My colleague Rebecca Valentine, a careers adviser working with students in the Business School and School of Economics, wrote an update on a session we both attended yesterday on using LinkedIn effectively. She posted in on her blog and I’ve copied a modified version below as it can be a great tool in helping you to research different career areas and make good career decisions.
Yesterday I attended a great workshop delivered by Charles Hardy from LinkedIn about how students and graduates can use the site effectively. LinkedIn is a tremendous resource for students, not just in terms of putting yourself ‘out there’ and marketing yourself to employers but also in terms of researching potential companies you might work for in the future and the career paths of professionals who are working in the sector(s) that you’re interested in.
Building an effective profile
Charles talked first about the importance of identity and thinking carefully about how you present yourself on your profile so that you can be found when people do keyword searches on the site. Your name, photo and headline enable you to be identified so you should use these to best effect. Enter your name, without adding your qualifications at the end, and this will enable you to be found easily and you should add a professional photo to your profile as evidence suggests that people are more likely to want to connect with you if you provide a photo. Keep it professional though – no cut outs from group photos or pictures of you socialising (keep that for Facebook)! Your headline statement automatically defaults to your current job title but Charles explained that you can edit this to ensure it has maximum impact, so you could amend this to state the types of role(s) and sector(s) you’re interested in. You also have the option to add a summary statement at the top of your profile and this should be a short ‘elevator pitch’, around 3-4 sentences about you.
Charles also talked about some of the other aspects of your profile that can help to push you up the search results including languages, if you have them, as many recruiters search the site on languages, along with adding skills and getting some endorsements for those skills. You could start collecting endorsements from some of the other researchers in your group or subject area, if you have worked with them on projects as part of your PhD programme and you should also consider approaching previous employers to ask them to write you a recommendation that can add value to your profile (Charles suggested that it’s ok to get endorsements from peers but recommendations should come from employers).
Building a network
Charles then went on to talk about the second aspect of LinkedIn in terms of networking. When you’re building your network you should think broadly and not just in terms of the present but also the future and who could be useful to you in a few years’ time, so it’s a good idea to connect with fellow PhD students now as who knows where they will end up and they could be useful to you in a few years’ time (and you useful to them)! You should also consider joining some of the professional groups on LinkedIn for the sector(s) you’re interested not only because this will start to extend your network but also because recruiters search groups. Thinking about your headline and summary statement will help here if you’re a student, so that you can show group managers that you have a genuine interest in the sector if you’re trying to join a closed group where your membership has to be approved.
If you do identify someone you’d like to connect with that you don’t know or who you don’t know that well then always personalise your message when you send an invitation to connect with them, so that you can provide some context about why you’d like to connect. If you’re going to do this Charles recommends going to their profile page and then clicking on the invite to connect button using a desktop PC as you can’t personalise your message using the LinkedIn app or by doing this from other pages of the LinkedIn site.
Researching companies and professionals
Finally Charles talked about knowledge. Not only is LinkedIn a platform for you to put yourself ‘out there’ but it is a tremendous resource for career research too. Many companies now have company pages on LinkedIn which you can follow for news updates and possibly job vacancies too and you can also start to investigate some of the company employees to see what sort experience they have and potentially identify other companies in the same sector that might be worth exploring too. This is why it’s worth thinking about how you can expand your network as you might be restricted in terms of the details you can see about other professionals on the site. You can see full information about your first and second degree contacts (your own connections and your connections’ connections) but beyond that it becomes more limited (although you can start to use search engines in combination with LinkedIn to get more information on these people if information is restricted).
Charles also showed us the relatively new university pages on LinkedIn, which again are a great resource for researching what Alumni from your university have done, for browsing sectors, employers and even looking at what graduates from specific subject areas have done after graduation (and you can find PhD graduates just by putting PhD into the search box). These pages have a huge amount of data on graduates (the University of Edinburgh page has data on over 70,000 graduates!), so you can search to see what sectors, locations and employers graduates have gone into after leaving university for further inspiration.
A couple of resources that students can use to help with building a profile and using LinkedIn effectively:
http://university.linkedin.com/linkedin-for-students.html – site containing loads of tip sheets including setting up a profile and some short video clips on using LinkedIn effectively.
http://students.linkedin.com/uk – microsite for UK students featuring video clips and advice from UK students.
So thanks to Charles for a great workshop – you can follow him on Twitter @charleshardy.
…and thanks to Rebecca for that post.