LinkedIn allows you to create a profile that presents the best version of you without a lot of regular maintenance.
Many academics use LinkedIn “just in case someone contacts them.” You probably even already have a LinkedIn profile. The goal of this challenge is to make your LinkedIn profile even better so that others will be eager to contact you. We’re also going to build out your network a bit, so others can see the work you’ve done.
For this challenge you’re going to:
This challenge assumes you have a LinkedIn profile already set up. If you don’t, head over to LinkedIn to set yours up. You’ll provide your first name, last name, email address, and a password. Voila! You’re ready to follow along.
You want to create a profile that presents the very best version of you and also doesn’t need a lot of regular maintenance (because who has time for that?). You’ll do this by writing a headline and summary that makes it clear, in general terms, why you’re a talented scholar. We’ll be discussing the importance of a professional headshot (and we’ll be providing free ones) in next week’s challenge, so we’ll be brushing over the photo upload in this chapter.
LinkedIn includes a short text blurb next to each person’s name in search results. They call this your “Headline,” and just like a newspaper headline, it’s meant to stimulate enough interest to make the reader want more.
Here are some keys to writing a great LinkedIn headline:
Well-written headlines are also key to making you more findable online – important for those of us who need disambiguation from similarly named researchers beyond ORCID, which we covered in Chapter 1.
We’ll be helping you out with your headshot in next week’s challenge. For now, you may want to use the same photo you’ve used for your other online profiles so far.
Your summary is an opportunity to provide a 50,000-foot view into your career and research to date. Don’t just use this section to repeat information found elsewhere on your profile. Instead, write a short narrative of your professional life and career aspirations, using some of the keywords left over from writing your headline. When writing your summary, aim to be specific and to make your reputation clear.
Don’t use technical jargon, but do provide concrete details about your research and why it matters. Make yourself a person, not just another name in a discipline. Describe what you’ve done and why it matters.
Here’s a short example: Nicole Allen, open access advocate, explains to profile viewers that:
LinkedIn is primarily about creating and building professional relationships, so you’ll want to connect with others and cultivate those relationships.
Connecting with other researchers on LinkedIn is just one more way to build an audience for your research. Connections help you maintain relationships with past and current colleagues, who are likely interested in the work you’re doing and want to read about it.
It’s surprisingly easy to find people you already know and add them to your network on LinkedIn.
When connecting, it’s a nice touch to send a message saying hello. Networking is all about building meaningful relationships, not how many people you have in your virtual Rolodex. Let people know you’re new to LinkedIn and experimenting with it!
LinkedIn is a decent tool for professional visibility, but it’s not without its headaches. Chief among them is that it’s yet another information silo (and that’s why you’re setting up a profile that’s going to be easy to maintain, so you don’t have to update it but once a year.) LinkedIn is also overzealous with their notification emails, sending more in a month than most of us would care to receive in a year. Luckily, they’re easy to turn off. Your homework will be to fine tune your LinkedIn settings.
Another limitation isn’t with LinkedIn exactly. What do you do if you’re an early career graduate student without much to showcase yet? Luckily (and especially if you’re a humanities scholar) MLA has you covered. Among their recommendations? “Develop your LinkedIn profile before you really ‘need’ it.” Solid advice.
First things first: get at least three of your most important publications onto your profile, add some eye-catching content, and make sure your accomplishments are in order. To add publications:
This is also where you can fill out more of your profile: your awards, patents, projects, certifications, etc.
Next, you need to make it easy for others to view your profile. What good is a killer LinkedIn profile if no one can find it, or if your profile is so locked down they can only see your name?
You may want to have different settings for each group. What might others want to see? Your past experience, summary, and education, for starters. If you’ve added publications to your profile, you might want more people to see those.
This is also where you can customize your LinkedIn URL, should you choose. Most people customize it to match their name or their Twitter handle to keep consistency across their “brand.”
Make sure your settings are set the way you want them.
From your profile page, choose “Me,” and then choose “Settings & Privacy” from the drop down menu. Step through each of the pages: Account, Privacy, Ads, Communications, and scroll down to change your settings (you’ve already gone through the Privacy settings, but please take this opportunity to double check them).
Finally, let’s expand your network by requesting an introduction to one new contact. If done correctly, it can get you name recognition with important researchers.
Here’s an example of how that would work: I’m not currently connected to genomics researcher Mike Eisen on LinkedIn, but let’s say I want to reach out to him with an idea.
The first thing I need to do is find a contact we have in common.
So, I visit Mike’s profile, and I see we have one mutual contact. In some cases, you’ll have many mutual contacts. If that’s the case, scroll through the list of mutual contacts we have in common to find a suitable middleman. In this case, “You and Michael know William Gunn.”
Next, I would click on William Gunn’s link. In the box that appears, I’d select, “Message,” and I’d write my request for an introduction and send it to William. The request should follow three key rules:
William might take 10 minutes out of his day to write a recommendation for me, so I shouldn’t waste his time. That means telling him exactly why I want to meet Mike: what Mike does that interests me (he’s a genomics researcher), and what I’m looking to get out of an introduction (an opportunity to tell him about my great research idea: widgets for genomics researchers).
Likewise, I should make it clear what Mike would get out of meeting me. What do I bring to the table? In this case, it’d be the chance to learn about a well-received new widget, and a future NSF grant opportunity.
William’s time is valuable, so I should make it clear that I’m thankful that he’s considering writing an introduction. A good way to do that in addition to saying thanks is to give him a way to beg off without feeling too guilty.
Two additional rules for special scenarios are: 1) If we didn’t know each other well, I’d want to remind William how we met, and 2) If William does introduce Mike and I, I should follow up with an update and thanks.
One final note: keep your requests for introductions to “2nd degree connections”– that is, friends of friends – because your chances of getting a meaningful introduction to a stranger through a friend of a friend of a friend depends on too many variables to be successful.