Picture of a lot of hands meeting in the middle

Is LinkedIn just for business types? No! It can be a brilliant tool to build your network – academic or otherwise. And really helpful for finding that next position.

LinkedIn, some people swear by it and others that I know really don’t like it. Personally, I think it’s a brilliant tool for researchers.  Whether you are or aren’t job hunting, it is a little bit of internet real estate that plays the Google game well.

You can treat LinkedIn a bit like an address book with your connections updating their information as and when they move jobs. It’s a bit like an online network. It’s useful for finding jobs, yes, jobs are advertised on there. But it is so much more than that. It is a source of information. We can get facts and figures and information on what companies are up to from LinkedIn.

We can also get personal insights on what something is like. For example, what is a job in medical writing in South Korea like? What is a job as a nuclear engineer in Canada like?  There will be people who have those specific roles out there and you’re a quick search away.

If you are in a research field and you’re looking to move on you can assume that you won’t be the first researcher who has tried to make that move. Therefore, people like yourself will have made that move. People in either your personal network or in your network’s network. Our networks are people we’ve connected with in one way or another.  People like us who have gone on and done something else. So, your network might already have travelled on the path you are considering.  So, the power of your network and your networks network is amazing. You’ve got access to a lot of people on LinkedIn.

The first thing that I would say is connect to everyone you know. You don’t have to accept all the weird and wonderful connections that come your way. If you think “I’ve never met this person. They’re trying to sell me something.” – don’t connect! Connect to as many people as you can remember from your undergraduate degree. Your Master’s if you’ve got one, your PhD, your research posts. Then you know in the main that these are people that you need to talk to if you’re going to stay in research. Also, think about the wider connections, the people that your connections know. They will have had friends who have gone on to a variety of things, this is where the real power comes in.

How to connect

How do we approach someone on LinkedIn? Etiquette is a mixed thing; I have a wealth of different messages usually coming into my LinkedIn. Some are very definitely trying to sell me something even if they think they are trying to hide it. Others are just simple requests from researchers, I’ll always answer those, always happy to.

  • Always be polite
  • Don’t just connect blindly. People are unlikely to connect with someone who has just clicked on thousands of accounts.
  • Write a note – it always says would you like to add a note, a quick note, for example:

This is me. I’m a researcher in whatever I’m looking to move into your field. I’m looking for people to just give me a bit more information about what field is like. Hope you connect from Emma

Once they’re connected you can then go ahead and ask your question or ask for a quick 15-minute call with them, to find out what it is like to be that medical writer in South Korea or that nuclear physicist in Canada. 

One of the things that I find researchers really, really struggle with, is that almost paralysis what to do next? You’ve got a love hate relationship with your current role. I’m not sure whether I want to move on. LinkedIn can help with the answer. It can provide you with that extra gut feeling, that extra information that you think oh, actually, yes, that does sound like my type of thing. Don’t take just one person’s answer, ask several! That way you should get a really detailed insight into that potential career. It might be that you come away and say nope, not doing that. Or it might be that you think that’s exciting.

LinkedIn Profiles

What should our profile look like? 

We can all do the connections, we can follow companies, we can do all those sorts of things. But the first thing you need to make sure is that your profile is right. So, let’s make sure that our profiles are singing our praises. I have tried to learn as much as I can about LinkedIn and then looked at quite a lot of researchers pages. Here are some tips: 

  • Make sure you have a nice, happy looking head and shoulders picture. Ideally a professional one if you have it.
  • The banner picture is a specific number of pixels in size. You can mock something up on Canva, make sure it catches the eye. It could be something that describes your research, maybe a DNA chain or a play on words so it could be a bicycle chain.
  • Headline – make sure it says something about you for example medieval historian – extend that to be medieval historian interested in …
  • Contact information – make sure you include websites, emails, you can put Twitter on there as well
  • About section – write this as if you are viewing it as a future employer. Break up the text with bullet points and share your passions this is the human part of the profile
  • In the experience section, this will include your CV type information. Job titles, roles

You can also include things like licenses, certifications, volunteering, testimonials.  Make sure you have got these sections as good as they can be before you start fishing for connections.  Include everything that anyone wanting to connect with you might want or need to know. You can also follow relevant companies, within sectors you might be interested in.

The other great thing about LinkedIn is that you can be reasonably lazy with it. You don’t have to be active on it all the time, just occasionally, maybe once a week, spend 20 minutes in there updating your network, liking and commenting on posts.  That way people know you are active and LinkedIn will start to suggest people to connect with and suggest jobs and relevant topics.

Why not have a play around with your LinkedIn profile and see how you can grow and expand your network.  You never know that dream job might come from it!

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