How to Establish Yourself as a Leading Researcher in Your Field
Being a thought leader in today’s day and age can be as simple as having an audience. If you want to command the attention and respect of other experts in your field, however, you’re going to need to do so much more. Only when you combine your efforts to become a well-respected figure, both to your industry peers and to the public at large, can you truly consider yourself the expert you want to become.
It doesn’t matter what topic or field you work in, either, though your efforts are going to change if your goal is to become an industry leader versus a research or academic leader. If you are in a high enough position and are active in your field, oftentimes, all you need is to be vocal and charismatic. For researchers, however, you have the scrutiny of the entire academic community to contend with.
It’s difficult, but no matter what type of industry leader you hope to become, it is doable. Working with this frame of mind, and by using the tips in this guide, you’ll be able to establish your name, get your work out there, and command the respect you want from your community.
Doing this isn’t just for your ego, either. Having an audience and a touch of notoriety is how you’ll stay on top of your career. It’s how you’ll gain access to unique opportunities, or even have the option to monetize your platform and take things in a whole new direction.
There are no guarantees in life, but when you have more than just smarts and talent, and an entire audience and following backing you, your options will expand substantially.
It’s a long road, but by using this guide, you’ll know where, how, and when to get started:
Table of Contents
Building Up Your Knowledge and Credentials
If there’s one thing that all thought leaders need it’s a commitment to lifelong learning. You can get the best education through your degree, but if you aren’t committed to learning every day afterwards, your knowledge will eventually fall behind. This is particularly true if you want to establish yourself as an industry or thought leader. If you aren’t aware of the latest research, innovations, and even news, then your opinions aren’t nearly as valuable. Worse, they may even be outright discarded because they just aren’t relevant any longer.
If you want to avoid that situation and keep yourself at the forefront of your field, then you’ll need to continue to learn a little every day and put that knowledge to use:
- Earning degrees
- Attending industry-relevant events
- Read everything
- Follow interviews, podcasts, and articles
- Follow key organizations
How Do You Want to Teach?
One thing that sets industry and research leaders apart is that their work is for the wider public. You are an educator, regardless of whether you end up working for a university institution or not. While those looking to become an industry leader have plenty of options, those looking to gain notoriety in academic spheres are rather limited.
In general, you have two options when you want to establish yourself as a leading thought figure in your field of academics. The first is to work for a research company. Research companies pay academics to produce reports and articles that are then distributed for a fee. The other approach is to become a university faculty member. In this role, your responsibilities are usually two-folded. You’ll be expected to teach and commit time to produce research that’s then published with the backing of your university.
In some cases, these two options are the same. Many universities will have full research organizations inside them whose goal is to inform and improve the industry they’re tied to. This gives the university a lot of great PR and helps push the rest of the department further by leading the educational framework rather than just keeping up.
How you want to teach and get your name out there will depend on you. Some have no interest in leading a classroom or course, while others have set it as their primary goal. There are plenty of benefits to working as a member of the faculty, after all, including greater support for your research, academic respect, and a great work/life balance.
Typically, to become a member of university faculty you will need to have a PhD under your belt, or at the very least, be working towards one. The good news is that this isn’t the only approach you need to take. If you are in a very industry-focused field, for example, you may not want to commit to a PhD just yet, since the industry is changing so quickly. Take sustainability, for example. Many universities are looking to expand their sustainability course and program options, but unlike other academic fields, being at the forefront of innovation is essential.
This opens roles for emerging academics that prefer to stay at the forefront of innovation, rather than just, say, specialize in one niche subject.
If this sounds like you, then you’ll want to consider an Ed.D over a PhD. Applying to an Ed.D program higher education can prepare you for a university faculty role, while also maintaining your position as an innovator and changemaker.
This doctoral program is a great bridge for those that want to transition their focus from research to academic research and education. Some of the leading thinkers of today, after all, are both changemakers and university professors.
In this program, you establish a framework and foundation in educational systems and policy making, in how to teach and develop a curriculum, and in how to use applied research. The best part is that you don’t need to commit to the degree full-time, and unlike with a PhD this program is fast to complete.
