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“5 Things You Should Do To Become a Thought Leader In Your Industry” With Carisa Miklusak of tilr

Becoming a thought leader has may benefits, but is also a large responsibility. Optimally, people become thought leaders because they are confident and they can be helpful to others. That being said, three undeniable benefits of being a thought leader include: Credibility — thought leaders are by definition credible, and this credibility will carry over and help in […]


Becoming a thought leader has may benefits, but is also a large responsibility. Optimally, people become thought leaders because they are confident and they can be helpful to others. That being said, three undeniable benefits of being a thought leader include:

Credibility — thought leaders are by definition credible, and this credibility will carry over and help in other areas such as business deals.

Network — The very nature of becoming a thought leader helps you to build an incredible network that can be leveraged for business and personal needs and introductions.

Control — Thought leaders have a large degree of control over their industries. By defining what the future looks like, you have the advantage of influencing what the future will be.


As part of our series about how to become known as a thought leader in your industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Carisa Miklusak. Carisa is president and CEO of tilr, an algorithmic hiring solution. In this role, she drives the strategic vision and day-to-day execution with a relentless passion for the new workforce marketplace, which results in innovative and sustainable solutions. Prior to founding tilr, Carisa was the founder and CEO of tMedia, a digital media and training firm that she conceptualized and grew with many Global Fortune 500 clients. Carisa honed her digital recruitment skills at CareerBuilder, where she spent almost a decade building multi-million-dollar business units that resulted in new profit streams for the company.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

Absolutely. Early in my career I worked in temporary staffing for event marketing. One of the first skills I gained early on was how to sell and market. This led me to interviewing for a sales job at CareerBuilder.com where I started to build sales teams in different territories. Later, I learned how to scale and replicate businesses and, in 2008, I took the dive to build my first startup. This is where I’ve found my true passion. Bringing new ideas, products and insights to market, is an excitement and joy I’ve become highly addicted to. I say I’m never going to do this again…every time.

Can you briefly share with our readers why you are an authority about the topic of thought leadership?

As a seasoned technology business leader and entrepreneur, I have been forced to introduce new ideas to market throughout my career. When building companies, creating new products or introducing new ideas, one is often required to define or redefine how target audiences approach their traditional thinking and decision making. Building the influence to assist in this process is one of my keys to personal business success. Taking this influence to market and leveraging it for broader impact is a skill I’ve fine tuned over the past decade.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

One of the most interesting stories in my career is how my current startup tilr came to be. I was cold called, aggressively, by a man I had never heard of with an impatient tone. After hesitation and when I finally returned the call, I learned that he had a wireframe for an agricultural recruitment app that he wanted help taking to market. Although I wasn’t interested, we started collaborating and introduced other partners, and eventually presented a new business plan for tilr. Our company matches people to jobs based on skills not titles, which is something I’ve been passionate about and wanted to bring to life for over a decade. The “cold caller” became a partner and core investor and here we are! That was in the summer of 2015, just four years ago, and now tilr serves workers and client in over 25 cities.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I was a new sales rep, early in my career, I went on a sales call with my director and, despite my best efforts, I was not able to close the deal. I tried so hard to pinpoint challenges and tie our solutions to results, but I just failed. My mistake was that I was over talking, trying too hard to connect and failing to listen. I left with my head down. When we got into the car, my sales director told me that champions don’t quit until they get it right. She proposed that we go back in and ask for the business again, but pointed out that we should listen first. She marched right back in and said, “I am so embarrassed to have not earned your business in front of my new rep. This has never happened before. I must have not done my job, I’m so sorry, I let you down. Can we start over?” Not only did she use a command that I hadn’t yet built, but she did really listen to the client. Her Southern accept probably helped too. We started over, she closed the deal and we left with a contract in hand.

I learned that 1) Being relentless — elegantly relentless — is sometimes necessary, 2) You have to believe in what you are doing to have what it takes, 3) Listening is a more important still than talking or presenting, 4) Asking (sometimes again) directly is the only way to get a yes.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define what a ‘Thought Leader’ is. How is a thought leader different than a typical leader? How is a thought leader different than an influencer?

A thought leader is someone some one that defines and redefines perspective. They are not afraid to share their discoveries and beliefs with the world, and they tend to find personal value in in learning that their thoughts positively impact others. They validate their thoughts in research and studies. They speak often, and through many channels. Although they may leverage influences, they are different from influencers in that they define new ideas and concepts or set the tone, whereas influencers spread those thoughts or tone. And, although some thought leaders may directly lead a team or others, directly leading people is not a necessary competent of a thought leader. In the same vein, leading people doesn’t make you a thought leader. Thought leaders are focused on leading an industry or seeing through a new concept through every channel. A true thought leader also inspires and encourages innovation in others.

Can you talk to our readers a bit about the benefits of becoming a thought leader? Why do you think it is worthwhile to invest resources and energy into this?

Becoming a thought leader has may benefits, but is also a large responsibility. Optimally, people become thought leaders because they are confident and they can be helpful to others. That being said, three undeniable benefits of being a thought leader include:

  1. Credibility — thought leaders are by definition credible, and this credibility will carry over and help in other areas such as business deals.
  2. Network — The very nature of becoming a thought leader helps you to build an incredible network that can be leveraged for business and personal needs and introductions.
  3. Control — Thought leaders have a large degree of control over their industries. By defining what the future looks like, you have the advantage of influencing what the future will be.

