The Biggest Mistake on PhD’s LinkedIn Profiles

April 22, 2019

14Many PhD students and postdocs wonder if they really need a LinkedIn profile. Very often they are told by their advisors that using LinkedIn is a waste of their time. Perhaps it might not be the best go to website for academic job searches; however, if you are exploring any non-academic options, then you need to start using LinkedIn.

To ignore this huge platform would be a mistake and especially disadvantageous for an industry job search. Recruiters are actively sourcing job candidates via LinkedIn. With 590 million users worldwide, one of the keys to standing out is maintaining an active presence on the site. Another key to effectively marketing yourself on this site is to use keywords effectively.

With that in mind, the biggest mistake PhDs make on their LinkedIn profile is often one of the first things a viewer will see – your job title. If you are seeking non-academic positions, you should remove “PhD Candidate”, “Graduate Student”, or “Postdoctoral Fellow” from your LinkedIn headline.

When recruiters search, your headline and professional summary are the first things to appear and recruiters aren’t usually headhunting for a lab’s new postdoc. In fact, if you keep your actual title as your headline, you probably won’t even appear in the recruiter’s search because LinkedIn uses algorithms to help sort profiles based on relevant keywords and skill sets.

Instead of having your actual title listed, consider the jargon of the industry you are targeting. Don’t feel beholden to past academic titles. Add in keywords for the industry positions you are targeting. This could mean a running list of key skills and areas of interest. This will quickly signal to recruiters the types of positions you would be interested in and can help ensure that you will start showing up in their searches.

Examples include:

Research Scientist – Project Manager – Science Communications and Outreach – Event Planning

Or

Microbiologist – Health Policy – Global Health

In conclusion, LinkedIn weighs your headline and professional summary very heavily, so when creating your profile, be sure to pay extra attention to those sections.

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3 Tips for Optimizing Your LinkedIn Profile

August 28, 2014

For better or worse, LinkedIn has become the new résumé and whether you like it or not, you are being searched online. Generally, only the top four or five results are being reviewed, so it is imperative that you use your LinkedIn profile to optimize your online presence and control your professional branding.

Not on LinkedIn? Well, your lack of a presence says something too, especially with 60 million users in the United States. If a recruiter can’t find you on LinkedIn, they might falsely assume you aren’t tech savvy or that you have antiquated views of the world of searching for work.

When utilized during a job search, LinkedIn can be a powerful tool and it is crucial to make sure your LinkedIn profile is professional and up to date.

Here are some more tips for optimizing your LinkedIn profile:

  1. Upload a photo.
    Many people have concerns about uploading a photo to LinkedIn, especially since photos aren’t usually included on résumés or CVs in the United States. Worries about ageism, racism and sexism obviously trump more innocuous concerns about simply not being photogenic.  Ageism, racism and sexism are all extremely valid concerns within any job search; however, the benefit of a photo is that it makes you human and not just a hyperlink. Profiles with photos get clicked on seven more times than those without.An image of a LinkedIn page with yellow and orange spots showing where recruiters looks the most. Further highlighting the importance of a photo on your profile can be seen in a study done by Ladders which used heat maps to review the eye tracking techniques of thirty recruiters over a ten week period. They found that recruiters spent 19% of their total time looking at your picture. Where did they look next? Your summary, so…
  2. Avoid long, boring summaries.
    Your summary is not meant to be a data dump or a novel of long paragraphs that will potentially overwhelm, or worse, bore the reader. There are two possible solutions. Solution A. Keep it simple with one sentence, which will hopefully encompass great keywords and will encourage the reader to keep scrolling down to read more. Solution B. Use an overarching key statement and then bullet points.
  3. Make sure your groups add to your brand.
    Groups are a great way to connect with like-minded individuals; however, being a member of too many disparate groups can begin to dilute your professional branding. An easy fix is to go in and make some of your group memberships invisible. To do so, simply go to the group section within your profile and you will see a visibility setting which you can adjust by unchecking the box “Display the group logo on your profile.”

Finally, another way to optimize your LinkedIn profile is quite simple: use it more. The more you use LinkedIn, the better it works. By doing some searches for jobs, groups and even people, LinkedIn will begin to recognize what you are looking for and it will offer suggestions. An additional way to increase your visibility is to participate more by asking thoughtful, professional questions to your groups and/or by commenting on industry-specific articles.

With that advice in mind, what other LinkedIn tips could you share? Feel free to share any comments in the OITE NIH Intramural Science group on LinkedIn.


