Having a strong LinkedIn presence can be one of the most effective elements in a professional digital portfolio.
While it is notorious as a platform that is rife with self-congratulation, it doesn't have to be that way! LinkedIn can be a rich space for building a community of colleagues and diverse networks, discussing your research and its outcomes, and offering you access to the latest news in your area. In this thoughtful post, Dr Fung Lay shares his practices around creating an authentic professional self on this platform.
|Photo courtesy of Fung Lay|
Why do I choose to invest my time and energy into LinkedIn?
My answer is quite straightforward. It serves as a powerful online portfolio that transcends the limitations of traditional resumes or CVs (which it technically represents). It allows me to showcase my skills, experiences, education, certifications, and accomplishments in a dynamic and visually appealing manner, creating a record of my evolving professional journey. Moreover, it provides a forum that can help to create and establish my personal brand to a global audience. My previous engagement on social media, primarily Facebook (yes, I am of that generation) was largely for social sharing of photos and life events with family and friends. I was captivated by how individuals I followed used LinkedIn authentically to enrich their professional identities, and this influenced my own perspectives.
As a full-time researcher at La Trobe University (including completing a BSc(Hons), PhD and 14 years as a postdoc where I worked on intriguing host innate immunity proteins called ‘defensins’), my time as a practicing scientist came to an end and I transitioned into a new role – that of a lecturer at the same institution. This shift felt like a natural progression as my journey as a teacher commenced (or continued) with supervising second year research students in the Master of Biotechnology and Bioinformatics program. I also coordinated the third-year undergraduate biomedical science subject, MED3PRJ, that year where students were embedded into research labs at the La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science for a semester of researcher experiences.
Engaging with students and colleagues in this new role brought immense fulfillment, not discounting the level of joy I had as a researcher. What changed was it ignited my desire to more intentionally document and share my teaching and learning journey, as well as the experiences of those around me. This marked the beginning of my advocacy for LinkedIn. It is a public platform that not only inspired me but also gave me a voice. For a couple of the subjects I taught, I even introduced LinkedIn as a pedagogical tool to instruct students on the use of LinkedIn to build their professional identities. In fact, effective use of LinkedIn is a critical part of La Trobe University’s Career Ready Advantage Award program.
LinkedIn became and continues to be my creative outlet. I started crafting and sharing content, from short posts enriched with my own photos and videos to longer articles. I also used carousels as a visual tool for conveying messages. I made a commitment to post regularly and after each post, would capture my creation as a screenshot to my computer. As time passed, these screenshots transformed into its own digital archive, and I have been able to rekindle the nostalgia of the printed photo album by ‘scrapbooking’ these life moments.
I enjoy the critical reflective process offered by this platform and will share content (including projects, research articles, presentations, and other media) that I feel adds value and showcases my passions and expertise to my network. I also engage with others though reactions, sharing and/or commenting, further providing tangible proof of my capabilities and contributions. This in turn helps to shape how others perceive my professional identity and expertise.
So, what do I post on LinkedIn?
This carousel perhaps offers a quick summary. For example, I recently posted on my own and others’ achievements. My own was the attainment of a professional accreditation as Fellow of Advance HE, UK, aka FHEA, and for others' I shared successful submission of PhD theses and the completion of an assessment milestone by Master’s research students (just a couple of examples). Importantly, these posts are often the result of what happens in my daily life so are spontaneous and current. I normally couple these posts with compelling visuals and will draw others explicitly into my narrative through tagging their names. This resonates with my network and is a well-practised approach for LinkedIn users. Some of my posts also situate my interactions with others from the workplace under social settings (e.g. birthday celebrations, a shared lunch, a game of tenpin bowling, or a weekend away to a beachside retreat). This presents a holistic view of me as a real person.
In another example, I’ve shared about my involvement in dragon boat racing through videos, posts and articles. This might seem off tangent for a professional networking platform but dragon boating is, after all, the ultimate team sport where unity, synchronicity, and teamwork are vital to success. This can highlight my personal attributes of being committed and accountable, as well as working well with others. This also speaks to my own blend of work–life balance.
LinkedIn isn't just about the ‘humble brag’ and self-expression; it's a hub widely used by potential employers to evaluate job candidates and recruiters to source talent. By actively curating and updating my profile, I increase my visibility to those I want to attract and connect with. The platform often features job openings, making it an invaluable resource for job seekers. Moreover, it is a treasure trove of knowledge, providing access to webinars, courses, articles and people to foster continuous learning.
One of the most significant benefits I've personally experienced from using LinkedIn is its networking potential. I've connected with colleagues, peers, industry leaders, and potential mentors, not just locally but on a global scale. It has surprised me in the past when I’ve been approached by people at events who seemingly know a lot about me purely through my exposure on LinkedIn (i.e. my reputation). They have become valuable connections and may one day lead to valuable career opportunities, collaborations, and insights I wouldn't have found elsewhere. As the popular adage goes, “it's who you know, not what you know” that may matter in the end.
In summary, LinkedIn has played a transformative role in allowing me construct and refine my professional identity from that of researcher to educator. By actively engaging with the platform, I've been able to curate a compelling narrative of my career journey, including colleagues and students along the way. I’ve been able to connect with like-minded peers and stayed informed about developments in the higher education, research and education landscapes.
For all academics, researchers and students who have yet to engage or fully use the platform, here are my parting words: Be authentic in your narrative, be active and consistent in your engagement, provide value by sharing and contributing to discourse, and above all, use visuals. Get on the bandwagon and share and celebrate your story.
He is passionate about supporting students and having a positive impact on their experience while studying at La Trobe University and beyond. He can be found on LinkedIn and periodically contributes to the @SABE_latrobe Twitter account.