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Thing 18: Professional Networks – LinkedIn

Dr Laura Christie, Doctoral School Training and Development Manager, Royal Holloway, University of London

The LinkedIn Logo – the word ‘in’, in light blue, printed on a dark blue cube with rounded corners
Photo by Alexander Shatov on Unsplash

LinkedIn has been around since 2003 and used to be seen as a platform for your CV/resume that you set up and update from time to time. But just waiting for someone to find it may not work.

Now LinkedIn is at the centre of business and entrepreneurship in social media. You can use it to promote products and services, targeted advertising, engage with an identified audience and use it to create events and recruitment. If you want to attract people to your profile because you’re building a business or searching for opportunities you can do this through the LinkedIn features. While its use and focus is for business, academics are increasingly seeing the value, especially as universities are encouraged to make connections with industry. Funding for academic research comes not only from research councils but businesses, organisations, charities and other third sector organisations, all using LinkedIn to drive visitors to their pages for a range of activities.

While content on platforms such as Instagram and Facebook may be saturated, on LinkedIn there is, at the moment, more demand for content than there are content providers so there is a greater likelihood of more views. If you post on LinkedIn and a follower or connection comments, all their followers will also see your post – which is not the case, at the moment, on other platforms.

Setting up your profile

Most profiles depict a person who advertises what or who they are. Let’s switch this way of thinking to what you can offer the person looking at it. See the page as more of a website than a profile.

A successful LinkedIn profile will make people want to reach out to you. People want to know how you can help them. While you may not be actively looking for a job, there are other opportunities that you could be involved in.

  • Use the headline space below your name. For example, in your description of who you are, instead of using descriptive words about what you are (‘researcher’, ‘scientist’ etc.) use this space below your profile picture to describe what you can offer someone e.g. I help/want to connect with (type of person e.g. researchers) (what is your offer e.g. manage their data effectively/gain funding) (system e.g. through 1:1 coaching/collaboration)

  • Use the about section to tell people how you want to engage with them. If you want to collaborate, get a hook e.g. Are you looking for collaborators in the field of X? Have a project idea you’d like to get off the ground? Then elaborate about what you can do. Some people include their job experience in this section or write a section about what they currently do, which is fine if you’re not looking to draw people to your profile.

  • Use a call to action e.g. connect with me/contact me to …

  • Get thee a cracking banner picture. Using sites such as Canva can help you construct meaningful banners. The banner is a shorter version of your headline. E.g. see Royal Holloway Doctoral School. The banner on LinkedIn isn’t like a Facebook banner with a glorious sunset picture. You put words in the banner so people know what they can contact you for and where you are going with your career or development.

  • A latest LinkedIn addition is a cover video. Video posts in general generate ‘3 times more engagement than text posts’ as stated in this article which takes you through the steps.

  • The Featured section should showcase your latest content – yes you have to post content if you want your profile to attract visitors. Write in the 1st person and make it slightly informal.

  • Testimonials are social proof you are great to work with and this section is usually at the bottom. Enable your featured section at the top under your name and headline and you can add testimonials and design them in Canva (as you would an Instagram post) so they appear visually appealing.

  • Creating your URL: You can edit your URL by clicking on to your profile; in the top right you can follow the wizard. This article suggests ideas of where to use your personalised LinkedIn URL.

A topless man in baggy jeans (underwear showing), wearing a studded dog collar and chain. He stares wistfully into the middle distance.
Always use your most professional look for your profile photo (Photo by Braxton Apana on Unsplash)

Content creation

Building credibility through testimonials is one thing, but content that gives free value to readers boosts your profile views and connections. Writing articles to publish on LinkedIn, dropping knowledge and tips etc. builds credibility. You can create content through video just on your phone, no more than 60-90 seconds.

Good free video editing software gives you limited tools to edit your videos such as Descript and Adobe Spark.

  1. Add a captivating and clear title at the top of the video – you’re aiming for buy in and to stop readers scrolling.

  2. Add subtitles – according to this article 85% of Facebook videos are played on mute using subtitles – who knew!?

  3. Ask a question at the end and create a poll so people engage – people love a poll!

  4. Make it short and sweet – 60-90 seconds.

Company Page

If you have a company you can set up a separate company page. Create your personal profile first. To create a company page you will need to be intermediate or all-star, which means filling in most of the sections and having at least a dozen first-degree connections. So get connecting with people in your current university, company and pod.

Connecting with people

Don’t be shy when sending connection requests to people – it’s the basis for using LinkedIn. Some people have strict policies on who they will connect with e.g. within their specific field or with people they have only physically or virtually met, so try not to take offence if people do not respond. LinkedIn gives you the option of sending a personalised message with your connection request and this can act as a nudge to that person as to why they should connect with you.

Alumni Tool

When looking for connections, your own university is a perfect networking site. Each University LinkedIn page will connect with their alumni and the link is at the top of their page. You can filter e.g. by year of graduation and qualification.

This article gives you some good reasons to use the alumni tool and connect with people, including advice on changing career path, building professional networks if moving area or country, and finding advice from someone further advanced in their career.

Lastly, here are some common mistakes to avoid.


Your task for this week

  1. Set up or update your LinkedIn profile

  2. Find and follow your pod members, and have a look around for interesting new contacts

Why not share some praise of your pod members or colleagues, but giving them ‘Kudos’ for their qualities and achievements?

a young girl in close focus giving a double thumbs up and smiling
Well done you (Photo by Brayan Espitia on Unsplash)

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