How I Used LinkedIn to Get a Hiring Manager’s Attention

April 2, 2014

Part one of a two-part series written by guest blogger Dr. Phil Ryan, Director of Student Services at the Office of Intramural Training and Education.

I am in an enviable position because I love my job. Regardless, we should all be looking forward in our career and thinking about what the next step entails. While I am not actively pursuing new positions, every now and then a job posting comes to my attention and piques my interest. I am sure many of you have had a similar experience. Usually the scenario goes like this: you see the job title and it sounds like something that really interests you. Next, you click on the posting and read the job description and you really love what you are reading. Then, you scroll down to the qualifications section and your heart sinks a little bit. The degree and field in the education section does not match your own. The position description lists years of experience that you don’t have on your resume and the wording they use does not match any of the official titles you can list on your resume.

The truth is if you submitted your resume through the normal channels, it would not get forwarded on to the hiring manager for them to review. But, you feel certain you can do that job, do it well and really enjoy it. This experience recently happened to me and I want to share how I used LinkedIn to overcome some of these barriers in order to grab the attention of the hiring manager before I ever submitted my application.

Step 1: Get Prepared

The first thing I did was find the Web page for the department in which this position was located. In many job postings it will list the title of the person that position reports to. Sometimes, it just lists the department the position will be in. Either way, with a little searching online you can often find the director of that office or department. After I found the director of the office in which this position was located, I looked him up on LinkedIn and searched the Internet for other information on him. I found a couple articles he had written and I read them.

Then, I changed and updated my LinkedIn profile. This is one of the benefits of LinkedIn. On a resume it is hard to stray from your official titles for a position. But in the experience section of your LinkedIn profile you can highlight the activities you are involved in even if they aren’t a part of your official job. You can also include links to your projects available online, or to Web pages of organizations or events you have been a part of. You can highlight whatever projects you want to highlight in the Projects section. Most importantly, your summary can be used to clearly communicate what it is you are passionate about.

Step 2: Reach Out

Once my profile was updated and organized to make me look like a great candidate, I sent the director a request to connect. It read something like this:

“Dear Mr. Director, I am interested in the position of [position title] in your office. I have read a couple pieces you have published and really like your take on [field]. I hope we can link in to share resources and network.”

Notice that I offered up another reason for him to accept my invitation other than to discuss the position. It’s important to realize that my offer of sharing resources and networking was sincere. Even if we were not able to discuss the position, I was making a connection in a field of interest to me professionally.

Within three days we were talking on the phone about the position, the field in general, and our respective career paths. I had not even submitted my application and I was basically having a pre-interview! At the end of our conversation, he encouraged me to submit my application. Within a week of my LinkedIn request, I was on Skype interviewing with the entire hiring committee and was later flown out for an in-person interview. As a career development professional, I had to ask if my application would have made it to his desk had I not contacted him through LinkedIn. He would not go so far as to say “no,” but he certainly did not say “yes.”

The end result was I was offered the position. After careful consideration, I respectfully declined to accept the job. Why? Well, that is to be continued in another blog post….

 


13 Best Career Websites of 2013

December 16, 2013

An image of a magnifying glass with "2013" in bold.2013 is quickly coming to a close and the approach of a new year can be a great time to reflect – not only on the past year, but also on what you hope to accomplish in the coming year.  Inspired by year in review montages we have already begun seeing, we decided to take time to reflect on this year as well, specifically on some of the best career resources at one’s fingertips in 2013. This is not an exhaustive list, nor is it in rank order.  As always, we would love to hear your input – please share your very own “Best of 2013” resources in the comments.

1. LinkedIn
LinkedIn is still the largest professional networking site with more than 238 million users in 200-some countries worldwide. This service is still the most highly utilized option to connect with networks of people. Increasingly, recruiters are also using the site to source candidates for open positions.

2. Indeed
Indeed aggregates data from across the web with a Google-like search engine. It pulls information from job boards and company websites while utilizing a clean, user-friendly interface. All you need to do is put in your keyword and zip code and you will see results within a 50-mile radius.

3. SimplyHired
SimplyHired operates in a very similar way to Indeed; however, one extra benefit is that, when logged in, the site will also show you LinkedIn connections you may have at that organization.

4. Idealist
Idealist is the largest nonprofit job board in the United States. The site also features a blog with inspiring stories and the ability to search for volunteer opportunities by geographic location or keyword.

