Is LinkedIn important for academics?
LinkedIn is a powerful platform for connecting with each other, especially in professional capacities. Today we’re talking about a social media platform many academics are on, but not using effectively: LinkedIn.
Hint: It’s not just for business people.
Here’s what you’ll learn in this article:
- why you should consider LinkedIn as a professor or researcher
- benefits of a good LinkedIn profile
- 7 tips for your LinkedIn profile
LinkedIn is awesome for
- looking for academic and non-academic jobs
- and highlighting our work
Teaching, research, and publications can all be showcased on LinkedIn.
But I come across hundreds of PhD student, faculty, and administrator profiles on LinkedIn that just aren’t communicating well. That’s why I knew this post would be great for all of you who read The Social Academic.
My hope is that you’ll learn a bit about LinkedIn, and how it can benefit you. At the end, you’ll also learn 7 tips for your faculty or professor profile.
I’m Jennifer van Alstyne, and welcome to The Social Academic, my blog about your online identity in the HigherEd world. Here I talk about social media and personal academic websites. And I interview cool grad students, faculty, and researchers like you.
Let’s talk about LinkedIn, and why having a profile that communicates who you are is a great idea for you.
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Graduate students, faculty, and researchers should be on LinkedIn
With many social media platforms to choose from, academics don’t always consider LinkedIn as a networking site beneficial to them.
LinkedIn is a professional networking site that’s for more than just business people. Graduate students, faculty, and researchers can and should use LinkedIn.
In fact, out of all the social media platforms, it’s the one I suggest you use even if it’s just having an updated profile there.
With over 645 million users, LinkedIn is more social than you think. It’s definitely about more than getting a job. And we’ll talk more about some of those in a bit.
First, I want to talk about what LinkedIn does.
LinkedIn is a social media platform that allows personal profiles and company pages. So both people and companies can host a group.
LinkedIn has job postings, online learning opportunities, and specific tools like Sales Navigator to help with professional development and networking. And, you may use LinkedIn in that capacity at some point in your career.
Academic and HigherEd staff/admin jobs are posted on LinkedIn (though it’s not the best place to look for these positions).
But it is the place I recommend most for
- and connecting with professionals in your field (including faculty and researchers)
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Many academics are on LinkedIn, but not all of them are using their professional profile well.
Your LinkedIn profile is like a professional CV or resume. You can detail your work experience, education, and volunteering.
There’s a place for a profile photo and cover photo, like many other social media platforms.
And, the best part about LinkedIn profiles for academics, is that it allows space for explanation. And for examples.
For instance, under your teaching experience, you can add a media link to your syllabi, assignment, or course description.
And, there’s a whole section for publications where you can include your articles and books.
Yes, businesses do recruit and hire talent through LinkedIn, but it’s also a place people are spending more time.
On LinkedIn you can connect with your professional network, and follow people who share content you like. On LinkedIn, you can also
- send messages to connections (and inMail to people you haven’t met yet)
- follow people, companies, and organizations
- follow topics of interest (hashtags)
- share text, image, video as posts
- like and comment on posts
- write long-form articles
- join groups
- search for alumni or company employees
- search for and apply to jobs
Notice that in the list above, I’ve placed “search for and apply to jobs” last. I mean that’s what a lot of people use LinkedIn for, but I want to emphasize that it is not the only (or most important) way to use this professional networking platform.
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Let’s talk about the benefits of this professional networking site for you
Social media is a great way to share what we do in or work and research. And networking is at the center of that. LinkedIn is a great way to connect with
- educators in your field
- colleagues from your institution (faculty, administration, and staff)
- former students
- scholars and researchers around the world
- editors and publishers
- organization and association leaders
When I say “LinkedIn is the most powerful platform academics are on, but don’t use well,” I’m talking about how we communicate with these people.
Most academics are not using their LinkedIn profiles to the best of their ability when it comes to communicating with other educators, colleagues, students, etc. Like the vast majority of profiles.
So if you haven’t updated your LinkedIn profile in years, you’re not alone. Don’t worry.
But because this platform is so powerful (and by the end of this I hope you’re convinced), spending time on this is well worth the effort.
A lot of grad students and faculty have LinkedIn profiles, but because they aren’t updated often, and people aren’t sure what to include, you may be missing out on some of these benefits:
- a complete profile helps you get found
- it’s more dynamic than a CV
- LinkedIn articles are a great blog alternative
- your profile helps you get informational interviews
- Grad students! Check out my recent YouTube live
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A complete profile helps you get found
You can use any social media platform to connect with your scholarly audience, but there’s a specific reason why LinkedIn is the best option overall.
LinkedIn has the best search capabilities for academics and researchers like you, because it can search a whole profile for keywords (like ones that relate to your work). Want to connect with archaeologists, or marketing and design faculty around the world? Searching LinkedIn is easy, and will return direct results.
LinkedIn is highly searchable within the platform, and is well-indexed by Google too. So, if someone is looking for Victorian literature professors, your LinkedIn profile may pop up in the search results.
