Are you convinced that you have the next great tech startup idea, if only you could connect with the right people? The fact is that there is no magical formula for connecting with leaders in your industry; it takes talent, hustle, and sometimes, a little bit of good old fashioned luck to rise to the top.
However, there are steps you can take to increase your chances of getting noticed. Remember, the best way to connect with top influencers is to become an influencer yourself.
1. Become a Social Media Power User
The beauty of the Internet is that it has leveled the playing field, tilting the balance of power in favor of the “little guy.” For instance, 20 years ago an author needed the promotional help of a commercial publisher to connect with a large audience. With the advent of blogging and microblogging sites, anyone can publish their thoughts and ideas. If the quality of the work is exceptional, the author has a greater chance of getting recognition, not just by the publisher, but by the very audience with whom they wish to connect.
How does this apply to the startup world? Well, if you’re a business expert there is no limit to the number of channels where you can publish your thoughts and advice. LinkedIn, Inbound, and AmexOpen are all networking sites where professionals can rub elbows with the business elite. There are also hundreds of niche sites for specific industries; Dribble and Behance for designers, Kaboodle for fashion trendsetters, and Wiser for those interested sustainability and environmental issues–to name a few.
Find the networking site where top influencers in your industry are most active, and begin building your presence there. Fill out your profile completely, follow other users promoting quality content, and actively engage with their posts, make sure to share your own thoughts as well. Consistency and engagement are key. With a little bit of luck (and a lot of hustle), you’ll soon soon be a power user yourself.
2. Attend Industry Lectures and Networking Events
Though the Internet has made online networking more accessible than ever, there is no substitute for meeting face to face. Meeting someone in person is a great way to make a lasting impression, and connect with them on a more substantial level. And after attending a networking event, make sure to stay connected with your new industry friends on social media (and via email).
Start by joining a networking community that is related to your interest or profession. Try a Meetup group (or start your own), or other professional network. Attend monthly lectures or events consistently. The more you show your face, the more likely you’ll be to get noticed. Seek out the group organizers and find out how you can lead a lecture yourself. This will push you to refine your skills, and let others know that you’re an expert in your field.
3. Do What You Love and Be Authentic
We can’t stress this enough. You have to be authentic. If you’re in an industry just for the recognition or money, you’ll never find substantial happiness or satisfaction in your achievements. Alternatively, don’t be afraid to follow your dreams. Fear and doubt are hard to overcome, but they can be replaced by confidence and drive if you build upon a strong foundation of skills and the knowledge that the work you do today will make for a better tomorrow.
Remember, Steve Jobs started out in a garage and Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook in a dorm room. Don’t be afraid to dream big and work hard.