231: Why All Students Need a LinkedIn Account and an Online Presence for Career Success

231: Why All Students Need a LinkedIn Account and an Online Presence for Career Success


In this episode, I discuss the importance of having an online presence for professional success. I share advice for students on creating a LinkedIn account to help you with networking, finding alumni of grad programs you’re interested in, and finding relevant job opportunities. While you can network across many social media platforms, I’m especially fond of LinkedIn due to its search features that allows you to find people based on their work experience and education. The main takeaway is to remind you to keep expanding your network and community for more opportunities to come your way that will lead to your personal and professional success.

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231: Why All Students Need a LinkedIn Account and an Online Presence for Career Success


[00:00:00] Welcome back to another episode of the Grad School Femtoring Podcast. This is your host, Doctora Yvette. Today I am going to be talking about why all students need a LinkedIn account. I'm also gonna be talking about why you need an online presence as well, for career success, and I came up with a topic for today based on.

Some words of advice that I tend to share when I'm talking to folks who are interested in either one, applying to grad school or two, going through some sort of career transition for folks who are applying to graduate school. They're asking me for advice. One of the things that I say over and over again, and I say this in my workshops, I say this in my free consultation meetings, I say this in my one-on-one coaching sessions with clients is you want to make sure [00:01:00] that you make time to meet with graduate students, that you make time to meet with faculty, and that you make time to meet with alumni.

And the latter, the alumni is something that not. Everybody thinks about, and I often wonder, well, why not? Wouldn't you want to know where people end up after getting this degree? Wouldn't want, wouldn't you want to ensure that what they're doing is similar to the kind of work that you want to do? What if the program you're interested in doesn't have a lot of success stories?

What if the alumni are. All kind of struggling or not quite falling into, or like they're not quite meeting the promise that the program is giving you. You wanna find out this information. And how do you find out this information by finding these folks? How do you find these folks? Well, finding faculty is.

Relatively straightforward. You look at [00:02:00] the faculty profiles on departmental websites, finding graduate students can be trickier, but you can also find them through, um, contacting a graduate advisor for the program that you're applying to and asking them to forward your email to their grad student listserv.

So once you know that it, it should be relatively straightforward to find and get ahold of some grad students, but then alumni. What do you do to find alumni? They might not have any relationship with the degrees that they completed. You know, not every graduate program has a strong built-in relationship with their alumni.

I. And so my best bet is to find them through LinkedIn. Yes, there are a lot of different social media platforms all there out out there, and they can all be quite helpful with networking. But what I especially like about LinkedIn is their search tab where you can search people based on their [00:03:00] occupation, based on their education.

And this is where it's helpful because if you look for the, you search. Um, the name, the of the program and the department that you're applying to. Then you'll see whatever the search results are. Who has that listed under their education section on their profile. Those are the alumni that you're gonna wanna reach out to.

You're gonna wanna send them a personalized connection request, and then once they've accepted your. Connection requests. You can ask them, say that you're a prospective student, you notice that they also completed that program and that you would love to meet with them, you know, 15 to 20 minutes of their time to learn more about their experience in the program and what they're doing now in their career.

So that's, you know, one big reason I, I am a big fan of LinkedIn is because you can find folks relatively. E easy, easily, I guess, or [00:04:00] easier than you would if you were searching for these folks on, say, platforms like Instagram or TikTok where there's just, there's a character limit on their profile, so they can't list everything.

They don't, there's no required education section on those platforms. So LinkedIn, um, that's kind of one of the reasons why I'm a big fan of LinkedIn, but then talking about why it's important to have an online presence. It's important to have an online presence because this is what, what's gonna allow you to tap into opportunities that you wouldn't otherwise know about if you.

Only relied on word of mouth. I know some folks who have been resistant to having a social media presence and who have been able to develop a, a relatively good or a solid, you know, [00:05:00] kind of network or community. Uh, but even then, I know that. There's just some opportunities that you will miss out on if you don't put yourself out there.

There's only so much that you can do that's based on word of mouth and sometimes it helps to kind of use these tools, the social media tools, uh, to your advantage. So that's why I do think it's important to have an online presence. Some people choose to have a website as well, and I don't necessarily think you need a website.

Um. Of course it's helpful to display your work, to have an online portfolio, to have a place that you know, if people search for you, you can curate the information that they, that you want them to know about you based on how you display it on a website. But you don't actually need a website as a student if you want to, great.