That means when you improve your LinkedIn profile, it will help more people find you. Both people searching on LinkedIn and on Google.
Of course, search is only as good as the content it’s looking for, so be sure to keep reading to get my 7 tips for your LinkedIn profile.
It’s more dynamic than a CV
Your LinkedIn profile is more dynamic than a curriculum vitae (CV). It offers a similar listing of positions and experience. But it also allows room to detail that experience with a bulleted list or short description.
And, LinkedIn provides an interactive experience by allowing you to attach multimedia including
- and links.
And that’s just in the experience section. You can also link to articles and publications. Share your personal academic website or faculty profile.
You can also showcase your skills and get endorsed for them.
LinkedIn articles are a great alternative to a blog
When people ask me, “should I make a blog?” I usually ask them how much they want to write.
Blogging is a lot of work, but LinkedIn articles are a great alternative to consider.
LinkedIn articles tend to be well-indexed by Google.
You can share them over and over as posts on LinkedIn, or as a link on other social media platforms.
And, it doesn’t require the regular writing and distribution commitment (i.e. weekly, monthly) as blogs do.
Perfect for busy academics, LinkedIn articles are a good option for talking about your work in a public forum. From teaching experiences to research highlights, articles are a great way to share your writing.
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Your profile is a great asset for networking and informational interviews
Academics on the job market, whether you’re looking for academic or non-academic jobs, will likely use LinkedIn as part of their job search. There are some great resources out there for that.
But today I want to talk about why your profile is an important factor for that job search and networking process.
Your LinkedIn profile is what most people need to make the decision to connect with you. Or to respond to an inMail (message) request for an informational interview.
Some people recommend sending out a personal connection request that details
- why you want to connect
- exactly how you want to network.
But most of the time, your LinkedIn profile is the key factor in that decision process: to engage or not engage.
I tend to be in the connect first, contact when it’s actually meaningful camp.
But whichever you choose, spending energy ensuring your LinkedIn profile communicates who you are and what you do is the most important.
When people connect with me, I know it’s because they have at minimum
- learned my name
- read my headline
And that means they have a basic understanding of what I do: work with faculty and researchers on strategic communication.
That leaves the choice to learn more up to them. Those who are considering connecting can visit my profile, read my bio, learn about my experience, and more.
I’ve given them the opportunity to learn more. And that’s what a good LinkedIn profile is all about. Being open to connecting. And being okay with people being interested in you and what you do.
Watch my YouTube live with career coach Sammie Walker Herrera
Sammie Walker Herrera, career coach at the University of Florida, joined me to talk about LinkedIn for graduate students.
7 tips for your LinkedIn profile
Now that we’ve talked LinkedIn and how it can benefit your academic life, let’s get into the specifics of updating your profile in these 7 steps.
So when you engage with people on LinkedIn, what they see is your
- and profile photo
Let’s start there.
1. Your headline should reflect who you are and what you do
You have 120 characters to tell people who you are and what you do in your LinkedIn headline. This is the one piece of information about you people are guaranteed to read if you
- write them a message
- appear in their search results
- send a connection request
Oh, there’s one more. If you have a post or article that one of their connections has reacted to or commented on, they’ll see your name and headline as well.
The LinkedIn headline is also the main area graduate students, faculty, and researchers can improve upon. Here’s why.
What I see most often is: “Assistant Professor at X University.”
So, a short job title + affiliation.
That’s it, and it’s not a lot of information.
Let’s think about it from the perspective of someone thinking about connecting with you.
If I’m an administrator or faculty member at X University, I might connect with you because our shared affiliation is in the headline.
But what about a professor at another institution?
That person has to take extra steps to understand if you’re a good person to connect with.
Why? Well, it’s unclear from this headline (“Assistant Professor at X University”) what field this person is in. And what their specialty is.
And, most people don’t have the time or incentive to take those extra steps.
I usually do though. So let’s talk about what it looks like for people who do go into your profile to learn more.
The next issue is that, sometimes people who haven’t included their field in their headline, also haven’t shared it in their job title. In which case, it’s hit or miss if they teach in the same field as their most recent educational degree.
So rather than making someone leave LinkedIn to Google you (which you have to be pretty highly motivated to do), and hope your faculty profile is up-to-date, you want to make it easy for them.
Here’s what I suggest. If you have something like “Assistant Professor of English at X University | 20th and 21st century literature,” well that’s more specific.
That’s “job title + affiliation | field or specialization.” And again you have 120 characters to include the info people need to take that next step.
Here’s how to write a LinkedIn heading for graduate students
When you’re clear about what you do, you make it easy for people to find and connect with you.
For graduate students, that might mean sharing a bit more than you’d expect. Much like the example above, the headline I see most is “Graduate Assistant at X University.”
That isn’t a whole lot of information.
Try being more specific. And, I recommend including the key information upfront. For example “Chemistry Graduate Research Assistant at X University focusing on these topics.”
