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4 Steps to Networking With Thought Leaders in Your Industry

Even with a vast array of online job search tools, the power of connections still holds strong, especially when it comes to developing strong networking relationships with those regard as thought leaders in your industry.
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Finding a job often comes down to three things: who you know, how well you know them, and the breadth and depth of their network. In fact, nearly half of all job seekers find their job through networking.

Even with a vast array of online job search tools, the power of connections still holds strong, especially when it comes to developing strong networking relationships with those regard as thought leaders in your industry.

One success story regarding the power of networking during the job search comes from information literacy librarian, Graham Lavender. During Lavender's hunt for employment, he attended a panel with distinguished thought leaders in his industry, as well as association meetings and dinners, where he was able to interact and gain new networking contacts.

Through these efforts, Lavender developed and maintained connections with the beneficial leaders in his industry -- and ended up landing a call for an interview without even applying. This is the power of networking. All of his efforts worked to generate a responsive network of thought leaders who jumped at the chance to hire him when the time arose.

Why Your Network Needs Thought Leaders

You've heard it a million times, yet it still bears repeating: Networking is the "secret sauce" for getting hired. Instead of spending most of your time and energy scouring the endless depths of the Web, it's time to get out there and actually meet those who hold influence in your industry.

While a network can -- and should -- be made up of a variety of different types of connections, industry-specific thought leaders are the people you want to be rubbing shoulders with. It's these individuals who have the knowledge, experience, and connections that can help you land you the right job -- that is, of course, if you impress them and actively work to get to know them. Here's how to gain these types of connections:

1. Find out who is making waves. For this reason, a strong grasp on your industry is not only necessary, but crucial. You can easily gain this through staying up to date on the latest news and happenings while regularly attending conferences, panels, networking events, and upping your participation in professional groups. These are not only great places to stay in the "know" of your industry, but also to meet the key players.

2. Step away from the social networks. While these are great places for initial research and hitting the "connect" button, face-to-face connections offer greater resonance when it comes to actually getting an "in" for a position.

3. Perfect your networking techniques. While networking may be a general term for acquiring professional relationships, there should never be a general networking technique. Developing mutually beneficial professional relationships with thought leaders in your industry requires setting goals and employing unique strategies to ensure success. Here are some tips to help you perfect your networking skills:

  • Be in the right place at the right time.
  • If possible, gain information of those you want to connect with before "meeting" them.
  • Create a concise, conversational, and informative elevator pitch.
  • Spend more time asking questions and gaining knowledge with your contact, rather than talking about yourself.
  • Exude humble confidence and eliminate the fears of cold-interactions.
  • Take it a step further by asking to extend the conversation at a later date over coffee or over the phone.

4. Take part in a mentorship. If you're really looking to impact your job search and the longevity of your connections, a career mentor might be an option to consider. There's a variety of different types of mentors you might have throughout your career, but having the one you choose to mentor you through your job search may be the most influential.

Thought leaders in your industry make exceptional mentors when it comes to your job search and the future of your career. While these individuals may be harder to build mentor-like relationships with, they're worth the time and energy. As a mentee, you will have the opportunity to not only learn from their career successes and mistakes, but also to utilize their vast network of opportunities.

Your job search could benefit greatly from networking with thought leaders in your industry. Begin innovating your networking strategies to solidify new beneficial relationships immediately.

Has networking with a thought leader helped you land a job or new opportunity?

Patrick Richard is the president and founder of ShinyNeedle, a job site that allows employers to submit challenges to job candidates and see how they can impact a business from day one, making the hiring process more interactive. You can connect with Patrick and ShinyNeedle on Twitter and Facebook.