If you don't want to. It's not necessary. But you do wanna have some sort of online presence. And I think that having. [00:06:00] A carefully curated LinkedIn profile can help you with this. By the way, I am not being sponsored by LinkedIn. I wish not at all, but I'm mentioning them because it has been a resource that I have taken advantage of.

It has been a resource. That I have had other people use that has been helpful to them as well. So lemme give you an example of how I'm using LinkedIn this year to help me with my careers success. One of the things that a lot of, you know, uh, that's happening for me this year is that my book is grad school for me, demystifying the application process for First Gen Bipoc students.

That book is coming out. This year, it comes out in April, 2024. And one of the things that I wanna do is that I wanna make sure that I'm as loud as possible about the book coming out and that I can get it into as many hands as possible as. Especially [00:07:00] the hands of first gen Bipoc students, especially non-traditional students, um, especially anyone who is a member of the global majority and who has felt underrepresented in higher education.

So how do I make sure people know about it by making sure that the folks who work with these types of students also know about it? So. Again, what have I done on LinkedIn to help me with that? I went on the search tab and I searched for the titles of directors of first gen programs, directors of McNair Programs, directors of Mellon May programs, programs that I myself.

Have been part of, have been involved in, have served, and these are folks from all over the nation, and I sent a bunch of connection requests and I think I know what you're thinking. It can feel a little cringey to put yourself out there in that way. I hesitated a little bit [00:08:00] when I was sending those connection requests with strangers, but then I thought to myself, well.

What's the worst that can happen? The worst that can happen is they reject my connection request, and then maybe they will have looked at my profile and saw that the first thing on my headline is. Author of is grad school for me, and maybe they will actually check out my book and then what's the best thing that could happen is they accept my connection requests, they learn more about my work through the things that I post about, and then they decide to pre-order a bulk order of my, of the book, or they decide to invite my co-author and I to give a.

A book talk to their students or I don't know, anything else might come up related to the book, but either way, it's a win-win situation for me. So that's why I did that. I, you know, took advantage of LinkedIn and the way [00:09:00] that it's relatively easy to connect with strangers on out there, and I'm using that to hopefully help me again, increase the chances that.

As many people as possible find out about my book coming up because I do believe in the book. I do believe that it's gonna help a lot of people, especially for Bipo who are curious about grad school. I. So then why else is LinkedIn quite handy? LinkedIn is handy because it's not only is it built in, like it's built in the platform for it to be relatively easy to network with strangers, but also it's a great place to find out about job openings.

Um, a good majority of job ads are posted directly on LinkedIn. There's a lot of recruiters out there, and I've even. Seeing people, um, manage their job market process by posting [00:10:00] publicly on LinkedIn and other social media accounts to let people know that they're on the job market. So even if you're not planning to get a job outside of higher ed, even if you know you want to stick to a research career or a teaching career, you wanna stick to.

Becoming a professor, you can still tap into LinkedIn. There's a lot of professors on there. There's a lot of grad students out there. There's a lot of, uh, higher ed staff members on there. And if you build your network now so that you have a solid number of people that you're connected with on your LinkedIn account, you can then, when you're ready to go on the job market, make a big announcement and say, hi, I know I'm a doctoral candidate.

I've arrived at a point in my. My academic career where I am going to be on going on the job market this fall. And I would love it if you could forward me any job opportunities that you think that might be a good fit for me. Put it out there. I mean, I did that when I was on the job market, [00:11:00] both academic and non-academic, but I didn't do it on LinkedIn.

I wasn't using LinkedIn. Right. I, um, in, in grad school and undergrad, I had it, but I wasn't. Really actively on it. But I did do that by reaching out to all my mentors and fem mentors over email and letting them know that I was on the job market and to forward opportunities my way. And lo and behold, they did send me opportunities my way.

And some of those job ads ended up being job ads of things that I applied to that I ended up getting. So LinkedIn is great to tap into what some people call the hidden. Uh, job market. And by that, um. I mean, what do people mean by the hidden job market? It means finding out about jaws before they're even posted.

So if you do talk to recruiters, if you do talk to professors, if you do talk to just people in your field or industry, uh, they might tell you about an opening. I. They or they might tell you, Hey, so and so [00:12:00] is, you know, just quit their job. We're gonna be putting up a job post. And guess what, when that happens, you have, you know, been granted access to this hidden job ad that a job ad that's not quite out there.

