Hope you are all having a great start for 2013! If one of your New Year’s resolutions was “network more” or “get a profile on LinkedIn,” then this post is for you! Actually, it’s for anyone who wants to use LinkedIn effectively so keep on reading.
First, let’s clear one thing – LinkedIn is a tool for networking, it’s not networking. Networking is about meeting people and building a relationship, it is not about adding connections. Second, for disclosure purposes – thus far, I did not find a job through LinkedIn. BUT it helped me find people for informational interviews, network before I moved to a new city, and find speakers for career symposium and panels I organized.
Lastly, I’ve met some people who feared to be on LinkedIn because they don’t want to be on “those social networks.” LinkedIn is your professional network, while it is a kind of a “social network,” it’s not like Facebook or Twitter. It is not the place for the posting cats videos or pictures from the last holidays party. It’s how you project yourself professionally. Now that we are all on the same page, let’s start.
Get a complete profile on LinkedIn
These days if you don’t have a web presence, it’s almost like you don’t exist. An incomplete or a bare-bone profile just looks bad. Think of it this way – when you looked for a lab in grad school or searched for a postdoc position, would you contact a PI that had no research interests listed on their page or that the latest publication was from 2007? Unless you knew that PI (or someone from their lab), the answer is probably no. Same goes to your profile, this is your professional web presence, and therefore you should make it count. To some extent, your profile on LinkedIn should be a more condensed version of your resume.
Creating (or improving) your profile on LinkedIn is an exercise in self-marketing. It’s you building your own brand sort of speak, so put some thought into it. Make sure there are no typos or incorrect information. Think that a potential employer or recruiter may view it, so have your profile portray a professional image of you and your achievements.
Additionally, there’s nothing more obvious than noticing a sudden vamp in one’s activity. Don’t be on LinkedIn just when you’re looking for a job! Keep your profile current regardless of your job situation and not only when you want to reach out to people because you need a new job. It doesn’t take that long to be a “regular” on LinkedIn.
Make sure you have at least the following sections:
● A professional looking picture – yes, that means not you on the beach or with your baby, but a headshot style picture that represents you.
● Your education – list your degrees. If you’re a reader of the Bio Careers® blog, you probably have a few of them. You worked hard for those, so list them.
● Your work experience. If you have only done research in your adult life, this is your work experience. List it in a concise manner: write 1-2 sentences about what you studied and why it’s important. If you established a new assay or a developed a new technique, don’t forget to list them. Clearly, if you have “real work” experience, it should be listed as well.
● Publications, patents, awards and the like – these are important achievements so share them with the world!
Now I’m not saying you should make sure you have all your courses and what not listed, but if you have something that is of added value, i.e. a course in finance or advance microscopy or you have anything else in your professional experience that can separate you from the crowd, make sure it’s listed.
And remember – keep your profile current, just like you do with your resume.
Building your network
I’m going to start with the negative. There’s nothing I dislike more (and I’m not the only one) than getting generic invitations (the “I’d like to add you to my professional network” one) to connect from people that I absolutely have no idea who they are. While I’m flattered by the fact they want to connect with me (they must think I’m important, no?), I will ignore these requests 99% of the time. If you never exchanged a word with me and send me a generic invitation, why should I connect with you? This is not about being snobbish, it’s about being polite. If you never met me but you’d like to connect, at least take a minute to write why you want to connect with me.
Now, the same rule applies when you’re sending these to “power people” you met. By power people, I mean those who always have tens of people trying to talk with them after a panel or at a networking event. If you send a power person invitation to connect, make sure they’ll remember who you are. S/he probably met many other people that day, so write a few words so s/he can remember who you are.
As a best practice, I’d suggest that right after you interacted with someone (e.g. networking event, conference, career panel etc.), you take the time, find the person on LinkedIn, personalize the message and invite them to connect. This way, you still remember who they are and what you’ve talked about. Along these lines, be aware that when you use the “people you may know” feature, and you click on the “connect” button, it will automatically send that person the generic invite. So, if you’d like to personalized the message, click on the person’s name first and then invite them to connect.
In the next part, I’ll be covering groups, following companies, maintaining your connections, tips about your settings and more so stay tuned!