First and foremost, LinkedIn is probably the most powerful resources that you can leverage to really thrive in the post-PhD job market. If you haven’t already, please read our other article titled ‘LinkedIn for PhD Students’ as it provides a more comprehensive breakdown on how to build your LinkedIn profile, what recruiters are looking for, and a bunch of other cool resources to get you started on your way to crush this space. Typically, whenever we mentioned LinkedIn, we also like to refer to Glassdoor as they can be used in tandem to really optimise your job searches – so that’s another article you should check out.
In this post however, we’re going to focus on a slightly different narrative when it comes to LinkedIn. It’s not just a tool to digitally advertise yourself and get noticed by recruiters, it’s also a platform to build your network, and gather some insider information. Typically, when it comes to networking, we advocate an authentic approach, as people are more likely to offer words of wisdom and put forward recommendations if you’re more personable. Obviously chatting over the internet on a platform like LinkedIn makes it difficult to emulate this approachable, and authentic persona we encourage. However, a digital forum to network has substantially less barriers (most notably time commitments for all parties involved), so the trade-off makes this approach worth it. In essence, it’s easy to do and can be relatively effective if done right.
Once you’ve updated your profile, you’re now ready to start growing those connections and getting as much information as possible. In the first instance, we should treat this approach as an information gaining exercise. The core focus of growing your network on LinkedIn is to show genuine interest in people, drop them a message, and try to have a chat about their experience and their current job. Without a doubt, there is going to be some dead ends. Not everyone will respond or get back to you – and that’s okay. It might feel disheartening but it’s important to remain as rationale as possible. Objectively, sending a message and reaching out to someone takes a matter of minutes, possibly seconds, and if they don’t reply it shouldn’t come at a significant loss.
Having said that however, we’re very confident you’ll be pleasantly surprised. A lot of people are more than happy to speak about themselves or are happy to help others. Yes, people are busy, but if you can emphasise that you want to just be super quick and ask a couple questions or possibly just put the questions in a message – the barriers for them are also diminished. Another thing to be aware of which improves your odds is that a lot of industry organisations offer a referral scheme. In practice, if they refer a candidate to their organisation, they’ll be provided with a bonus for finding a suitable candidate. By reaching out and asking to chat to someone about their time, might inevitably turn into a referral for them, which serves you both. You get useful information and a flavour for that job/industry, and they possibly get a referral bonus for recommending you to the job. You’re helping them as much as they’re helping you!
As you reach out to more and more people, keep an open mind and try to identify the types of jobs/roles you gravitate towards. This is likely to underpin your values, and what you’re actually searching for post-PhD. Often, we come out of the academic world ‘not knowing’ what to do after. By having a range of conversations with people will help to start build a mental picture of what it is you can see yourself doing. Equally, it might help build a picture on what it is you absolutely do NOT see yourself doing. Knowing what you don’t want to do is equally as important as knowing what you do want to do.
Last but not least, growing your LinkedIn presence helps expand the chances of your profile from falling on the lap of a recruiter. In this sense, recruiters are people on the hunt for candidates they can place in a suitable role. Sometimes these are in house, i.e., a company will have their own internal recruitment team, whilst others are third party organisations – where a company will pay a third-party organisation to find and place candidates for them on their behalf. Recruiters number one go to place is LinkedIn. This is why it’s imperative to state your open to work on your LinkedIn profile and to ensure you stand out amongst the others. Having a larger network also helps build credibility towards your professional persona – if you’re connected with a range of industry personnel, it’s likely that you’ll be perceived as someone who is well connected and likely to have the relevant interpersonal skills for a team.
Overall, it’s a really simple and effective strategy to take advantage of when you’re figuring out what to do after your PhD. It can help identify possible opportunities, aid in your self-development with working out what it is exactly you want from your career, build a clearer mental picture on how to get there, and validate your own set of skills in today’s job market. Worst case scenario, you send a few messages and don’t get a response – what do you have to lose!
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