5. Salary.com
Salary.com provides data on average salaries based on job title and geographic location. This can be a great tool to utilize to help you prepare for an upcoming salary negotiation. Plus, it also has a “Cost of Living Wizard” which can help you understand how far your salary would go in a new city.

6. Glassdoor
Like its name implies, Glassdoor gives you a transparent look inside a company.  This is a completely anonymous site that allows users to disclose information about the pros and cons of an organization. Users will also post interview questions they were asked and some will even share salary information. You must create an account and log in to view the full information provided. Keep in mind that users at Glassdoor input their own salary data (which is not verified by the employer).  Glassdoor does evaluate the data to make sure that it meets community guidelines and is not suspicious. 

7. USAJOBS
The official site for government jobs – it includes postings from very diverse agencies across the government.  By law, any open federal position must be posted on this site. The site also has comprehensive employment information about eligibility, compensation, and benefits.  For help on navigating this dense site, see our previous blog post, “Which Federal Agencies & Contractors Hire Scientists.”

8. ScienceCareers
The ultimate career development and job search site for scientists. This is a global site with special-focus portals such as Minority Scientists Network and Postdoc Network.

9. ScienceJobs
From New Scientist Magazine, this site features job listings, a resume database and employer profiles.

10. BioCareers
The career center for job seekers in the life sciences. This site features industry articles, company information, job profiles, and career fairs.

11. Bureau of Labor Statistics
The Department of Labor compiles labor statistics and creates an Occupational Outlook Handbook each year. This is a fantastic but not oft utilized resource which details hundreds of occupations under the categories: What They Do, How to Become One, Work Environment, Pay, and Growth/Employment Projections for each occupation.

12. Evisors
Evisors tries to connect job seekers with mentors under the mission of democratizing access to great career advice. You can search the database to find your perfect career coach and you can also sign up to become a mentor to others.

13. OITE
The OITE website gives trainees access to a multitude of resources, including: the NIH Alumni Database, videocasts of highly relevant career workshops, and career information for all of the different populations here at the NIH. On top of this, it gives you access to the following services: career counseling, leadership and development coaching, resume/CV/cover letter critiques, mock interview help, formal assessments, and much more.

As evidenced from this list, there are many great resources on the web; however, we want to remind you to utilize these online sites as a way to research companies and individuals in order to then make face-to-face connections. We look forward to seeing you in the New Year!

* Disclaimer: The online resources noted in this post are merely informational in nature and listing them does not constitute an endorsement by NIH OITE.


The 3 Most Important Factors of a Job Search: Networking, Networking and Networking

November 14, 2013

Image of stick people with dotted lines connecting each individual to anotherIn real estate parlance, it is said that the three most important factors in maximizing the value of your property are location, location and location.  Networking carries a similar importance, especially for those preparing for a career beyond NIH, or your current institution.  Many good jobs are filled by candidates who have been identified prior to that job being officially posted.  Therefore, the more broadly your net of contacts can be cast, the better your chances of receiving advanced information on positions which are of interest to you.

Developing and cultivating your network of contacts is critically important whether your career plans are in the academic setting or in industry.  For those of you at the NIH, who are planning a career in the academic setting, networking is more straight-forward in that the people with whom you are in contact every day are often key components of your network.  For those who desire to move into a career in industry, networking will involve going beyond your normal day-to-day routine.  In this case you will need to build a network of contacts that are working in industry and doing similar jobs to those of your interest.

There are some tools available that can help you establish and maintain contacts outside of your current work environment.  LinkedIn can be used to identify and communicate with people in industries and companies that you have targeted.  Your University’s Alumni Database as well as the NIH Alumni Database can be good resources for finding industry contacts as well.  In addition, contacting these alums can provide insight on the issues associated with the transition from academic labs to industry.  Once you have identified potential contacts, an informational interview is an excellent way to discover more about a company and develop a contact (hopefully an advocate) within the company when job openings occur.

Another way to bolster your network is through attending conferences.  Not only do you have a chance to meet industry scientists who are in the same field as your area of expertise, but you also can take the opportunity to meet the business people from the companies who are displaying at the conference.  Both the scientific and business people within the companies can help you navigate the HR policies and procedures when there are job openings.  In addition, attending trade association get-togethers can also be a good way to build your network.  These are the same conferences and meetings that you would normally attend; use them as an opportunity to meet the people from industry.

One final thought; start your networking today!  So many people say that they want to get their next job now, so it is time to start networking.  Networking should begin the day you start in your present position.  Your network of contacts can take years to build and cultivate.  It is often the case that a contact you meet for one particular purpose can play a role in your career months, or even years later.


