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Becoming known in any industry can seem like an uncrackable code. It’s possible for someone to spend the rest of their days buried in books and blog posts about a topic and still feel like a relative novice.

But there’s a better solution. Here’s a six-step process to vault you from relative obscurity to in-demand expert.

1. Look for the conversations that are happening in your field and study them.

Conferences and meetups are a place great start: You can listen, start noticing trends and learn more. When I decided I wanted to be an entrepreneurship professor, one of the first things I did was go to the top entrepreneurship conferences for academics. I went to the sessions and just listened. Once I got back, I read about the topics that were discussed and learned about the subjects.

2. Systematically research important areas in the field.

By now, you’ve probably learned about a few blogs, magazines or books that are touchstones in your field. Start reading them regularly. I use an application called Newsblur that allows me to build a curated list of blogs that offer news and insight on my areas of interest. This is not something you do once a month. It’s every single day. Things change quickly, so you need to stay abreast of the latest online conversations happening in your field.

3. Meet the experts.

Track down speakers at conferences or trade emails about a topic that interests both of you. Remember, these are not transactional meetings; you’re thinking long-term. Your goal is to build relationships with these people.

4. Start participating in the conversation.

With the insights you’ve gained through the previous steps, you’ve probably started building understanding and insights that others will value. Start sharing your ideas, adapt as needed, and be generous with your time.

5. Volunteer.

Offer to co-chair conferences or organize events. It’s not just a nice thing to do: You’ll also be in regular contact with speakers and other experts and gain an insider’s view of the materials that others will happily pay to learn. This can mean participating in an industry group, working at a conference or exposition, or taking active roles in online forums for your industry. 

6. Start thinking bigger.

You’ve built up a good list of fellow leaders you can tap, knowledge you can share and insights you can use to move the field forward. Use that influence wisely. A big thing about being a leader is being part of the conversation, understanding where it’s going, and doing the work to be able to continue that conversation. And remember, it’s not all about you: These recommendations — seeking out experts, joining the conversation, volunteering — only work long term if the focus is on contributing and not just taking.

The MBA program at St. Edward’s University helps its students develop in-demand skills that business leaders need, including data analysis, decision-making and strategy development.

David Altounian is an assistant professor of Entrepreneurship at The Bill Munday School of Business at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas. He is also a partner in Capital Factory, an Austin incubator for startups, and the founder and former co-chairman and CEO of Motion Computing, a leading provider of mobile computing products for vertical markets.

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