Staying up to date in an industry that’s constantly shifting isn’t easy, but being aware of changes as they’re happening can keep you ahead of the curve. To help stay on the ball with industry challenges, opportunities and trends, check out our recommendations below.

1. Subscribe to trade journals
What better way to be in-the-know about specific issues in your industry than to subscribe to a journal that’s devoted to covering them? But subscribing alone isn’t enough; you have to actually read the thing – albeit in print or online. I prefer print. My monthly ritual is to take a stack of trade journals to a local cafe, turn off my phone, grab my highlighter and notepad, and read all of them at once. Others prefer to consume magazines and journals in bite-size chunks. Whatever your approach, make sure the information is getting in your brain rather than simply lining your shelves or taking up space in your inbox.

2. Keep up with consumer magazines
Even if you’re reading a magazine that’s not specific to your industry, you’ll be looking at it through a very different lens than other readers. And if you see something that’s very relevant to your line of work, you can get even more insight as to how your field is viewed from an outsider’s perspective.

3. Scan and engage in forums and discussion boards
Perhaps scanning an applicable subreddit each day is enough to pique your interest and get your brain buzzing about possible changes in your industry. Oftentimes, engaging in discussion in a relevant LinkedIn group or a private forum from a professional group can be more enlightening. Even though discussion boards can be difficult to sort through unless they’re heavily moderated, you can sort through the rubble for real gems of insight. Make sure to participate, rather than just standby and take in all that you are learning from others. You’ll get more out of it that way.

4. Scour websites and blogs
As a health writer, I look at SciDaily each morning to see if there are any new studies that might interest me. I then look at analyses on various blogs, which help me frame the information better and keep it in context. Although the quality of blogs can vary, many are a great source of current information. If you see the same topic on every site in your industry, such as the plethora of posts on making marketing mobile, then yes – it’s a trend you’ll want to follow closely. Blogs and news sites will also often analyze key statistics and research that’s relevant for your industry, and break it down into bite-size chunks, in a form you can understand.

5. Read newspapers and news sites
Although newspapers and news sites are sometimes overly simplistic, and journalists sometimes cover industries they’re not knowledgeable in, beat reporters can spot industry trends as well as anyone.

6. Listen to/watch podcasts and videos
Listen to an hour-long podcast, or even a 20-minute one, and you’ll have a deeper understanding of the topic at hand. Video and audio interviews with industry leaders can be especially enlightening. Even if you find yourself disagreeing with the information being presented, having a common vocabulary can help you better communicate with others in your field, and express your reasoning in a way they’ll be able to understand. We recently wrote a post about 9 business podcasts we recommend giving a listen.

7. Network
Discussing your industry face-to-face with colleagues can be particularly enlightening. Get out to conferences or local events, and sign up for trainings. This is an easy way to keep up-to-date with what’s happening. Make sure to speak with colleagues as well as expert panelists. These two groups often have very different perspectives.

8. Talk to your customers
In the past few years, I’ve gotten phone calls from both FreshBooks and Basecamp to help their customer service or sales teams better understand how people are using their products. Although scanning social networks and sending out surveys can be insightful, talking to people one-on-one is invaluable. Discussing concerns with prospects can be equally enlightening.

9. Observe your competitors
Sometimes you’ll want to zig when others zag, but looking to see what your competitors are doing can sometimes help you figure out if they’re responding to what you see as an emerging trend. Though you may sometimes be unable to decipher the method to their madness, it can’t hurt to take a look.

10. Track trends in your own business
Got something that used to sell well that people are barely looking at now, let alone buying? Noticing clients and prospects asking specific questions that they never used to ask? Puzzling over these changes can help you predict potential threats – and opportunities.

Have any other additions to add to this list? Let us know in the comments.

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© 2014 – 2018, Contributing Author. All rights reserved.

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