This article concentrates on tips for maximizing your professional presence online using LinkedIn during the research and application stages of the graduate school search process. LinkedIn is a networking site for professionals. It is widely considered a useful tool during a job search; LinkedIn may help you in your graduate school search as well.
When you are first thinking about putting together your profile in LinkedIn, keep in mind that it is a “professional” networking site. This is not the place for status updates and pictures of you over the weekend. This is like sharing a business card with someone. If someone is going to search for you, they will now be able to see the information you provide about your education and work experience. LinkedIn allows you to create a profile that would include most of the same information you would find on a resume. If you have done some great research, made presentations, or had stellar internships in your field, you may want to include them in your experience or education sections. Be sure to include a professional photograph of yourself – not one of you in a group at a dance.
LinkedIn allows you to connect with individuals and professional groups. University alumni groups and professional associations often have profiles you can connect to. In addition, individual graduate programs or schools might have groups to join. Joining these groups may provide you with some inside information about the events and programs going on at the graduate schools you are interested in.
One great way to use LinkedIn is to connect with past, current, and future faculty and colleagues. There is an option to request to have faculty members or work supervisors issue brief recommendations to be posted on your page. When you are making those requests you may want to personalize the message. LinkedIn has a standard connection request. If you just use that request, it may turn prospective contacts off from responding to you. Make sure you keep it personal – not long – just genuine.
When you are putting together your research information to compare and contrast schools, using LinkedIn can get you lots of additional information. Whether or not the institution or particular graduate program has a LinkedIn presence is not necessarily a key factor in choosing the best program for you, but if they do have those groups, you may want to join them so you can pick up extra insight. The more information you have on the program, the institution, and the people associated with it, the better prepared you are to make a decision about whether or not a school is right for you.
You might also research a school’s faculty, using LinkedIn you can browse University faculty pages or conduct a general search for them. Many professors will have their own LinkedIn profiles allowing you to view their work, presentations, courses, and professional affiliations.
You can also research the graduates and current students of the program. You might be able to see the career paths of alumni had leading up to and following their graduate studies. You could even reach out to them, as well as faculty and current students of the program, with a question or request an informational interview. Most folks are happy to share their experiences and some advice with prospective students.
Congratulations, you have narrowed down your field of choices and are ready to submit applications. Should you bother going back to LinkedIn and other social media platforms during this stage? Absolutely! There may be advantages to gain by staying connected through LinkedIn during this phase of your graduate career.
When you are putting together your admissions essay or response to admissions application questions, you may want to reference the information you found during the research phase. While the other sources of information are going to be more static, the social media information is dynamic and consistently updated. Keeping up to date on discussions occurring between faculty and students at your chosen institutions can help you look more prepared than the competition.
Once you have gotten accepted, you will want to keep up with your professional social media presence. It does take some investment of time, but if you use it wisely, it can be time well spent.