As a business trend forecaster, one of the things I worry about from time to time is my own longevity. Having witnessed marketing and communications do a 180 from where it was 10 years ago, I’d have to be completely blind to consider that it won’t continue to shift. In that shift, we can anticipate greater expectations of skills, knowledge, education – which let’s be honest, most of us cannot keep up with. There was a great article recently in AlterNet, written by L.S. Parramore, titled “50 is the New 65: Older Americans Are Getting Booted From their Jobs and Denied New Opportunities.” I can’t help but think…in another 10 years, will 40 be the new 60? In fact, I’m so certain that Generation X will be fossilized by then, that I could write out a detailed list of the roles that will be affected and how. So the real question is, as a thought leader what do you do in order to stay relevant? What is going to make you matter in ten years?

There was an article earlier this year on Mom’s who opted out and then tried rejoining the workforce a decade or two later. As you can imagine, their attempts weren’t too successful – except for the moms who maintained a rich social network. I don’t mean people you just know. I mean building a network of people with whom you’ve actually spoken to for 15 whole minutes within the last year. This is where social media really kicks in. With all the time we’re putting into the work day, and when we factor in the commute, and family time, there really isn’t much left at the end of the week to put into networking. Social media helps with that. It gives you the opportunity to “check-in” and have micro conversations with people. It keeps you relevant and at the forefront of people’s minds when they’re discussing subjects you’re passionate about.

Whether it’s a 5 minute call once a month, social media, or even a cup of tea every few months, consider these moments of engagements as a deposit in the bank – one that you can count on down the road when you need to consider a new opportunity or need to rely on a professional contact to get the job done. More importantly, its about being alert to who and what is around you, to being curious about things, and creating portals where you can learn more, share information, and invest in your own personal and professional development. I’ve been an avid networker for years and I could write a book on everything I’ve learned from people over the years. In fact, I’d say I’ve learned more from meaningful conversations with people than I did from an overpriced education.

The next question is: what makes you exceptional? In another ten years, there will be thousands of more people who can do the same tasks. However, who thinks like you do? This is where innovation comes into play. Answering the question of what makes you exceptional isn’t about whether you have a great personality or the best office style – it’s about whether you can think differently, innovatively. The proof is in your track record, in looking back and seeing whether you’ve actually done anything so differently from anyone else.

Far from just a polite post on staying relevant, this is a vital call to action, for both you and your business. To reference Parramore’s article which introduced Jan, a 51 year old marketing executive from California, who “got thrown away,” this could happen to anyone. After all, digital media and social evolution is the most widely affected area seeing the most growth and development not only in product but also in terms of consumer use. That said, what’s going to make you or your business matter in another ten years?