Are you LinkedIn?

Are you LinkedIn?

I may be wrong, but I often get the impression that career planning and networking are not that popular among scientists. It certainly doesn’t come naturally to me, but as I come to the end of my current working contract, I’m starting to consider my options for the future. One tool I’m starting to use is LinkedIn – that wierd Facebook type thing for business types.

We know that the academic employment market is tough, and that keeping a close eye on ‘Plan B’ is a good idea – so what possible good can LinkedIn do for someone working in science?

What is LinkedIn?

LinkedIn is like the professional person’s Facebook: you make an account, you add some personal information, you make some ‘connections’. The key way LinkedIn differs from other social networks is that it is purely focussed on the professional. Rather than profile pictures of someone out on the lash in Magaluf, you see them in pristine business attire. Rather than read about what their cat had for dinner, content tends to be limited to how they ‘dynamically improved customer relations going forward into the third quarter of 2012’. The idea behind it seems to be that you can maintain your CV online, and keep in touch with business contacts.

Yes, it does sometimes feel like you’ve stumbled across a business parody, but I’m sure it can still be of use for those of us yet to take the corporate shilling.

What can LinkedIn Do for You?

Until a few days ago I couldn’t see the appeal of LinkedIn. I’d had an account, but it had lain dormant for years with only two or three token ‘connections’. Like many people working in science, the idea of rubbing shoulders with a bunch of ‘suits’ wasn’t all that appealing.

Over the last few days however I’ve begun to give it a second chance. As my current contract is drawing to an end, I’m starting to think about my next steps, and it turns out LinkedIn could be helpful in making my plans for the future.

Company Connections

Even if  you choose to shun everything else about LinkedIn, I think the ability to follow relevant companies is still very useful. I was surprised to find in amongst all the financial services companies a good few companies with a strong interest in spintronics such as:

And even more helpfully, LinkedIn offers a ‘people also viewed’ option to suggest other companies that you might be interested in. For someone wondering what spintronics-based companies are out there it is a godsend.

Job Adverts

Whereas facebook likes to show you adverts of how to loose weight fast. LinkedIn provides you with job adverts based on your profile information. You can set further settings such as the location you would like to w0rk and preferred fields. If the LinkedIn algorithm doesn’t match you and a job, you can still browse and search for spintronics jobs directly.

I’ve found it really easy to browse and search for jobs on LinkedIn, and I’ve heard success stories from people working in science about how they found their current job on there too.

Keep in Contact With Potential Employers

Post-doc job descriptions are often crafted for particular people, meaning that outsiders may not get a look in. Like it or not the way to get through this barrier is networking – knowing and being connected to sufficient people that you can be on or near the top of a list of potential candidates, before the job advert is posted.

LinkedIn provides you with a way of maintaining contact with people who might later be able to give you a job in the future. Maybe you’re secure in your position now, but who knows what your situation will be in a year’s time or so. It can’t hurt to keep a few of these people on your radar (and stay on theirs).

Post-Conference Networking

After a party, or social gathering you might be happy to fire of a Facebook friend request to someone you just met. Professionally however, you might not want people to find out that you’re secretly a dungeons and dragons fiend who occasionally likes to go out wearing little more than rave paint. LinkedIn can help fill that gap. You want to keep some kind of contact, but you want to keep it strictly business, and you certainly don’t want to have to make any effort.

In many ways this kind of ‘lazy networking‘ should appeal to scientists.

What doesn’t LinkedIn Have?

Ok, enough of singing its praises. What are the limitations of LinkedIn?

The main issue is that LinkedIn isn’t at all aimed at academics. As I’ve said there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be on there, but for the time being the numbers are not all that strong.

In time I’m sure that will grow and as younger and more tech-savvy people join the ranks of the academe we will start to see more people and academic jobs on LinkedIn.