This is one of the most contentious topics I discuss with academics who are “breaking” alt-ac. That they need to get on LinkedIn. Look. I get it. LinkedIn is of virtually no use to true academics. (Although perhaps that is changing? Someone who is an academic please let me know!) It’s not part of your grad school curriculum, you don’t know any professors on it, AND it’s just a gross “over there” for corporate types, amirite?
Yes and no. Mostly no. And if you’re alt-ac: you are definitely wrong.
LinkedIn focuses on work, and most academics conflate LinkedIn with “eww, corporate America jobs.” Plus there are so many other options for spaces where academics hang out and market themselves – their university profile page, Academia.edu, Versatile PhD, heck, even Medium, I think has a stronger higher ed presence than LinkedIn.
Nevertheless, in the past 5 years in particular, I’ve seen more and more academics getting on LinkedIn. Besides, I predict that career longevity and job security are ebbing even for tenure-track faculty, which means even THEY will need to change careers someday. Which means they’ll be behind the curve by being off of LinkedIn and not maintaining a professional site all their own.
Nevertheless, it’s 2019. We’re all getting wiser to our relationships with our employers. So as you weigh whether you might go alt-ac, read all the quit lit, or have already decided to walk away, or know you want to or need to change careers, you must use LinkedIn. No ifs, ands, or buts.
So yes, alt-ac: you must have a LinkedIn.
It’s Helpful For Coming Up With Options
If nothing else – at a bare minimum – it’s a powerful tool for alt-acs for finding other kinds of work and learning of actual job openings. Where do professional jobs get posted? LinkedIn! Sure, you can try Indeed or Monster, but honestly, just get on LinkedIn. The quality of the postings there are much better and I find the listings to be much more accurate, not stale ones that are getting surfaced just for clicks.
It’s for Networking and Informational Interviews
None of us who work in the alt-ac space will ever tell you anything less than networking and informational interviews are key. Informational interviews are key for finding options, for narrowing down options, for learning about the kinds of work “regular” folk do.
But please, PLEASE follow the advice in “A Letter to PhDs Seeking an Alt-Ac Career” beforehand! It summarizes the biggest face-palm mistakes that academics make when doing an informational interview. (And here are my own informational interview tips, too.)
It’s Helpful for Describing Your Skills
As you scour people’s and employers’ profiles, pay attention to how they describe their skills, experience, and organization! Do you notice any trends over time? Any common phrases among all the instructional designers? Or any commonalities among the nonprofits you’re looking at? It helps you come up with vocabulary you can employ in your resumes and cover letters. (Which is key to getting past initial screenings as a career changer!)
Get To It!
Instead of me telling you why, just go get your LinkedIn profile set up! Or if you already have one, but haven’t been tending it, now’s the time. Here’s some of my favorite tip articles: