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Do you need a LinkedIn profile?

On the rare occasions that people ask me directly for career advice, I get asked the above quite a bit.

Maybe they’re undergraduate students that I’m teaching, or maybe it’s former lab members who are finishing up with their Ph. Ds? Either way, for people who are about to step into the job market, it’s a pretty common question. You wanna get noticed, and on the very likely chance that your potential employer google searches your name, you want something professional to pop up- not your drunk arse partying it up since high school days.

So, is it worth investing some time into a LinkedIn profile?

Well, it depends where you’re aiming to go.

Now, just a disclaimer, you should all know that I am writing as a Ph. D graduate in Microbiology, so I’m talking about a career in the science field.

Strangely enough, most of Academia is on Twitter. I don’t know why we decided to use a platform that uses very few characters, but we did. You’ll find that a lot of prominent researchers are on Twitter- making posts about their lab’s social gatherings, their recent publications, and sometimes posting job listings. Usually it’s used to decry the current, abhorrent funding situation. It can be quite a political platform… which, I mean- it’s Twitter. It’s always political.

Yes, some people use Researchgate, but I’ve found that the majority lean more towards Twitter. Researchgate is good if you just want to build an extra social media presence in the academic world, but it’s certainly not necessary.

So if you’re intending to stay within academic research, and you want to become a career scientist in an academically funded position… Twitter is far better than LinkedIn, because your potential employers are on it. What should you do to navigate the Twitterverse? Well… if you’re just using it to get noticed for job hunting purposes, you can like and retweet research that interests you (maybe from your potential employer- although maybe don’t go overkill on that), or tweet articles that get shared that interest you. I think the best place to start is to just sit and observe, and take note of what people are posting about.

Be aware, though, that you need a public profile for this. Otherwise your potential employers won’t be able to see what you’re up to. So, with that in mind, you’ll need to consider the following:

  • If you wanna get political, be mindful of the things that you post/like/RT
    • That’s not to say you should completely censor yourself! I mean that you should stick to things that you firmly believe in, that your employer should be able to respect
  • Every like/RT/follow is an endorsement, so make sure you only do so on reliable sources
  • Maybe if you’re really paranoid, just state in your Bio that your opinions are your own πŸ˜…
  • Pet pictures are worth a billion serious tweets
  • Hobby tweets are also great- shows that you have a life outside of work
  • ‘Dan Murphy’s Opening Hours’

The last one is more of an in-joke. Google it if you’re unaware of the story. πŸ˜‚

So that’s what’s more beneficial if you’re looking at a life in academic research.

Now, obviously you don’t have to have a Twitter account. If you’re not confident in your social media skills, it’s best to avoid it all together. But, this is in the scenario where you want something out there, and if you’re going for Academia, then Twitter is your best bet.

But what if you’re leaving Academia? Where do industry employers look?

That’s where LinkedIn is more useful.

Industry people tend to do all their social networking on LinkedIn- both for posting their company’s progress and also for job listings.

If you do some career networking for industry positions, it’s best if you can refer them to your LinkedIn profile, because it’s essentially a digital CV. You can literally copy paste the contents of your CV into your profile. Your potential employers can take a look at your experiences and qualifications, without having sat a formal interview.

You can also use the contents of your LinkedIn profile to apply for jobs directly, meaning you don’t have to go to the lengths of uploading a PDF CV.

Obviously the same sort of rules apply here as Twitter, re: endorsements and connections.

When I was job hunting, I had a lot of people refer me to their LinkedIn profiles, because I wasn’t looking in Academia. I think it’s good too because others can look at your connections and it can be a profile boost if you have prominent figures on it…. But also, you don’t have to network and add people to your personal Facebook or Instagram page. I sort of treat it like a digital business card.

As more and more science communicators go out into the world, platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Tik Tok are becoming more commonplace for researchers and research institutions. But… if you’re out to get employed, I think the above two are more useful, because they actually post job listings there.

But, as always, the most useful way to put yourself out there is to talk to people directly. So, if you find someone or some place you want to work for- shoot them an email, and arrange a meeting. It’s good to be proactive where you can.

Still, job openings come up by chance, and I think for the vast majority of positions, it’s a combination of luck and knowing the right people. At least the- ‘knowing the right people’ could start from a face to face meeting, which can then be continued on by interactions on the above platforms. Good luck!

Categories: Careers

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A Ph. D graduate in Microbiology, residing in Victoria, Australia. Currently working in multiple locations but still in the STEM field. πŸ‘€ 🦠 🧫 🧬

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