You can finish it in just two years, all while continuing to work and push your audience and professional credentials while you’re at it.
You will need to have a master’s degree or at least 33 transferable graduate credits already. Technically, you can earn this degree while working around your PhD, but you will need to be mindful of your time and energy limits. You can get a lot done regardless of your goals or approach, however, thanks to its 100% online format. There are, of course, pros and cons to taking an online course, but they are a great option for those who need to balance other life commitments.
Other Important Ways to Impart Your Knowledge
Teaching others in a classroom isn’t the only way that you can pass on your knowledge. It should be one of the options you invest the least amount of time in overall. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give your all to your students, but that you need to also invest time and energy in creating educational resources for the wider public, including your current and previous students.
Manage a Blog
Managing a blog and creating a robust content strategy for social media is an essential place to start when you want to build an audience. The blog should cover many topics that are related to your field or profession. Make sure to create categories and tag your content properly so that your audience can find work that’s of interest to them, and so that search engines can better understand who you are and what your work is all about.
A few examples of the blog content you’ll want to put out there on your professional website include:
· In-Depth Pieces
Occasionally, you’ll want to create an in-depth piece that goes through a key topic in your field. This doesn’t mean publishing your academic work, however. You may find it’s more useful for your self-marketing efforts to create in-depth content about fundamental topics in your field. Create excellent, in-depth primers that those just starting to investigate your chosen topic can use to help them get started on their journey.
· Bite-Size Articles from Your Published Work
A great way to market yourself and anything you’ve published is to take one of the smaller ideas and write about that in more depth. Take the time to update the point with the most recent examples in society or your industry. If you have a point about greenhouse gas emissions, for example, rewrite that point to reflect the latest news coming out of the COP27.
· Analysis Work
Stay on top of the latest news and offer your analysis of what things mean for your industry. Offer critiques, appraisals, and in general, help your audience understand what the news means in real terms and not just buzzwords. This tip is particularly important if you attend a talk or event since you can put your reflections on topical pieces that people will be searching for.
Create smaller updates about your news. Writing about your accomplishments and latest achievements or even just the events you’ve attended is a great way to show how involved you are in your industry. While you can and should post this on your website, know that this content is most at home on social media.
Get Articles Published
There are different types of articles. Yes, academic articles undergo a vigorous process of editing and getting reviewed. Your work will be published in academic journals to be read and appreciated by those in your field.
What these types of articles won’t be, however, is consumed by the larger public. The good news, however, is that getting your work, research, and opinions published with this audience in mind is far easier. You don’t need to have multiple peer reviews, and instead, are publishing your opinion about facts. If you draw from the work and conclusions you’ve made in an academically published article, even better.
When you first start, know you will probably have a bit of difficulty getting your work published in the largest publications. It isn’t impossible, especially if you have a topic and idea that is very relevant to today’s issues, but it is harder.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try, but it does mean not pinning all your hopes on getting your work published in, for example, the Economist or the New York Magazine.
There are many, many smaller publications out there that are committed to your field. Writing for them is not only a great way to support small and independent publishers, but it’s also a smart way to start building up your online brand and getting your name out there.
To get started, always start with niche publications. Pitch your idea and article to those (especially those local to you). You will be selling this article, after all, so if you get more than one bite of interest, you can use that to help fetch you a better price. Alternatively, you could simply rewrite the article or reframe it with a slightly different focus, so that you can get your work published in multiple places.
If you want to get as much content out of your work as possible, pick out the key points in any academically published work you’ve written, and then create a layman-friendly article that explains that point clearly and concisely.
This way, you get more value out of every piece of your product and work on. You can even use these smaller articles to send traffic to your academic publication.
If you want to establish yourself as a key figure, you need to market everything you do. Create social media content that helps others easily digest key information in your field and follow along with your progress. Share the articles you’ve written and the collaborations that you have done. Be a source of live coverage for key events.
Create content every day with the idea of educating the public. If you’re struggling with this step, even consider reaching out to a marketing agency or freelancer to help you get your work out there and devise a content strategy you can then follow on your own.