You could do the hard work yourself. Or, you could…
In every field and niche, there are key players who drive the conversation forward. Usually, they gather people who share an interest through their blogs and websites. These “thought leaders” are hubs for spreading new ideas and facilitating conversations between readers. Finding just one amazing thought leader can give you access to hundreds of ideas, opportunities, and resources.
Here’s an example: In 2015 I piloted a study abroad program to Scotland with two of my best professor peeps. Minor detail: None of us had actually ever been to Scotland.
We spent hours on early-morning Skype calls with UK-based sustainability professionals sourced on LinkedIn, working across two time zones. We lost entire weekends coordinating logistics involving trains, busses, ferries, airplanes, hostels, hotels, retreat centers, farms, and ecovillages in a country we had never seen. (To be fair…we camped out at a resort to make the extra work more fun.)
Then…we met Lusi.
Lusi ran a Scottish association dedicated to permaculture. She knew everyone in the field, the unique sites that were off the beaten track, distances between locations, and even the quality of public transport between them. She was embedded in the community to such a degree that she could advise us on who was doing really great work…versus who just had a great website. Based on her input, we revised our three-week program to something much stronger than we could have done on our own.
That’s the power of a thought leader.
Connecting with the thought leaders in your fields of interest gives you a massive head start. Finding them can be a bit of a trick, but it’s SOOOO worth it because by following them you’ll create a stream of higher-quality information on your areas of interest than you could ever find on your own. The info they share allows you to:
Access high quality resources that have been vetted by a leader in the field, so you don't have to dig them up and evaluate their quality on your own.
Learn about opportunities to take your interest a step deeper (such as meetups, workshops, conferences, and other ways to engage with “real people”).
Build your knowledge base of hot topics, key players, and big ideas that are shaping the field, so you can be an informed conversation partner at networking events and a knowledgeable candidate for interviews.
Observe what’s going on in the field from a safe distance, to see if you’re really interested in the conversations going on there. When you’re ready, you can participate. Joining a conversation will give you quick feedback on the value your comments add to other members...which can be really, really encouraging if you’re not sure how your experience or expertise translates to another field!
Confirm your interest in the field...if the content you connect to online doesn’t get you excited, you can move on to explore another path.
Good luck, and let me know how it goes!