources for news and updates about the industry. Asking them where the future of your industry is going is a great way for you to learn what to research on your own time and can help provide discussion points for interviews or other meetings.
Don’t stop with local talent. Social media gives you the ability to follow and connect with industry professionals all over the world. Sites like Twitter give you the chance to receive news and updates from leaders, experts, and organizations instantly. Twitter allows you to follow conversations and separate those you follow into lists so you can check in on particular groups without sifting through your normal feed. Facebook and LinkedIn also have forums and news updates for professional groups or employers for you to learn from.
2. Read Trade Journals and Blogs
Thanks to the internet, anyone can become a blogger. The good news is that you’re almost guaranteed to find a reliable blog for your profession. Blogs can be updated at any time, so they can be an excellent source for breaking news and the latest in your industry. Ask your peers and opinion leaders what their favorite blogs are and read their older stories to see if the writing style and content is something you’re interested in. If you’re worried about keeping track of them all, you can put their URLs in an RSS feed so you can be notified when your favorite blogs are updated.
While trade publications aren’t as fast-paced as blogs are, they typically have more detailed and in-depth industry studies and articles by experts. In addition to signing up for the printed publications, there are several online options for receiving trade publications. SmartBrief is a professional news aggregator site where you can sign up for daily emails with relevant news and information from a variety of industries. Entrepreneur also has a large database of trade publications that can be downloaded for free. Check them out to see if any can help keep you informed.
3. Attend Webinars
You may get invitations to attend seminars and events from all over world, but few have the time or money to trek across the nation to attend these conferences. You can find several webinars, which are online seminars, covering a variety of topics in your field. They are offered through some industry organizations, can be a valuable source of information, and generally inexpensive or even free,. Some webinars offer downloadable versions of the presentation for you to keep and study on your own time if you find the topic interesting.
Webinars do have some great benefits, but there are some drawbacks for students or those looking to change careers. Webinars are most useful for those who have background knowledge and experience in their industry. They don’t give you the basics, and they are limited on time and don’t allow attendees to ask many questions. Use your best judgment before signing up or paying for a webinar that you might not be equipped to take.
4. Go to Trade Shows
Trade shows have declined in the past few years due to rising costs and social media, but there can still be some advantages to going if you have the chance. Trade shows are excellent for deepening industry knowledge because you can visit booths to see the latest trends, newest products, who is well-established, and who is entering in the industry. You’ll also be able to meet several people and informally chat for a few minutes, which is much easier than setting up informational interviews and faster than sending a tweet or email.
Wanting to learn more demonstrates drive and motivation that employers and management will notice. If you have long-term career goals, striving to constantly improve is one of the best ways to get there. If you follow these helpful suggestions, you can become a better worker every day.