Academic.edu, Mendeley, Researchgate are among a growing range of online professional networking tools that support academic practice and are increasingly used by academics to further their professional learning networks (PLNs). These platforms typically offer members a social space within which to share ideas about teaching, highlight their latest research and showcase their work. If you use these platforms, you might also want to consider joining LinkedIn, the professional business networking service.
Why link in?
LinkedIn describes itself as ‘the world’s largest professional network with 300 million members in over 200 countries and territories around the globe.’ You should consider LinkedIn simply because this is where you will find a vast majority of academics and your professional colleagues. LinkedIn is essentially the 21st century version of a rolodex (image to illustrate above for our younger readers!). If you conduct a search in LinkedIn’s people search for ‘academics’, you will yield a return of over 220,000 results; a sizeable proportion of potential colleagues who could share your research interests, help to raise the profile of your research as well as hold the potential for future collaborative working.
Select a professional picture that you are happy with, register with LinkedIn and then add your qualifications, your academic experience, research awards papers and publications. Now that you have a complete profile, you can begin to add your contacts, both past and current, possibly future, from your work history. It is modern day etiquette to add people that you meet at conferences too and by doing so, you will soon build a professional community. Take a look at Andreas Kornelakis, Lecturer in Human Resources Management, for an idea of how your profile can look.
Your LinkedIn dashboard will give you access to five distinct areas. Here is a brief description of each function to help you navigate your way around your profile.
- Your home page: view your news feed (updates from all of your connections) here. Updates can include blog posts, new connections that your contacts have recently made, work colleagues’ job anniversaries. It’s the equivalent to a virtual common room.
- Your profile: use this area to edit your profile, such as updating your work experience or your qualifications. You can also see who has viewed your profile, as well as access your own updates.
- Your connections: browse your list of connections. You can find people very easily here.
- Jobs: obviously you won’t be looking in here if you are employed at Sussex! But just for reference, this is where you can set private searches to view job vacancies.
- Your interests: a place to view your groups, read the news of companies that interest you, read articles and news from the universities that you have attended. There is also a link to SlideShare (which is owned by LinkedIn), allowing you to upload and share your presentations.
All spaces have modes of behaviour that can optimise your success. Here are a few tips to guide you in how to make the most of your LinkedIn profile for teaching and learning.
- Keep in touch: the ‘keep in touch’ feature in LinkedIn allows you to quickly see
who in your network has a work anniversary, a new job or qualification and allows you to keep easily updated with your connections. Find this feature under the ‘connections’ tab.
- Get into groups: LinkedIn groups are widely used to make connections as valuable as possible. Take the Higher Education Teaching and Learning group, for example. Their mission is ‘to develop a global community of higher educational professionals who come together to share their knowledge and expertise in teaching and learning’, and with over 52,000 members, they are a niche pool for you to tap into for teaching and learning.
- Contribute: make your expertise known on LinkedIn. It’s a good idea to publish posts, for example, a short post pointing others to your research and publications, or a short blog post on innovative teaching practice. You can also comment on others’ conversations which will allow you to establish yourself as a valued member within your community.
- Institution groups: you can join groups related to your own institution, such as the Sussex Alumni group or Sussex University on LinkedIn. You will find groups under your ‘interests’ tab. Popular groups in higher education include Inside Higher Ed, The Post Doc Forum and Women in higher education unite. There are also many discipline-specific groups, (you will need to sign into LinkedIn to view): Social work, Education, Marketing, Economics, Teaching Science, for example. You can find your discipline-specific group by typing in the details into the search box under groups, or you can even use Google but add the words ‘LinkedIn groups’ to your search.
You can see from the conversation below how useful the National Science Teachers Association group could be to Sussex students training to become science teachers. The value in joining the group as a trainee teacher and being able to access a discipline-specific network of teachers is an opportunity to develop understanding of current issues. It’s also a chance to find out about innovative practice, such as 3D printing, too!
If the volume of Sussex staff and potential new connections doesn’t convince you, then perhaps LinkedIn’s new widget the ‘LinkedIn: Resume builder’ will. This allows you to create a CV from your LinkedIn data, choosing from 8 professional templates. It’s very quick, highly customizable, and you can share your CV via PDF or even an URL to add to your email, Twitter or other social spaces. It’s so simple to use, even a 10 year old made a CV outlining their brownie making skills in a matter of minutes!