If you’re anything like me, you get pretty jealous when you hear about a friend or colleague who has managed to build a relationship with a well-known influencer. It’s easy to think, “Gee, I’m smart and motivated too. Why can’t I have that kind of relationship with an important person?”
And sure, the reality is that there are certain people in your field that you’ll have to get really lucky just to be around, let alone network with. But there are also some really interesting and knowledgeable people who don’t have millions of followers, and a book, and a verified check mark on Twitter who you can get to know, too. You’ll just need to think a bit outside the box to get a foot in the door. Here are a few tips to help you do just that.
1. Rethink Your Definition of an Important Person
OK, so you could make the decision that you want to meet important people in your field, but only if they have all the influence. And that’s fine, but it would be unfair to say that these people are the only significant people you could meet. Instead of focusing only on these power players, reconsider your definition of what this person looks like.
Is she influential in your field? Do you respect his opinions on some really important matters? Do you want to learn from her experience? Think about the types of questions that are important to you, and you’ll quickly realize that a person’s social media following doesn’t determine his or her importance alone.
2. Find Out Where They Hang Out Online—and Engage
I know what you’re thinking, and yes—not getting a response from someone on any of these platforms hurts, even if you knew the odds were low. But, the truth is that even if someone very important and influential doesn’t have one million Twitter followers, odds are that he or she won’t just publicly post a home phone number for interested networkers either.
It’s up to you to go to where they are and do your best to start the conversation. While it would be easy to assume that important people will simply ignore you, this is absolutely not always true. In fact, even some of those leaders with large followings can be pretty responsive on social media, so take a leap and strike up a conversation.
3. Ask for an Informational Coffee Meeting
After a while of engaging with important people online, it would be easy to say, “Hey, I did it! This person knows I exist! Time to celebrate!” And yes, that wouldn’t be unreasonable.
But, if you’ve built a relationship with someone who also happens to live in the same city, it’s perfectly OK to take another leap and ask for some time to pick his or her brain. In person. Over coffee, which you should pay for, even if this person makes a lot more money than you. As scary as that might sound, remember that you’ve taken the time to get to know him or her online—and in all likelihood, he or she’s used to getting this kind of request anyway. So, it’s not like you’ll shock him or her into silence.
It’s easy to see the benefits of getting to know important people. Obviously they have some knowledge to impart on you, and could even open up some interesting career opportunities. But, if you’re typically scared of pursuing these relationships like I am, that might sound ridiculous. However, the worst case scenario? That person says no. But, if you’re respectful in the way you pursue the opportunities to meet some influential folks, there’s no harm in at least making the effort. And you’ll likely be pleasantly surprised by the outcome more than once.
Photo of man on computer courtesy of Shutterstock.
Richard Moy is a Content Marketing Writer at Stack Overflow. He has spent the majority of his career in talent management, including a stint as a full-cycle recruiter and hiring manager. In addition to the career advice he contributes to The Muse, he also writes test prep and higher education marketing content for The Economist. Say hi on Twitter @rich_moy or follow his blog.More from this Author