Using LinkedIn Effectively

Why should I use Linkedin?

One of the largest social media sites for professionals is LinkedIn. Many people think of LinkedIn as a digital CV, but it is much more than that!

Like it or not, future employers will search your name online to see what results are associated it. A strong LinkedIn profile will leave a positive impression with any future employers. You may not have control over every way you are referenced online, so it is worth your time to make sure that the information you can control reflects you well.

Another great benefit of this site is helping you stay in touch with colleagues. Often, graduate students lose access to their campus email addresses after graduation. If other professionals in the field primarily communicate with you through that email, they will not be able to contact you in the future. Few academics and researchers work for only one employer throughout their career. If you change jobs, LinkedIn can allow those professional contacts to find you following those transitions. It can also help you build and organize your professional network.

Compared to other social media sites, it also requires far less effort to maintain an effective profile. Unlike Facebook or Twitter, you do not need to check LinkedIn daily. Checking in once every week or two and updating only when you have major transition or a new accomplishment is plenty.

What should I include?

You can choose to include many pieces of information on your profile. Your profile should complement your CV, not repeat everything in it. All LinkedIn profiles should include the following:

  1. A Professional Photo
  2. LinkedIn is still primarily used for business and professional connections. The photos you might post on other social media are not appropriate here. Remember, future employers or colleagues will see this profile, so make sure that you are dressed appropriately for your field (think business professional), smile, and avoid using photos with other people in them or distracting backgrounds.

  3. A Summary
  4. This is often one of the sections that is missing from LinkedIn profiles, but it can be one of the most useful sections. This is a place where you can tell your audience about your research interests, your current career goals, and professional experiences. This should not be a single sentence, nor should it be everything you have done over the last 5 to 10 years. Keep it concise and to the point. Below is an example of summary a recent PhD graduate in an education field might use.

    Recent PhD graduate with expertise in educational psychology, quantitative data analysis, and K-12 classrooms. Five years as a Math teacher in public K-12 schools.

    I’m interested in working with state or federal agencies or non-profit organizations where I might be able to use my statistical expertise and classroom experience to impact educational policy and improve educational outcomes for all students.

    Projects have included working with the State Assessment Agency to develop assessments used to measure math proficiency in high school students. As a member of this team, we analyzed current math standards, developed and piloted test items, and analyzed the data for statistical trends and to assess the validity and reliability of the assessment. Research projects have also examined how students learn and process advanced mathematical concepts.

    Specialties: Advanced statistical analyses, cognitive processes in learning, test item development, math pedagogy, and U.S. educational policy

  5. Contact Information
  6. Including a current email address will allow those who see you on LinkedIn to contact you. Sometimes when you change positions, your new email may not be made public, so this is your chance to make sure that others know how best to reach out to you.

  7. Most Recent Work Experiences
  8. Much like your CV, your LinkedIn profile should include your most recent professional work experiences, including assistantships. Having only one vague listing is as useless as having no profile at all. Remember the goal of this profile is to show others you are qualified and have the experiences needed to be successful in the field and you need more than one position to demonstrate that. Include some information about what you did for each position. Use active verbs to describe your work and responsibilities.

  9. Skills and Endorsements
  10. One unique feature of LinkedIn is the ability to list skills you possess and be endorsed by others for your abilities. Make sure list both major skills, such as “university teaching” or “data analysis”, as well as more specific skills such as “gel electrophoresis”. If you would like to be endorsed, ask colleagues if they would help. Sometimes if you endorse someone, they will return the favor.


Once the essentials of your LinkedIn profile are covered, you can work on making it more specific to your professional accolades. Some of the elements you can include are:

  1. Recommendations
  2. Recommendations are a useful feature that will give your profile an additional layer of credibility. Try personally reaching out to colleagues and professors who can vouch for your contributions and collaboration. Explaining both how their commending words will support your employment or candidacy for future positions and why LinkedIn is important will help clarify why a recommendation is important. Unlike reference letters for job applications, these do not need to be lengthy—a paragraph or two describing your work would be enough.

    Keep in mind that you’ll want to ask those who truly know your work rather than those whom you’ve worked with only tangentially. Be sure that the person recommending you also has an idea of what you’re hoping to do next in your career. This could help them choose more specific details in their recommendation.

    Most importantly, vary your recommendations if possible. Including recommendations from different areas of your professional experiences or organizations that you’ve been involved with will provide future employers a diverse range of recommendations and broad scope of your professional reputation.

  3. Media Links
  4. LinkedIn gives you the option to add documents, photos, links, videos, and presentations. Attaching media to the experience section of your LinkedIn profile can make viewing articles or journals you have hosted online much easier for visitors. Media attachments will also provide a visual enhancement to your profile by breaking up the text-heavy sections throughout.

  5. Publications and Presentations
  6. If you have publications or presentations, you can list some of them here. You could even include media links to the journal or the article. This will help those who have seen your profile read your work.

  7. Honors and Awards
  8. If you have any awards or accolades that would also help demonstrate your skills or abilities include them at the bottom of your LinkedIn page.

How can it help me network?

While LinkedIn has all the makings of a digital curriculum vita, it offers far more. It is truly a network. LinkedIn will constantly make suggestions for connecting in the “People You May Know” tab within the “My Network” menu option as well as in various other places. While browsing profiles that you’re not connected with, you might find that you have a second or third degree of connection with someone in them field that you are interested in collaborating with in the future. If you do, then LinkedIn will show you whom you share a connection with, and from there you can ask your first degree connection to make an introduction. Try to expand your connections beyond just faculty, graduate students, or other colleagues you have worked with to include other professionals in your field that you are interested in collaborating with in the future.