Thriving in 2021 by Being Relevant


A challenging and strange year has come to a close, and I am curious. Did you use this time to slow down, reflect, and start developing plans and resolutions for the new year?

During a meetup with a former colleague, she shared that the craziness of 2020 had forced her into a constant cycle of reflecting and adapting. The downtime that she had during lockdowns gave her space and time to think deeply about her identity and the direction she would like to take in her life and career. When business resumed, it was back-to-back video calls and the constant cycle of changes that dominated her life.

The questions customarily asked at the end of a typical year have been discussed collectively and publicly for months this year. By June, it became clear that many changes triggered by the pandemic were here to stay, and it would permanently alter the way we live and work. Labelled the ‘new normal’, many lives, careers, and businesses came under serious threat, while others managed to adapt and thrive.

The COVID situation has led us to forget that change and disruption were already a reality even before the pandemic. There have been no substantial changes to the fundamental strategies for staying relevant and thriving since then. The pandemic has acted as a catalyst by creating a burning platform, even for those businesses and individuals who previously believed they could navigate the Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous (VUCA) world without much adaptation for the foreseeable future.

However, in February this year, business as usual was no longer an option for individuals, managers, and organisations. The rules of the game have changed dramatically and permanently. There was no bouncing back; leaping forward has become the only option, and if we want to stay in the game and not be substituted, we have to learn to play by the new rules quickly.

Therefore I recommend you consider the following points and questions when reflecting and planning your next steps to help you thrive in the new year.

Employ the right mindset:

“How can I commit, and assume total responsibility for my situation and future?”

While you cannot control the virus or the VUCA environment, you can manage your attitude and reaction towards the situation. Be ready to change, learn, and adapt proactively.

Create an outside-in perspective:

“What are my managers’ or clients’ most burning needs and substantial aspirations right now?”

If your primary goal is to survive and stay relevant in times of crisis and disruption, it is paramount first to understand what the market values most right now and in the foreseeable future.

Develop a clear value proposition:

“How can I address the most burning challenges and aspirations? What does it take to prepare for them?”

To stay relevant, you have to deliver work and solutions that are highly valued. Think about the latest innovations that are being discussed in your company right now, then ask yourself, how can you join the conversation? What would you need to learn? Can you volunteer for pilot projects? How else can you get involved?

New or emerging topics are often an opportunity for early adopters to own them and become a go-to person in the organisation. The extra bit of knowledge that you have will give you an edge over others, making you a highly valued ‘relative expert’.

It is beneficial for you to consider initiating innovation in your area of responsibility proactively. Think out of the box and ask the tough questions, for example, how would the company manage your current tasks if your role or function was no longer around? The answer might serve as a glimpse into the future, and with this insight, you can proactively kick-start and lead the conversation.

Reflection and planning are essential. In times like these, we might have to come back, review, and recalibrate frequently, even more so than usual. But without a plan, we might easily get lost in this challenging terrain. The reality is that those with the most robust ability to understand the changing priorities around us, who adapt and continue to create value, will be the ones to prevail.

I wish you success and all the best for a prosperous and healthy 2021

By Gunnar Jaschik LinkedIn, talent, leadership, and organisational development specialist