The Top 4 Things You Should STOP Doing on LinkedIn

September 23, 2013

A stop sign that has fallen overBy now you have probably realized that LinkedIn can be a powerful tool during your job search, but LinkedIn is not just another social networking site – it is the professional social network.  As in real-life workplace situations, judiciousness and professional courtesy should steer all of your activity on LinkedIn.  You have worked hard to make and keep a good impression in your lab and/or office.  The same should hold true on LinkedIn; you need to make and maintain a positive, professional appearance. A LinkedIn faux pas has the potential to damage your career path, so here are a few red lights to heed to along the way:

1. Stop using LinkedIn’s auto-generated templates.
LinkedIn pre-populates most message fields; however, that doesn’t mean you should keep the generic message as your own.  Whether it is requesting a connection or congratulating someone on a new job you should take the time to personalize your correspondence.  Using the auto generated “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn” misses an opportunity to tell the person why you want to connect. Make it as specific as you can; for example, “It was great sitting next to you at OITE’s Academic Job Interviews Workshop on Monday.  I enjoyed chatting about your research at NCI and I’d like to stay connected.”

2. Stop indiscriminately connecting with people.
The people you choose to connect with are often viewed as an extension of yourself, so make sure you know who they are and why they want to connect with you. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t link in with an acquaintance or even a stranger; however, if making a request to add a cold contact, you must explain why you want to connect (which goes back to point # 1).

3. Stop clicking on things!
With just a simple click of a button, you can quickly and easily endorse the skills and expertise of your connections; however, this doesn’t necessarily mean you should.  An endorsement can be seen as baffling if you are endorsing an individual for something you have never witnessed them doing first-hand.  An endorsement can also feel more annoying than gratifying to the recipient if this is an area that they practiced years ago. Many also wonder, “Are you secretly expecting an endorsement or recommendation in return?”  In an effort to continue advertising the endorsements feature, LinkedIn frequently groups your contacts together and asks if you would like to endorse them all for skills they have on their profile in one fell swoop.  Use your best judgment and think before you click.

4. Stop doing nothing.
Doing too much on LinkedIn – reposting every article you read online that day or asking everybody for a recommendation – can be overwhelming to your connections and it can create a negative online impression.  Equally bad is doing nothing at all. If you are job searching, this could even be worse. So, take the time to set a well-cropped, professional headshot as your profile photo (note: pictures of you on a beach, holding your cat, or with a group of friends do not set a good first impression of you as a serious professional).  Update your contact information, your headline and then get out there! As with any social network, the premise is to participate, so don’t be afraid to contribute to the conversation.


Dont Leave Us Hanging!

July 16, 2013

As you get ready to end your summer internship or your summer rotations as a grad student, don’t forget to keep in touch.

We often hear from our younger trainees that you enjoyed your summer experience.  You like the research and felt you got along great with your mentor(s). Yet, when many of you write to join the lab again the following summer or to get a letter of recommendation your feel like you never hear from the advisor or you get a lukewarm response.  “Why?” you ask,  “I did good work.”   Of course you did, you just forgot to demonstrate how much the work meant to you and how much you want to stay a part of that work.

We know that it can be hard to keep up with your labs when you leave (without feeling like a stalker).  So, here is a suggestion to get started.  Send your PI a brief thank you note within a month of leaving.   This does not need to be a long email, just a few short lines thanking them for letting you be in their research group, something valuable that you learned, and that you hope you can keep in touch.  Write a separate (and different) letter to your day to day mentor or supervisor in the lab, probably your postdoc or graduate student.

You can always follow up anytime with a quick hello, and to let people know that you still are thinking about your experience.  Once a semester is even enough.  Ask about the project you worked on and if there has been any progress.

If your research has helped your coursework or your coursework has finally made something you learned during the summer more clear, let people know.  (i.e. this week we studying signal transduction which made me think about…)

Follow pub-med-watch to see if that paper that the lab was toiling over all summer was finally published.  Then send a note to congratulate the authors.

Connect online, LinkedIn is a terrific way to make a connection.  You should ask your advisor and other labmates if they would like to be connected before you send them an invitation.  Also, remember LinkedIn is static, and not everyone in the scientific community yet uses it to its full ability.  It will not replace an active networking outreach as described above.

When it comes time to return to the research group or to ask for a letter of recommendation, remind them who you are and what you did in their group.

Good luck to you as you wrap up your summer research experience, we are glad you came!