Ok. Now that we have that behind us, we’d love to hear your thoughts about how to eventually become a thought leader. Can you share 5 strategies that a person should implement to become known as a thought leader in their industry. Please tell us a story or example (ideally from your own experience) for each.

  1. Be in the Industry — Work in the areas in which you want to be a thought leader. Earn your credibility by doing the job and being part of the industry. Research until you are an expert, not just in your role, but in every possible role in your industry. Know what helps your company and your industry win, know what helps competitors, ask yourself what the future of the industry will look like and challenge yourself to make predictions. One technique that works for me is to track my results in both the short and long term. Also, perfect your skills by taking accreditation courses, attending seminars or even serving as a guest lecturer at a local university. Beyond all, know your industry inside out.
  2. Be Real — Let people get to know you and connect with you on many dimensions. This builds a familiarity and trust that lays the foundation for your thoughts and ideas to be digested. Share “real” photos and videos of yourself, including behind-the-scenes shots that showcase your true personality. Also, don’t worry about every little thing you say publicly — it pays to be real, controversial and to put your stake into a vision without fearing that it may be wrong.
  3. Be Visible — Attend or speak at every relevant local and industry event, even if you have a more reserved nature. Practice and get comfortable by leading discussions amongst small groups and move onto larger groups. Take speaking classes if you need to, or even an acting class to help, but learn to command a room of any size. Even a stadium! It really boils down to about your confidence in your thoughts and ability to help others, not about how comfortable you are on a stage. Also, take ownership of your social media channels, share your insights and respond to comments.
  4. Be the Leader — Embrace your competition, rather than run away from them or bad mouth them. This is so critical. Learn from them, friend them, show them you want your leading thoughts to help a full industry — including them. It’s also extremely critical to show the industry who the real leader is.
  5. Be Formalized — Eventually, get published as much as you can. Clarify your niche, but be willing to talk and write about topics outside of it to increase your chances of getting published and further your thought leadership.

In your opinion, who is an example of someone who has that has done a fantastic job as a thought leader? Which specific things have impressed you about that person? What lessons can we learn from this person’s approach.

Rachel Botsman is compelling in the way she quickly became a unique thought leader. She studied painting in school, but has sharp focus on business, along with a passion for the sharing economy and technology and their impact on business. She impresses me because her thought leadership holds a very unique, very real perspective, incorporating business events and predictive analysis into the beauty of everyday life and evolution. We can learn from the way Rachel used a variety of resources to establish herself and reach her audiences. This includes having conversations on social platforms where she wasn’t always the lead, but merely conversing and learning, which is a critical thought leader skill. She used TED talks as her break-through platform and published a book in 2010 entitled What’s Mine is Yours: How Collaborative Consumption is Changing the Way We Live. Prior to that she was not well known. Today, anyone with a strong command of the sharing industry or an academic focus on its future impacts looks to her thought leadership.

I have seen some discussion that the term “thought leader” is trite, overused, and should be avoided. What is your feeling about this?

I do not feel it is trite, but rather critical role in every walk of life. Throughout time, vocabulary and terms change, but core concepts and truths remain. If people are sick of the term, fine. However, the critical need for thought leaders can’t be denied or called trite. That’s not a trend, but a role that has guided the evolution of humans, so I’d say that’s anything but trite. Our thought leaders are our inventors, educators, scientists and even prophets. If you don’t like the term thought leaders, call them by a more specific name, but make sure to pause to recognize the important of defining new concepts, changing people’s perspectives and innovating.

What advice would you give to other leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

Find ways to have fun at work, and don’t be embarrassed to have fun! Working hard doesn’t mean having a bad time. Leadership takes a lot of energy, and being a good leader takes even more. We derive energy from passion, from expressing and employing our passions in ways we enjoy. Recognize this and build in ways to enjoy yourself at work. You rarely become burned out when you are working on something you really love. Of course, work-life balance remains important, but building in ways to have fun at work, while working, can be a game changer that turns work into an energy giver, rather than a taker.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’m actually going to give you two:

  1. Altruistic — I’d inspire the unity movement in the United States. I’d ask citizens, despite political beliefs, to make a pledge of unity to accept one another as they are today. I’d then match each pledge with $1 from participating organizations and invest it the new USA Unity Scholarship Fund to provide education to children on the topics of diversity, inclusion, conscious and unconscious bias and the benefits of cognitive diversity.
  2. Business — The foundational building block of recruitment is skill, not titles. Titles screen people out and create a fictionally large skill gap, whereas skills help people to uncover opportunities. We are working on this movement daily.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite is “Building and bridges are made to bend in the wind, what doesn’t bend breaks,” which are lyrics by Ani DiFranco.

How does it relate? Success in business is about resilience over rigidity. You can think of tons of life lesson quotes that apply such as, “What got you to A, won’t get you to B” and “what works for one may not work for another.” The point is, business is about solving problems and problems are best solved from diverse perspectives. It’s important that you remain fluid, continue to learn and try things differently if you want to survive and win.

We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Jeff Bezos — we have so much to talk about! Jeff if you’re reading this, let’s have breakfast and improve/reinvent just-in-time business globally. It will be a fun light afternoon discussion.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Please follow me on Twitter at @carisamiklusak and @tilrcorp and https://www.linkedin.com/in/carisa

Thank you so much for your insights. This was very insightful and meaningful.

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