And it's just good to know, to set yourself up, to prepare to apply for that position as soon as it opens up to talk to folks in that position, uh, to learn more about it and just set yourself. Prepare yourself so you can, um, so you can craft strong job application materials. What else is great about LinkedIn?

Um, I mean, I love that LinkedIn doesn't have character limits or I. The character limits, it does have character limits, but the character limits for your profile and for your About me section are more than what you would get on other social media, uh, profiles. And you can set up the information that you share on your profile so that it's.[00:13:00]

Search terms that you want people to find you under. So if there's certain research interests, there's certain types of jobs you're interested in, you can mention that in your About Me section, and folks will be able to find you when they search on the search tab under those terms. So it's great for customizing your profile to highlight your background, your strengths, your interests, um, your achievements, and um.

I am trying to think of, um, other ways that LinkedIn is helpful or what you can do to make the most once you set up a LinkedIn account. Let's say you are new to LinkedIn, you don't have an account, what should you do? First, once you set up your account, add folks who are part of your immediate network, so folks that you know, they know who you are, they know they might be your friends, it might be your current mentors.

And then from there, check their [00:14:00] network. So check who follows, or who's connected to them. See who's like the. There's folks who are, I forget, like their first degree and second degree connections. I think that's what they're called. I might be wrong, but usually you see like a number one or two or three and I associated it with whether there's, the one is an immediate connection.

You, they're already connected with you. Second, I believe is someone that's connected with someone you already connected with. And third and fourth and fifth kind of goes on to that. It goes accordingly. Like someone who's connected to someone you're connected to. And so check out your second degree connections by searching their network.

And if anybody's doing work that's aligned with what you wanna do, don't hesitate to send them a connection request. It's even better if you can personalize it. But if you don't have time to do it, it's also. Socially acceptable to send a connection request without a personalized note. [00:15:00] It's not, it's not quote unquote a best practice, but if you want to add a lot of people in a short period of time, it's okay to do that.

I've had many people send me random connection requests. I don't know who they are, they don't even send me a message, but I quickly tap on their profile. And if I'm like, oh, I like what they do, they seem like an interesting person that I would want, uh, as part of my network, I'll say yes. Uh, anything else?

Uh, you know, at the beginning it can feel really overwhelming to have an online presence. Uh, you don't like, you know, you don't have to become a content creator. You don't have to become a thought leader. You don't have to even figure out your personal brand quite yet. You don't have to figure any of that out, but just start with something small, creating the account.

Adding your immediate friends, searching their network, adding more people, and then reaching out to one [00:16:00] person, whether it's that alumni of that program you wanna apply to, or whether it's a graduate student or whether it's someone in a career of your dreams or anyone. Anyone that feels that doesn't kind of.

You want it to feel when you reach out to people like someone that is not gonna intimidate you too much, but it's still out of your comfort zone to reach out to them. Do it with 1, 2, 3 people until you get your first connection where you're able to meet with them for an informational interview. See what you learned from that session, and then try to make it a habit of every once in a while, whether it's once a month or even once a quarter.

Setting up a meeting or two with folks in, you know, your line of work that's gonna help you. It's gonna, over time, your network is gonna keep growing and all of that is gonna increase your access to [00:17:00] opportunities that you would otherwise not know. And more opportunities means more. Um. More chances of career success.

And you, you get to define what you, what I what whatever success means to you. So career success might mean. Finding out about job opportunities that are perfect for you. Career success might mean finally landing a job at the salary that you want. Career success might mean. Um, being able to find a way to make ends meet while doing work that you don't completely hate.

Career success might mean having a job that allows you to, that's flexible and allows you to spend more time with your family Career success can mean. Really anything. You get to define that for yourself. But the way that you increase your odds of career success is by increasing the number of opportunities that are your way.

And you do that by tapping into your network, growing your network, and you can easily do that on LinkedIn. [00:18:00] That's not to say that you can't do that on other social media platforms, but it just so happens that the way that LinkedIn is set up, it just makes it a little bit easier. In my opinion, I might be wrong.

You know, you might have developed a really strong network on other platforms or even out of word of mouth, but just give LinkedIn a shot. Test it out, see how it feels. Add me if you want to. I can be your first connection request and then yeah, we'll see how it feels and hopefully, uh, you're able to. Have more opportunities presented your way.

Meet some cool folks along the way and build community in a way that feels good to you. That's it for today. I'll talk to you all next time.

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