How Anyone Can Network with Industry Leaders
Call them what you want – key industry leaders, industry innovators, or even rock stars – but there are people out there who are networking gold. They’re the big players in your industry and are on everyone’s radar. You find yourself thinking, “I wish I could pick his brain,” or “I would love to get her feedback on this problem.”
Easier said than done? Not if you come at it with the right approach.
Select Your Target – Instead of making an ambiguous aim to reach key industry leaders, pick one or two. Each person is susceptible to different approaches. It’s best to tighten your tactics instead of spinning your wheels.
Weigh your options. As you would with a mentor, you want to select someone who shares your industry experience or is a master of techniques you want to learn. LinkedIn profiles can narrow down potentials.
Learn What You Can – Blogs, LinkedIn Posts, Tweets, and any other sources of information you can get on the person is key. Imagine you’re researching for a job interview. You need every tidbit of information you can get in your arsenal.
Also, this is an opening avenue to make surface level contact. Go at your own pace. If you’re more extroverted, send a direct message discussing a topic of mutual interest. If you’re more introverted, a great opening can be through comments on LinkedIn, Twitter, or his/her personal blog. Never come in asking for favors. It starts the interaction by putting a bad taste in the key industry leader’s mouth.
Get Their Attention – Key industry players are on your radar, but are you on theirs? You need to get their attention and one way is to get to know the people who know them. On the right hand column of any LinkedIn profile, there are two tools that can help you narrow your degrees of separation: the “People Also Viewed” list and the “How You’re Connected” features.
For the “People Also Viewed” list, this is a good jumping point to direct your networking to other important connections. For the “How You’re Connected” feature, ask those LinkedIn users you know to make an introduction for you. If they are just acquaintances, build up your connection before doing so. If you are several degrees away, start hopping towards that person.
Another way is to amp up your online presence. Don’t leave your social media accounts to collect cobwebs. Regularly post articles, pose questions, and get conversations rolling. Even if you aren’t an expert writer, you don’t have to sit mute on the sidelines. Find an editor, friend or family, to read over your posts and make yourself more vocal in the community.
Meet Up in the Real World – Though the digital world is a crucial part of networking these days, people are still far more inclined to help those who they’ve physically met. Find a way to make a face-to-face connection. If he or she is a keynote speaker at an industry conference, make sure to ask questions if there are Q&As.
An alma mater can be a great portal for expanding your network. If a high-profile peer attended your university, stop by alumni events to hobnob and build connections. Even if he or she is absent, building your network with other alumni can expand your web of connections.
Though each interaction is going to be different, the main thing that will win a key industry expert’s heart is to show your value. For some, that’s just directing the message you already send out in a new direction. To others, that means stepping up to the plate and making yourself more vocal. Whatever your situation, you want to be on the same level as a key industry leader.
And before long, people might be coming in search of you.
by James Walsh