LinkedIn – What’s The Point?

LinkedIn, the professional networking site, is gaining awareness amongst the postgrads I talk to, but there’s still confusion about what it can do and how to get started. A new video (see below) now makes it much clearer why LinkedIn could be useful, from a student perspective.

Tried it but couldn’t see the point?
Quite a few of the postgrads I’ve talked to recently know that LinkedIn has something to do with networking, but they’re often disappointed about the lack of job ads, or why they can’t instantly get access to individuals in any company they want to work for. This misunderstands the nature of networking to move your career forward – at the start, it’s more about getting known. Then you can move on to making connections and offering and asking for advice, which could turn into something more.

Which network?
The first thing I’d do if I were joining LinkedIn, or any other professional network, is investigate if it’s the right network for me – are the people I’d want to network with on there? If you want an academic career, maybe Mendeley or might be better bets, or Nature Networks if you’re a life scientist? You might also find that a professional association, such as the Royal Society of Chemistry or the Institution of Engineering and Technology are great for keeping in touch with people in your field.

Your professional on-line profile – what can people find out about you?
One of the big advantages about LinkedIn is the way you can develop your own professional on-line profile, open to all.

The people you want to interact with day-to-day on professional topics might be part of another specialist network, such as the RSC or IET, but these are often closed networks only open to members.

When it comes to your career, if you want to be accessible to non-specialists – and this could include employers and agencies who may not personally be members of the RSC, IET etc – it could be very handy to have an open on-line presence through something like LinkedIn.

How often have you checked someone out on-line before meeting them (I’m meaning professionally here…)? Your LinkedIn profile could be the thing people find first when they Google you, which is why it pays to look carefully at what’s on there. Even if you don’t plan to use the networking tools on LinkedIn, having a basic profile on there could still be useful.

Do people really get approached for jobs using these networks?
Yes – but you have to be on there and have the right profile for it to happen. Employers and agencies are now using the advanced search tools to find candidates with the right skills – they told us this at our Employer event in February. They’re not really using them for new grads without experieince, but for postgrads with specialist skills who want to move out of academia, I’d definitely recommend a good profile using the right keywords for your targeted career.

Get started here:

There’s a lot more to say on making connections, and offering and asking for advice – but that’s for a future post.