Academic Career Coach: Series on Networking

Academic Career Coach: Series on Networking

Blog #3: Boost your LinkedIn profile

Written for Scientistt

This is blog #3: Boost your LinkedIn profile. Since the former two blogs were pretty theoretical, I thought it would be pleasant to write you a more practical blog. This blog aims at researchers who decided that LinkedIn is part of their online network strategy (read more about it in blog #2). It is also for those who did not get beyond the step of creating a profile on LinkedIn. You do use it, mainly for distraction, but you did not invest (yet) in your profile. This blog helps you upgrade it, and it might help you get rid of the feeling that you should do something with LinkedIn 😉 Perform these steps one at a time; the first one is easy, and working your way downwards the steps will require more time thinking it over. Each action will improve your profile and strengthen your online presence. 

LinkedIn is probably the most popular social networking site (SNS), with 740 million members in more than 200 countries. Davis et al. (2020) signal four affordances of the SNSs. They “afford visibility of content and people (e.g., posting expertise or a new responsibility), persistence (i.e., ability to retrieve postings), editability of content, and association of people (i.e., the explicit display of people’s connections).’ Also, they define three ways of how SNS support social relationships, they: (1) ‘help individuals develop weak ties with those outside of their close-knit social circle’, (2) ‘provide an additional communication channel that may help individuals reinforce strong ties’, and (3) ‘allow users to browse the profiles of their contacts to learn about others’ weak ties and potentially make a connection.” As you can read, LinkedIn adds value to networking but is not a substitute for building authentic relationships. Yet, it does support you in establishing a solid network.

These steps below are part of the Interactive Webinars (workshops) on Networking I organize learning students and researchers about networking and support them to become more confident in doing it. These actions will grow your self-assurance in using LinkedIn, and it will enable you to learn more about using this SNS in a beneficial way for yourself. So, this is just a starter to facilitate future deep dives into this platform. Keep in mind that you might want to match your profile with your aspired field/position. Thus, do you want to stay in academia, or do you want to move towards industry?

1: Customize your public LinkedIn Profile URL

Customizing your LinkedIn URL makes it easier to share your profile, it looks better on your digital CV, and it boosts your job search. Then it looks like this: instead of

You did not create your profile to stay anonymous, so change the URL into your own name! You only need to perform these actions to nail this first one.

2: Turn your LinkedIn Profile headline from Blah to Memorable

Researcher or PhD Student is not the most catchy headline to use. It does the job, but it does not make you stand out from the rest of your fellow researchers. The purpose of this step is to turn your headline into one that contains a benefit for your viewer, in no more than 120 characters

To help you out, read this article and apply it to create your value proposition. So, you are a researcher? What can you do? I can… (tell the readers what you can do for them). Avoid cliches like the words ‘hands-on mentality’ and ‘passionate’. If you consider moving towards industry, think about using the right keywords for your preferred industry because your profiles are searchable for recruiters. This article provides essential information to Google the right keywords. 

3: Write your summary (do not generate it) – Show ‘em what you’ve got!

This step needs time to do it right. Do not rush it, think it over, and ask other people to proofread it for you. Then, you can post it online. The summary is your chance to show what you are competent in or reckon you could be. There are two styles: 1) write about what you already achieved or 2) write about what you want to achieve. Of course, you can combine these two options. Both options work, as long as they work for you. Again, keep your goals in mind and adjust your summary to them.

Some general things you should pay attention to, according to College Info Geek, are:

  • Do not use the generated summary of LinkedIn;
  • Write in the first person – do not write like someone else is speaking about you;
  • Rather a short text than a long one (think of the time you can concentrate on a text);
  • Use white space, make paragraphs of only a few sentences;
  • Check the text multiple times for readability and to avert errors;
  • Use keywords recruiters might be using;
  • Describe what you accomplished during your academic career, internships, or as a member of a committee/board. 
  • Be vibrant, show your uniqueness.

4: Add your experiences and list your skills

LinkedIn mentions that ‘a LinkedIn profile is more than a resume. You can tell a story and be bold.’ So, what is the story you want to show with your profile? Start simple with adding your experiences (and feel free to leave experiences off if they don’t match your present ambitions). Do not leave out extracurriculars, summer schools, and volunteer work. The more laborious part is filling in the white space beneath your experiences. That white space is your chance to illustrate your experience. Some list their courses, others explain their research project or describe their purposes. What do you want to tell your audience? Remember, it is not about showing the ‘picture perfect’ you think others might want to read. It is about daring to show your experience. So again, be vibrant and show your uniqueness!

Also, show those skills that belong to you as a person. Do not list the ones that you think others expect you to have. Only list those skills which you master (or trying to master). Hence, there is a difference between academic and professional skills. Read this LinkedIn post to learn more about them.

5: Time for action: connect with others and join and contribute to relevant groups

Yes, it is time to connect with others! Start simple with connecting with people you already know. Do not forget to link with the people you already met at Scientistt! Then, start looking for people you would like to connect with but do not just link with them; do always include a personal note to your request. If the other does not know who you are or where you are after, they will most likely ignore you. Think about why you want to connect with someone and explain it to your possible connection. Tiny effort, huge result 😉

Also, join relevant groups and contribute to them! Start looking at profiles of people that are relevant to you and your future career. Which groups do they join? Which groups suit you? Engaging in these groups enables you to exchange your knowledge within other academic networks as with industry and policymakers. Using LinkedIn and engaging in relevant groups creates opportunities for linking with helpful, unexpected connections that increase your changes in your (desired) field / the impact of your research.  

Did you perform all these steps? Use this checklist to do a final check on your profile. I hope you enjoyed executing these actions and feel more self-assured in using LinkedIn. There is way much more to learn in using this SNS, but for now, I encourage you to rumble your way around the platform 😉