#93: The top 5 reasons to have a LinkedIn profile as a scientist

I recently got an e-mail from a postdoc after my course ‘How to apply for an academic staff position.’ She asked whether or not I thought it would be meaningful to set up a LinkedIn profile at her career stage in conjunction with her upcoming job hunt. My simple answer: “YES, YES and YES!”

By all means, set up your LinkedIn Profile as early as possible in your academic career. It’s enjoyable to use the platform for professional purposes, and a great help in any job search. In order to be successful in academia today, you need to raise your profile and display your work and achievements to the global scientific community. And it does not matter whether you are a PhD candidate, a postdoc, or an established scientist. 

Not fully convinced yet? Reluctant to put in the necessary effort? Below, we share 5 reasons why you should definitely have a LinkedIn profile as a scientist, and how  you can reap the benefits thereof for your future career.  

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Why LinkedIn?

LinkedIn has taken social media from the personal to the professional arena. It offers this great combination of sharing professional content and networking with the typical features of a social media platform, e.g. following, liking and commenting. 

What we love about LinkedIn is that it spares us from the usual trivialities of e.g. facebook, sifting through heaps of posts in search of a meaningful bit of information. I’ve set up LinkedIn strictly limited to my fields of interest (which is the career development of researchers,) and for me, it’s a great way to stay abreast with what’s going on in my field and offers nice opportunities for collaboration with peers.

Misconception that LinkedIn is for industry

From a global perspective, research today is an ‘industry’ as well. There were 5 mio researchers (Full time employees) in the OECD countries alone, a 2013 report by Unesco estimated the global figures as about 7.7 mio. in 2013 already (UNESCO 2013, OECD 2020) . Research is highly international and interconnected, so knowing what’s going on beyond your own humble workplace is a must. 

Being excellent is not enough

You might be a genius doing extremely important work. But don’t make the false assumption that this will automatically lead to you becoming an internationally recognised scientist. You won’t miraculously be discovered by other scientists. A common hope among ECRs is that if they just perform brilliant science, sooner or later someone will offer them a job. Needless to say,  if this is your approach, you might wait until the end of time before you ‘get’ a position. Instead, get used to tooting your own horn, and make sure that other scientists know what you do. ‘Be good and tell it,‘ as our former boss used to say. 

Top 5 reasons to use LinkedIn

#1: Sharing news about your research and activities

Posting on LinkedIn is a convenient way to share professional news (e.g. your latest paper acceptance, passing your annual PhD review, an invitation to talk at a scientific event). Let others know when you are engaging with other scientists (new collaborations, joint teaching programs) or you are taking on a service to the academic community (joining a Eurodoc workgroup, becoming ECR representative of your institute). In short: you share what you like and what you deem relevant to your peers.  

Your research output is what you should primarily share, and as Tom Morcon (2020) mentions: “Posting links to your research not only brings a wider readership to your important work, but also enhances your profile to give visitors an immediate sense of your specific research expertise.” But not only can you post links or short messages—you can publish short articles or summaries that can be downloaded by others. 

Posting about your research on LinkedIn increases your visibility and hence, your impact on the scientific world. 

#2: Following other scientists in your field

Of course, we are also curious about the activities of others and what is going on around us (near to home as well as  globally). LinkedIn is a great way to follow individual specialists in your area, or entire work groups, labs or institutes. Follow your preferred folks and you’ll get their posts in your news-feed. That way you can’t miss out on any new achievements from competitors and peers. 

This is a much more instant and time-saving way of staying abreast with the latest trends than attending conferences or only following publications. 

#3: Connecting with other scientists and key players 

Don’t underestimate the power of LinkedIn when it comes to building new relationships. Whenever I meet someone new – at a live event or virtual conference, I’ll invite them to be a ‘connection’ afterwards. What was the passing on of a business card in a traditional setting is now followed up with a ‘connect’ request. It is an important door-opener since you’ll be able to send direct messages to those in your network who are ‘1st connections’. 

As an ECR, whenever you meet important people – whether that is the dean of your own university, colleagues you bump into at a reception, or a key scientist in your field who briefly talked to you during a poster session, you can ask them afterwards to connect ,and that also means they will see your profile is they accept.

This function is a perfect way to build a meaningful network with other professionals internationally over the years. These are the people who know you, will stay in touch with you, and share important news with you. 

#4: Build your own profile to show what you stand for

The ultimate feature of LinkedIn is that you can set up your own professional profile – think of it as a sort of short online CV. Your profile is made up of your ‘about’ text, your previous professional experience, your education, and testimonials. With your profile, you show the community who you are. A strong headline and a concise summary of your activities are key (see Impact Science Blog 2020).

The profile gives you a unique opportunity to feature previous experiences and achievements, as well as current duties and responsibilities, thereby giving anyone who looks at it an insight into your professional pathway. 

Your profile is not only helpful when inviting new ‘connections,’ but extremely important when you start chasing your next appointment— inside or outside academia. Employers will check your LinkedIn profile, and a poor or non-existent profile makes you appear ill-prepared for the next career move.

Ultimately, your profile helps you to build your ‘brand,’ and display what you stand for as a scientist. Make sure your profile is up-to-date and displays what you want to represent yourself.

#5: Get job announcements

On LinkedIn, you can sign up for job alerts so that you get a weekly e-mail with the job postings that came up in your area of expertise. The nice thing is that you define what you are interested in, so you can avoid browsing through hundreds of posts that are not relevant to you. Alternatively, you can search LinkedIn’s job posting database if you prefer. Either way, making it a habit to follow and review the job advertisements of your industry or academic field will give you a much better overview of the number and types of jobs that might be available for you in a particular region, in a specific country, or globally.  

Check us out on LinkedIn

Never had a LinkedIn profile? Thought it is too early in your career to start one? Suffering from Social Media phobia? Check out a few scientists in your field to get a little collection of good (and maybe not so good) examples. Then get started setting up your own profile – or update yours with the latest information. 

Let us see how your new profile looks! Follow us and we’ll follow you back! Promise!

Check-out Bärbel Tress on LinkedIn

Check-out Gunther Tress on LinkedIn

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