LinkedIn Strategies for Academics
For business professionals, there is one premier place online to post one’s resume and to look for jobs: LinkedIn. Indeed, those are the primary purposes of the professional social networking site. With our lengthy CVs and specialized job listings elsewhere, we academics have no need for such services. Nonetheless, both junior and established scholars have compelling reasons to use LinkedIn.
Part I: Why
1. Establish an online presence. LinkedIn, along with Academia.edu, provides a useful avenue for up-and-coming scholars to show who they are online, as others have outlined eloquently elsewhere.
2. Acquire insight from your friends’ friends, once you know who they are. Because LinkedIn shows who you are 2 or 3 degrees removed from, you may already be connected to someone who can put you in touch with the world’s leading expert on any given topic, should you find yourself out of your depth and needing insight on a related research matter, as long as you know that person by name and they are also on LinkedIn.
Perhaps even more usefully, LinkedIn can show you what companies your connections (and your connections’ connections) work for and these can include colleges and universities. If you are applying to work at a given institution, you may want to find out in advance what their administrative culture is, for example. Someone you know may either work there or be able to put you in touch with someone who can answer that question. You could do this without LinkedIn, of course, but the site reveals connections that you might not have even known you had.
3. Discuss ideas in a professional environment. LinkedIn’s “groups” provide opportunities for you and your colleagues worldwide to initiate and perpetuate conversations on whatever topics you choose. You have the power to form groups both independently and affiliated with whatever organizations in which you may already be involved, though it is likely, in the case of the latter, that they already exist. The members of a group may include but need not be limited to your connections.
Group conversations are more streamlined than in a listserv, although you can receive email updates when members contribute new thoughts to a given thread. The context in LinkedIn is also more professional than it would be on Facebook, where not everyone is eager to “friend” and share their personal lives with their professional colleagues.
4. Recruit junior scholars for your professional society. Anecdotal evidence suggests that many academic and professional societies are struggling to recruit new members. There may be a variety of reasons for this, but I would suggest that a significant reason for both graduate students and junior scholars’ failure to join or failure to maintain membership may be a simple lack of feeling connected.
One easy and free way to connect with younger scholars is to initiate connections with them on LinkedIn individually and to invite them to join your organization’s group on LinkedIn. The go-getters among them should be taking the initiative to connect with you, but your society may find itself needing to connect with a broader circle of potential recruits. For the younger generation especially, online affiliation provides a genuine sense of connection. While this is no substitute for face-to-face interaction, it can be a mutually beneficial supplement.
Part II: How
1. Join. www.linkedin.com
2. Fill in some (but not necessarily all) of your professional information. If you are a senior scholar, do not feel obligated to put more than your name, position, and current institutional affiliation. It’s other people’s responsibility to know who you are. If you are a junior scholar, you may want to fill in all of everything. Who knows? Your career just might depend on it.
3. Connect with people you already know. Letting LinkedIn access your email address book is the easiest way. It will send out invitations for you, with your permission.
4. Join or establish networking/discussion groups of your choosing.
5. Connect with new acquaintances. Think of LinkedIn as a virtual business card. After your next conference, after the dust has settled, make a short list of what new people you had meaningful conversations with and see if you can connect on LinkedIn. This can be a great way to remind them who you are and to invest in potential future meaningful interactions.
LinkedIn has the potential to be very useful – but it is only as useful as we let it be. Because the site thrives on showing connections, if all of us use it, it will reflect the full extent of our connections to each other, maximizing its usefulness for the above reasons. If, however, no one uses it, its usefulness will be nil. LinkedIn has the potential to enhance our ability to cultivate established connections and to form new ones no less than in any other profession, but only if we let it.