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Careers Café

A long list is an unread list


By now, it’s pretty clear that I’m a big fan of information interviews and The Versatile PhD. Your university’s career centre likely offers additional resources, such as books that link content knowledge and a few key skills to different career options (e.g. Careers for History Majors). With career research, though, it doesn’t hurt to have more than one means for exploring your options.

LinkedIn is another career research tool. While it’s primarily a professional networking site, it also happens to be a collection of over 100 million profiles — searchable profiles in which people often describe what they do. For that matter, they often list previous jobs and employers, as well as educational credentials.

For those of you in the research stage, creating a free LinkedIn account allows you to take several potentially informative steps:

  1. Search “People” using keywords for the skills you most enjoy using and/or the areas of knowledge you most enjoy drawing on. For example, if you’ve been trying to figure out how to combine web design with a love of medieval manuscripts, you could use “web design” and “medieval manuscripts” as your keywords. You may find people with careers that draw on both — and you may see trends in whether people satisfy both interests in one job, or whether they typically spread those interests out in a portfolio career.
  2. Search the “Skills” section hidden under the “More” tab along the top of your LinkedIn homepage. When you search a skill that LinkedIn recognizes, it will tell you what industry the skill most frequently appears in, list the most relevant profiles related to that skill, and suggest related skills. This can help you focus the way you think and talk about your skills. For example, if you search “research,” LinkedIn will offer a number of types of research. Some might appeal to you, but others won’t. You can rule out the ones that don’t appeal, and search for opportunities that draw on the skills that do.
  3. Join “Groups” in areas of interest and listen in on the discussions. LinkedIn is a meeting point for countless professional groups. If you’re curious about working in communications for an environmental organization, search “Groups” for those keywords. Try narrowing the search to “Professional Groups,” since they tend to have meatier discussions and less spam than some group types. Once you join groups, you can read their discussions, search their job boards, and ask questions to which you’d like a range of answers. If a group turns out not to be useful, you can leave the group.

If there are resources you’ve found particularly helpful, please feel free to share them with our readers.

Liz Koblyk
Liz Koblyk is the associate director of the Wilson Leadership Scholar Award at McMaster University.
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  1. Noel Semple / May 24, 2011 at 14:20

    LinkedIn is remarkable but I haven’t found many post-secondary academics using it. Do you find it useful for academic careers and scholarly networking?

    • Liz / June 7, 2011 at 11:28

      Hi Noel,

      LinkedIn is definitely favoured more by some industries than by others. For academic networking, LinkedIn’s greatest strengths will likely be in helping you connect with others about pedagogical methods, teaching technologies, or about industries that your research might impact.

      Connections you make on LinkedIn might open the door to academic positions, but other means of networking will likely continue to be of more importance for some time. My own supervisor was generous enough to talk with me about the people I should be in contact with. Of course, not everyone’s that lucky.

      Jo, maybe this is a future blog post topic for you!