While our natural inclination is to say Graduate Research Assistant in Chemistry at X University, they key information people coming across you need to know is ‘chemistry.’ So you don’t want to bury that in the middle. On mobile phones, that might even be cut off the preview.
So a good formula to follow is “Keyword + Job Title or Student + affiliation | Area of specialization.”
Here’s an example of a LinkedIn headline I might have used in grad school: “English Graduate Assistant at University of Louisiana at Lafayette | Representations of nature in poetry and literature.”
If you’re in grad school and know you’ll be looking for non-academic jobs, you may want a more focused headline. Instead of area of specialization, you may choose to include your skills (i.e. Project management and research). Look up keywords that most relate to the industries you are interested in.
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2. Set a profile photo and cover photo on LinkedIn
You need a profile photo on LinkedIn, and I recommend going a step further to add a cover photo.
What works best for your profile photo is a picture of your smiling face.
It can be a professional headshot if you have one. But it’s not necessary. A selfie will definitely work in this space.
What’s most important is that your photo be friendly.
For those of you who are camera shy, I haven’t seen cartoon avatars on LinkedIn but I definitely recommend this alternative over an empty profile photo.
Cover photos are now an option on most social media platforms, and I do recommend you set one for your LinkedIn profile. Use a photo you’ve taken, or a stock photo you have the license for.
3. Add a bio to your LinkedIn summary section
Your LinkedIn bio should not be the same as your academic bio. Remember, this summary is an area that’s meant to be read, so it should be a more personable introduction to you.
Business people will tell you your LinkedIn summary is a great place for keywords, so think about what words most relate to your field or specialty. What words would you use to search for other people in your field?
And remember, that people who want to connect with you may come from different areas or backgrounds. Your LinkedIn bio should be approachable to a general audience.
I like to think about it as an introduction, “Hi, I’m Jennifer…”
And, consider why people may want to reach out to you, “I love connecting with other faculty members, so feel free to reach out.”
Your summary section can also allow media attachments so if you have a
- personal academic website
- faculty profile
- CV hosted with a public share link (i.e. Google Drive)
you can add that just below your bio.
4. Describe your experience to help people understand what you do
Describing what you do and the outcomes you achieve is a great way to enhance your Linkedin experience section.
For academics and researchers, that space helps detail the many roles and responsibilities you have in a way other people understand.
On LinkedIn, most academic profiles I see have an undetailed list of experience: job titles and universities, but no description of what that entailed.
Even a 1-2 sentence description will help your profile speak to your accomplishments.
And, by being specific, you’ll help more people find your profile when searching keywords.
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5. Add your publications
There is a section for publications on your LinkedIn profile. And, you can add the link to your article, book, or to the record of it for pay-walled publications as media.
Including the details of your publication like title, publisher, and other relevant information also helps people find it manually.
You can even add co-authors, and tag them if they’re on LinkedIn.
And since profiles are well-indexed by Google if you have them set to public, this helps people connect with you outside LinkedIn as well.
Sure, some visitors who come to your profile aren’t interested in reading your publications, and that’s okay. This let’s people know what you tend to write about, and what you’re interested in.
6. List your skills
Listing your skills isn’t just helpful if you’re on the job market. Academics do consulting, speaking, run their own businesses. And, skills can be helpful on a networking basis as well.
Take a few minutes to list the skills you have.
And, remember that soft skills like creativity, friendliness, and good communicator are valued as well.
LinkedIn allows your connections to endorse these skills. But even if you don’t have a lot of endorsements, people can learn about you from this section.
If you are headed on the job market (academic or otherwise), it is a good idea to ask for endorsements of your LinkedIn skills.
7. Request recommendations
Academics looking for jobs, or those thinking about transitioning careers should ask for endorsements and request recommendations. LinkedIn recommendations are public reviews or mini-testimonials about you from another person on LinkedIn.
And yes, you’ve probably asked for people to write you recommendations on Interfolio, and send out letters. I know, you may not want to ask for this one.
A LinkedIn recommendation is helpful for now, and in the future. It’s good for the academic job market if someone happens to Google you. It’s also beneficial in the future if you are looking for industry work. Or working as an academic with outside organizations.
Graduate students, I highly recommend you ask your advisor and any mentors for a public LinkedIn recommendation.
And, those of you faculty members still on the fence about if a LinkedIn profile is beneficial to you or not…Having a LinkedIn profile to provide your students with this type of recommendation is a great reason to do it.
Good luck with your LinkedIn profile!
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Jennifer van Alstyne is a Peruvian-American poet and public relations consultant. She founded The Academic Designer, LLC to help academics, researchers, and writers control their online presence and share their work with the world.
She holds a B.A. from Monmouth University in English, and an M.F.A. from Naropa University in Writing & Poetics where she was the Jack Kerouac Fellow. Jennifer also holds an M.A. from University of Louisiana at Lafayette in Literature and Cultural Studies where she was one of four master’s fellows and a finalist for the Outstanding Master’s Graduate Award.