How a PhD student is using LinkedIn to find her next job

Just posting to your connections is not enough. Vet scientist shows how using LinkedIn ‘Groups’ gets you job offers and research opportunities

Groups on LinkedIn are set up and maintained by users around interest areas, employment types and professional and career issues, and they support discussions within specialized areas.

Charlotte is a veterinarian with a specialization in biomedicine, who has worked with small animals at an animal clinic and as a research scientist at the pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk in Denmark.

As a LinkedIn user, when you do a regular post on LinkedIn, your post is shown to the people who follow you or are connected to you. The post can then reach a wider network if your followers or connections ‘like’ it or share your post on their own feed.

When you post in a LinkedIn Group, by contrast, you only interact with people who share your common interest. This makes it easier for users, and employers, to find someone who has the right profile without them having to know each other already. While many LinkedIn Groups end up been negatively affected by spam and promotions, smaller groups can remain highly effective if they are well moderated.

Charlotte Holme-Nielsen – a veterinarian who is doing her PhD in the field of neuroscience – calls herself an amateur on LinkedIn. But when she spoke up at a social media workshop for scientists that I held at the Department for Veterinary and Animal Science in Copenhagen recently, I realized that her use of LinkedIn’s Groups puts her right up there among the LinkedIn pros!

“Yesterday I got a private message from someone else from the US who saw one of my comments in another group. ‘We have this conference. Would you like to participate?’”

So I talked to her after the workshop to go into more detail about how she uses the platform to network with other experts (and future employers) in a narrow research field.

“On LinkedIn I am a member of several groups,” Charlotte told me. “And I think this one was a ‘Veterinarians for Small Animals’ group. Someone posted a picture of a dog with hair loss, and asked the group if there was someone who could help with the diagnosis. So I wrote her a suggestion. She then uploaded more images in the comment thread, and it ended up being a long thread of comments.”

“A short time after this, I received a private message from a recruiter on LinkedIn, who had been hired by a company to find good veterinarians. She wrote to me that my specialization would be relevant to them,” Charlotte explained.

Charlotte Holme Nielsen is in the process of finishing her PhD at the University of Copenhagen within the fields of neuroscience and brain development.

And this was not all. The opportunities kept coming to Charlotte as a result of her LinkedIn Group activity:

“Yesterday I got a private message from someone else from the US who saw one of my comments in another group. ‘We have this conference. Would you like to participate?’ In this way, the LinkedIn Groups are a way for me to get into contact with potential employers and fellow vet scientists in the same area,” says Charlotte, who adds that she now has forged connections to several scientists in the UK that she otherwise would not have met.

There is nothing remarkable about Charlotte’s activity on LinkedIn, and you can see her LinkedIn profile here.  But she has, at the time of writing, only posted a ‘regular’ post (to all her connections) once. Let that sink in for a moment to all of us who post regularly to all our connections: She has only posted to all her connections, once.

Not quite qualified – and proud of it

Nearly all her activity is through the LinkedIn’s Groups function (See how to find it below)

Click on the search field, then select ‘groups’ on the right. Find a LinkedIn Group in your interest area, and ‘request to join’.

This might change, she admits. She is about to hand in her PhD thesis. And she does ‘like’ other people’s posts that show up in her regular newsfeed.

“If you like something, the person who posts at least gets to know you exist,” she says.

“… you should put yourself in their shoes. No-one is ever going to think: ‘She is so annoying. And how embarrassing it is for her that she is not qualified!”

More subtle is Charlotte’s strategy towards people who post about new jobs in her area. Both the ones that show up in her newsfeed and in the LinkedIn Groups that she is a part of.

“My former Novo manager posted a job ad on LinkedIn that was slightly outside my field. I wrote him a direct message and said, ‘Hey, I am not qualified for this job, but if you know of any others within my own field, then please let me know’.”

This takes a bit of courage, I imagine. You are reacting to job offers that you are not completely qualified for?

“Well. Maybe. But you should put yourself in their shoes. No-one is ever going to think: ‘She is so annoying. And how embarrassing it is for her that she is not qualified!’”, Charlotte laughs.

“The point is. If you are posting about a new vacancy on the platform, there is a high chance you are an employer that is generally hiring new people. So this is why I think the method works very well,” Charlotte says.

At the Mike Young Academy social media for scientists workshops one of the elements is how to use search strings on LinkedIn’s powerful search engine, and how to bookmark them in order to use them for daily routines.

Charlotte, tell me, are you going to bookmark a search string on all new jobs in your field from now on and use your strategy with all of the job offers that you are not-quite-qualified for from now on?

“I might just do that!”

Does your department, faculty or university need to boost the international impact and career of your researchers? Here is more about my courses in social media for researchers. See other Mike Young Academy services here.

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