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Are you trendy? 5 ways being hip can boost your career

Cool guy reading a book.

No matter your age or career path, it's important to keep your finger on the pulse of current trends. In today's super competitive job marketplace, it pays to be cool. Here, experts offer five tips on how to stay relevant:

1. Redefine what it means to be on the cutting edge.

"I believe that no single industry is immune to trends," says Kathy Rodriguez-Abbott, MBA, an instructor in the University of Phoenix MBA program and a marketing manager. Rodriguez-Abbott uses herself as an example of why everyone should pay attention to trends, even those who don't work in "hip" industries.

"I do business development and marketing for home dialysis treatment," she explains. "This might not sound 'sexy,' but it's rewarding. For me, to be trendy from a business perspective means the willingness to be open to a new movement, idea or direction."

2. Stay in touch, but don't be a follower.

"To me, being 'trendy' has two connotations, one positive, one negative," says Cliff Lavin, a 40-year veteran of the ad industry. A faculty member in the MBA program at the University of Phoenix Philadelphia Campus, Lavin specializes in trend watching for big business.

"The positive aspect of being trendy is the understanding you need to stay current and linked in with the larger community," he explains. "On the flip side, some people just turn into cattle and follow the 'herd' without thinking much about what they're doing and why. You don't want to be cattle!"

3. Do what you love.

"To me, 'trendy' means doing a job where you really enjoy what you do, not just because it pays the bills but because you can identify with the work itself," says Andre' Boyer, a former military financial analyst who teaches MBA courses at the Asia-Pacific Military Division Campus. "I do not consider being a teacher a job — I define it as a part of myself."

Boyer's passion for teaching has led him to employ some unusual teaching strategies in the classroom, such as aromatherapy. "It has been a big hit with my students," he says.

4. Make trends work for you.

If you have a real understanding of current trends, you can use your passion to forge a new career path for yourself, according to Lavin.

"At one company I helped start, we had some young employees approach management about social media marketing," he says. "Management knew nothing about it and told these young people to take charge of the issue. Within six months, these employees had single-handedly helped the company double in size. They got big raises and promotions, too — and all because they understood the social media trend."

5. Continue to evolve.

You're never too old to stay engaged. And, if you don't, you might find yourself out of a job, Lavin says. "I have a real problem with people who disassociate themselves from the positive trends in our culture," he says. "If you refuse to pay attention to what's going on in the world, it's going to make you less competitive."

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