Thought leadership is becoming increasingly apparent in the realm of marketing – think Steve Jobs and Apple’s “Think Differently” campaign. But thought leadership can be leveraged even if you are an entry-level employee looking for your first job. How so?
Anyone can be a thought leader – all you need is knowledge, passion and communication skills. You can demonstrate thought leadership to help you get a job and to climb the ladder once you’ve been hired.
Let’s examine what thought leadership is, how it relates to social media, and how to show it in the workplace. Check out these resume templates for first job applications if you need some help.
What Is Thought Leadership?
Thought leadership is a big part of the future of leadership. By definition, thought leadership is “the expression of ideas that demonstrate you have expertise in a particular field… innovative thinking full of insight and information.” It means that you know your subject area, that you are passionate about it, and that you can articulate that passion in written or verbal form.
If you have “knowledge, experience, and a point of view,” you may already be a thought leader without even realizing it.
Social Media and Thought Leadership
It’s a well-known fact that you should not link to any non-professional social media accounts on your resume. It is equally well known that your hiring manager may very well look you up on social media before making his or her decision.
You can, therefore, utilize your social media accounts – especially LinkedIn – as a way to establish your thought leadership. Let’s consider an example.
You’re a college student, and you’ve just applied for the entry-level position of receptionist at a nearby law firm. When your hiring manager looks you up on LinkedIn, he sees your high school, your university and the volunteer work you did in your senior year.
On Instagram and Facebook, he sees photos of you in your high school graduation regalia, your high school diploma framed and hanging on your dorm wall, buildings on the college campus, a stack of books with a caption about studying, a few inspirational quotes and a photo of you in a blazer getting ready for a job interview.
Now, consider this question – what subject are you a thought leader in? You’re certainly not an expert in legal studies, at least not yet. But you’ve established that you are a thought leader among your peers. You think seriously about your education, your career, and your future. You’ve informed yourself and become an expert in professionalism.
Note, too, that the manager did not find photos of wild parties, public displays of affection or anything else that could be deemed unprofessional. Cleaning up your social media accounts may be necessary if you wish to cultivate thought leadership.
Using Thought Leadership to Level Up
Once you’ve got a job, you can use thought leadership to work towards desired privileges and promotions.
For example, imagine you are working as an assistant cook in a restaurant. You work hard to perform your tasks well and on time. The owner, who is also the primary cook, notices that you take interest in her recipes and techniques. When you share that you’ve taken cooking classes and you daily prepare restaurant-copycat meals for your family, she gives you a chance to simmer, bake and sauté more difficult dishes. When a customer complains about a certain dish, you offer a suggestion. In time, you are promoted to kitchen manager.
As shown by this example, you can become a thought leader by:
- taking your assigned work seriously;
- the subject matter of your conversations at work;
- your interest in learning more; and
- expressing understanding of the subject by offering meaningful observations.
A word of caution: Don’t go into your new job acting as if you know more than your seniors, even if you do. For example, maybe you’re a wiz with computers. After a few weeks on the job, you realize that the company’s electronic data management system could be much more efficient. Rather than making unauthorized changes or bragging that you could do it better, focus on doing your job well and building others’ confidence in you. In time, you may be able to present a proposal to your manager and demonstrate its benefits. Even then, focus on small steps rather than radical changes to the whole system.
Thought leadership involves establishing yourself as an expert and a thinker in a given field. Through your social media, conversations and how you approach your work, you can leverage thought leadership to further your career, even at the entry level.
HR Future Staff Writer