While the term "thought leader" is so grossly overused that it's lost any value that it may have had, the idea that you need to become an influential member of your industry or niche has not. Becoming an influencer is one of the most important things that you can do to propel your career. You just need to understand what the path to influence looks like. Here are a few strategies to keep in mind.

1. Give, give, and give some more.

Rarely can anyone climb to the top of a niche or industry without working his or her way up. Before you ever think about asking for anything from anyone, you must give of your time, energy, and resources. Make yourself available to others, and be willing to sacrifice so others benefit. This is the quickest and most effective way to get noticed.

In a world of online communication, this looks like writing guest blogs without expecting anything in return, answering questions on social media, giving away free advice, and pushing your email address--which Bill Gates infamously did for years--so people can contact you whenever they have a need.

If you do these things, and don't expect anything in return, you'll eventually position yourself where people will begin doing things for you. It can take months or years of diligence, but it'll pay off in the long run. Ultimately, people notice selfless people more than they notice selfish people.

2. Speak out and get noticed.

It's impossible to become influential without being noticed, yet many people seem to think that they can sit back and relax while everyone comes to them. This doesn't happen. If you want to become influential, you have to speak out, and create dialogue.

"When I first started building my online presence, I recognized how important it was to create a dialogue," says Rebekah Radice, social media strategist. "This meant that simply retweeting or sharing others' content wasn't enough. I had to add my voice to that shared content." Practically speaking, what does that look like? Here are a few or Radice's suggestions:

3. Secure speaking engagements.

Not everything is handled on the internet. If you want truly to make a name for yourself, you must get out from behind the keyboard and mingle with people. By leveraging your online presence, you can begin to secure speaking engagements at events, conferences, and luncheons.

This is a strategy that many of the world's most influential people use to make a difference. Take, for example, Sara Khan, who was recently named one of the 10 most powerful female influencers in the world. Part of her strategy is to go around to schools and local communities, and speak out against terrorism and extremist ideologies. Though she's not doing it for the fame, it's clear that her involvement has elevated her to a recognizable position of leadership.

4. Put a unique spin on stale topics.

The problem with social media is that it's inundated with the same old topics and ideas. Everyone seems to be saying the exact same thing, which really gets old after a while. And if you're writing and sharing the same things, too, how do you expect to be considered an influencer? You're actually a follower.

Influencers are able to take current conversations, and add something unique. They're able to look at stale topics and create a new angle. This is how you stand out and get noticed.

However, there's a trick to putting that unique spin on these topics. You have to understand your readership. What are they looking for? "Before you can understand the wants and needs of your audience, you need to discover who your audience is," writes John Rampton, successful entrepreneur and influencer. "What is the content, products, and services that they are really clamoring for? Do they really need another cooking blog? Or do they want new ways to barbecue on a grill? In other words, stand in their shoes."

5. Create something of value.

The quickest way to become influential and noticed is to create something of value for your niche or industry. Instead of just talking with people, show them that you bring something to the table. This could be something as simple as an eBook or as sophisticated as a piece of software. If you can swing it, make your value platform free or cost-effective. Your goal isn't to make a huge profit, but to attract the masses. In the future, you can raise prices and attempt to make money from your status.

6. Team up with your peers.

The reality of the matter is that you aren't alone in your pursuit of influence. Many of your peers are seeking to do the same thing. Here's an idea: team up. There's power in numbers, and you'll be able to accomplish a lot more by partnering with like-minded people in your niche.

Leverage one another's contacts, support one another in your endeavors, bring one another in on new ideas, and value their success as much as you value your own. You'll find that you're able to climb much quicker, and that their success does very little to harm yours. In fact, the more successful they are, the more successful you'll be.

Not sure how to find like-minded peers? Well, just keep doing what you're doing--but make listening a priority. The more content you read and social media discussions you follow, the more you'll notice that certain people stick out. Investigate these people, and watch what they're doing. You'll be able to tell pretty quickly if they're on the same path as you.

7. Don't forget who helped you.

Once you start to gain influence in your industry, it's easy to shift gears, and start thinking about yourself. Resist this temptation. It's critical that you remember the people who helped you to get where you are and that you continue to help them--and others--succeed. Whether you realize it or not, your niche is a lot smaller than you probably think. Word will get around if you take advantage of relationships. Always be willing to extend a helping hand, and never turn away people who have helped you in the past.

The path to becoming an influencer.

There is no clear-cut path to becoming an influencer in your niche or industry. There are plenty of proven strategies and techniques, but there are so many different variables involved that it would be foolish to say, "This is how you get from point A to point B."

Use these seven strategies, learn to take chances, and never compromise your values in return for influence. The only way to sustain long-term influence and power in your industry is to remain committed to your core values and talents.