Guest post by Sarah Nicholus, PhD.
As public scholarship grows and diverse career paths proliferate, LinkedIn is perhaps the strongest platform for creating a professional presence in and beyond the academy. Yet academics don’t use it. Launched in 2003 as a business-oriented social network, LinkedIn might have seemed intended for a different public. But there is a lot we can learn from this public. Academics, especially those of us in the humanities, have in the past found it difficult to market ourselves and our work to a broad base.
To convey the value of the humanities and adapt to new markets, we must think of ourselves as part of a larger network of professionals. LinkedIn is a valuable professional tool that can help us frame our research and training through a broader and more marketable lens. Although it was created as a résumé board for business professionals, LinkedIn has expanded into a global contact relationship management system that can connect academics across the varied and diverse professional fields into which we are expanding.
While the following list is by no means exhaustive, here are three reasons why academics should be on LinkedIn:
1. To keep our options open as we conduct job searches or position ourselves for future job searches.
Job markets and jobs change. Professional goals change. If you are in academia because you don’t know what else you would do, it is going to be hard to pivot should you ever want or need to do so. Creating a LinkedIn profile is an exercise in creating a professional identity around marketable skills, interests, and experiences rather than a singular job title. Once we have engaged in this work, we can approach job searches from a place of confidence rather than dread or anxiety. We can make informed and empowered decisions about our career paths.
2. To better understand our fields and networks.
Framing our work and training as marketable and then networking with those who are interested in this training allows us to see ourselves as part of a broader field of professionals. We can use LinkedIn to search for and connect with fellow alumni and former students. We can better understand how our training translates into multiple professional fields. We can use LinkedIn to follow companies, nonprofits, research institutes, and funding organizations. We can write public-facing articles and directly speak to those interested in our work. Why not use this platform to engage in dialogue, innovate in our field, and adapt to new markets?
3. To mentor and guide others through a changing professional landscape.
Even if you don’t see the value of a LinkedIn profile for yourself, think about its value for your students and colleagues. You might not have time to write that e-mail introduction, but through your LinkedIn profile your current student can find your former student who now works for that think tank or publishing company. Your future students will not limit their job searches to the academic market; thinking broadly about your training will allow you to guide and encourage them through a changing professional landscape.
For more information on effective ways to use LinkedIn for job seekers, mentors or advisers, and higher education professionals, join us at the Hands-On LinkedIn Workshop at the upcoming 2020 MLA Annual Convention. If you need a new photo for your LinkedIn profile, be sure to stop by booths 200 and 201 in the MLA exhibit hall, where the folks at Bedford / St. Martin’s / Macmillan Learning will be talking with job seekers and offering free professional headshots. We hope to see you in Seattle!