Learning More about LinkedIn

Learning More about LinkedIn

For blogs, such as this one, I like to go to the users to get the real story on possible professional development tools to recommend to graduate students. I am an occasional user, and by no means a regular one. I have found value in using LinkedIn to network with colleagues, but I do not use LinkedIn often enough to reap the full benefits. I needed to talk to other users to learn more.

To get the real story, I conducted a rigorous study in only a few hours by posting on my personal Facebook page the following questions about LinkedIn.

Do you use LinkedIn? Why or why not? If you do, what is the best part about it to you?

{I jest about the rigor, but I received quite a lot of feedback in a short time.}

My questions resulted in some people who did not find value in LinkedIn. This could have to do with how LinkedIn is being used and the time required to take full advantage of LinkedIn’s offerings. Admittedly, some people do not check LinkedIn frequently but will accept your request to connect when they do. Some people find the trolls to be too much (i.e. excessive headhunter inquiries, people trying to sell x, y, and z). And, there are no memes.

While some people did not find LinkedIn to be valuable, some did and had excellent recommendations for how LinkedIn may be useful.

Sarah Gareau, DrPH alumna of UofSC, had advice for how students can use LinkedIn as a tool.

“I use it to connect with national leaders but not for professional advancement… I encourage my students to use it as their online resume and to link an online portfolio to their profile.”

Zenica Chatman, master’s alumna of UofSC in integrated marketing, talked about how LinkedIn can connect you to thought leaders in your field.

“I definitely use LinkedIn as a way to stay abreast of trends in the industry and to get great advice from thought leaders.”

{We like this advice, but we noticed that you need a profile photo, Ms. Chatman.}

Jamie Ritchey, PhD, alumna of UofSC, laid out the benefits in four points.

“1. I like to review the job postings to ensure our hiring is competitive. 2. It’s a more professional alternative to connect with colleagues than my Facebook page. 3. The articles that pop up in my feed are different than Facebook and some are pretty good. 4. It’s a place to put in a snapshot of my CV for quick reference.”

Shalanda Bynum, PhD alumna of UofSC, touted the value of LinkedIn for staying connected as well as for identifying employment opportunities.

“Professional networking – it’s a good platform to stay connected professionally with colleagues from my previous employments and to connect with new ones. It also provides an opportunity to meet with like-minded professionals, in-person, through local professional events. Lastly, the platform enables me to connect colleagues to those who might be able to provide assistance with professional opportunities, such as employment and fellowships.”

{Great insights, but we noticed that you need a profile photo too, Dr. Bynum.}

Aaron Guest, MSW and MPH alumnus of UofSC, focused on connection.

“I primarily use it to connect with individuals who I would like to remain connected to, but we are not on the level (nor do I have a desire) to have them on my Facebook or Twitter. I have found it to be a great way to ‘stay in the know’ about where people are at, where they are going, what work they are doing, etc. It also helps when I meet someone, and I cannot necessarily remember their name [that] I can often find them through their connections.”

Speaking of using LinkedIn to find people and check out people, Ryal Curtis, senior social media specialist at BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, noted the benefits of using LinkedIn to check out people to know with whom they are connected before or after meeting someone.

The general sentiment about frequent users of LinkedIn and a main benefit career-wise seems to be: “If you’re trying to advance in your career and are not on LinkedIn, you are missing out,” to quote Anton Gunn, MSW alumnus of UofSC.

The Graduate School has a brand new LinkedIn account. It is only fair that we practice what we are preaching and let you decide if this online networking tool offers value to you.

LinkedIn certainly is not new, but it is somewhat underutilized by a large group of job seekers – graduate students. LinkedIn seems to be especially important when searching for positions outside of academic settings and hold value for presenting your professional self while networking with others. An added benefit is the ability to connect with thought leaders in your field. Your time as graduate students is valuable, so if you are going to use your LinkedIn profile, make sure to check out recommendations, such as a recent essay from Inside Higher Ed on using LinkedIn as a career tool.

Let us know what you think about LinkedIn and how you have used it as a graduate student. Comment on our blog, Facebook post, tweet, etc.

Dr. Heather Brandt is associate dean for professional development in the Graduate School and associate professor in the department of health promotion, education, and behavior in the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina.

Questions? Comments? Ideas? Email GRADprofdev@sc.edu

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