Thing 13: Professional networks – LinkedIn and Smart Tribe

Clare Wunderley, University of Surrey

Profile picture tips #13: Up a bit.

LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network, and it allows you to build an online profile that features your experience and skills. It also allows you to network with other users in a professional environment, so it provides a great way to connect with contacts from your current work world, and connect with people from worlds you’d like to work in. LinkedIn profiles tend to feature highly in Google searches (though not as high as profile pages with institutional suffixes such as,, .edu or

A well-constructed LinkedIn profile can be a great way to:

● Develop your professional on-line presence

● Build your networks and make connections

● Increase your visibility

● Actively look for companies, jobs, career opportunities or work placements.

and above all enhance your professional profile: Knowledge Transfer Australia suggests that there are 1.9 million academics on LinkedIn

Task You are not required to set up an account on LinkedIn, but we do recommend it, and you will need to register to set up your profile and access any of the tool’s features.

Building your Profile

Getting an account on LinkedIn is simple, and you can register from the home page. The wizard makes it simple to construct a full profile, although if you want to further develop your use of LinkedIn there are a plethora of books and web articles (just search Amazon and Google) about how you can maximise the impact of using LinkedIn. One example is the blog on

● Remember that this is a professional network, so your photo, taglines and activities should be those you’d be happy for potential employers, colleagues and possible future contacts to see.

● LinkedIn allows you to upload your CV straight to your account, with the chance to edit and format it afterwards, which offers an easy way to get all your job information in. With an active LinkedIn profile you can put a link to it on your CV to enable potential recruiters to find out more about you. You can share the website address of your LinkedIn profile, but the better option is to create your own customised url and here is how. Of course, if you do this it is important that you keep your LinkedIn profile active and up to date!

● Once you have set up your account it can be a good idea to look at profiles of colleagues or people in the career area that you wish to pursue. This is easy to do by using the search tool bar and can be a helpful way to see how they position themselves, the language they use and can give ideas about how you would like to promote your professional profile on-line.

Developing your Network

● Once you’ve signed up and set up your profile it is time to begin to build your network by connecting with colleagues and other contacts. Remember that the more complete your profile is – and LinkedIn helpfully calculates how complete it is in percentage terms – the more likely that people will then connect with you.

● Successful social media use requires that you actively connect with people and give them something to interact with, rather than just setting up an account and leaving it.

● Why not start by searching for your fellow pod members?

If you already have a profile but haven’t used it very much, you might think about these aspects next.

Recommended for You

LinkedIn will also recommend people, groups, companies and hashtags that you might want to connect with – sometimes they can seem very relevant and sometimes quite random, but don’t forget that sometimes the random can lead to serendipitous contacts so it is worth taking a look.

Don’t be worried about sending requests to contacts; it’s considered normal. However, rather than just clicking on the send a request button always remember to send a thoughtful and relevant tailored message – this does make it more likely that the person will then connect with you. Don’t be offended if someone doesn’t connect, some people have a policy that they only connect with people they know or have met for example at a conference, as a way for them to manage their LinkedIn connections; others are more open and that is where the tailored message to contact can be helpful.


LinkedIn has groups - these allow you to join others based around a sector, place of work or other interest – for example, the University of Surrey or the Researcher Development Programme. If you are looking for groups in a particular sector or career area, then a quick Google search should find listings for you. If you know of relevant groups at your own institution, please do share them in the 23Things forum.

Alumni Tool

A very useful feature is the alumni tool. When you go to a University group, for example, University of Surrey you will see alumni as one of the links at the top. This enables you to search for alumni and to filter e.g. by year of graduation and more usefully by qualification. For example, you can search by PhD in subject areas and by location – so a good way to build contacts both locally, nationally and internationally. Generally speaking, alumni are more likely to connect and seek to assist someone who is attending a university they themselves attended.

The LinkedIn Alumni Tool will provide further information

Exploring further

● Have a look at this blog post on how to create an effective academic LinkedIn profile.

● Surrey social media have blogged about optimising your LinkedIn profile.

● Here are some common mistakes to avoid.

● Many people find LinkedIn an extremely useful tool for job searching. Employers can post jobs but, more importantly, your profile can give you the opportunity to sell yourself to potential employers. Having endorsements and recommendations can help.

And finally on LinkedIn

Recommendations – are written by a fellow LinkedIn member you have connected with and can be useful to have so that others can see what other people are saying about you and your work. You can request a recommendation and can also approve what has been written. Only post the concrete and realistic ones though – an over-enthusiastic recommendation about your general fabulousness from a friend is unlikely to impress. The overview here explains more about them and how it works.

Skill endorsements - you can include specific skills on your profile which demonstrate your abilities to peers, colleagues and recruiters. Once you have added skills they can be validated by your first level connections, further strengthening your profile click here to find out more

Writing articles can be another way to raise your profile and encourage engagement with your LinkedIn ‘audience’. This is not like writing an academic article but could be more described as short ‘thought pieces’. One way to start is to comment on articles produced by your connections or some of their connections before you begin writing articles yourself. Take a look here to find out more writing articles.

● Similar to Twitter, your posts can be shared and forwarded, so if it’s a relevant topic, LinkedIn can also be a way of highlighting an event you’re running, or recruiting participants for a study.

● You can show any qualifications or digital badges you have been awarded, too, including the one for completing 23Things…

Beer bottle tops
No Gary, I don't think these count as digital badges.

A slightly different model…

Smart Tribe – Smart introductions between people in academia and industry experts

Smart Tribe is a free platform currently with over 12,000 members. It describes itself as a professional personalised introduction service. Once signed up, and having outlined the kind of people that you would like to connect with, twice a month you can be connected. My experience of using the platform has been positive, and in my first introduction I successfully connected with some one at a senior level within a UK government agency who I probably would have found difficult to connect with otherwise – so it is worth taking a look.

Take a look and perhaps use your blog to comment on your experience.

An Additional Training Resource

PGRs and staff at the University of Surrey can access LinkedIn Learning. It offers bite-size training on hundreds of topics, from software to management skills, statistics to design, with a healthy dose of project management. Often it’s the quickest place to find an answer to a specific how-to question about common software or analysis techniques.

Staff at University of Otago can also access the resource, while there are some other training suites available, too.

Some similar resources are available at Otago through

(If you are in Surrey, you can also access Lynda by joining your local library.)

If your institution has this access, or a similar service, it’d be great to share that on the forum.

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