Kris Jack, whom I didn’t know until yesterday, sent me a message request to tell me about his company: https://smarttribe.io/ – (It provides a great service to researchers who want to move to industry by connecting the two with an appealing profile of the researcher, including “Blitzcards” (I love the idea, but see for yourself!) and providing a mentoring service that seems truly amazing.)

His spirited initiative made me once more think explicitly about the process and potential opportunities of online networking. So here are a few observations I would like to share with you. It’s unlikely that you’ll find any revolutionary insights, but I always find that learning from an example is more rewarding than from theoretical step-by-step instructions, don’t you?

Kris’ message was quite long and at the same time carefully crafted. That is something that made him stand out. Usually, people only send contact requests (not message requests*) without any message. So, the lengths of his message and the details were definitely a plus in my eyes. Further, Kris seemed to take a genuine interest in my opinion – despite the fact that (or because?) we have never met, on- or offline. So, although it was clear to me that the purpose of his message was to promote his company, he was also actively asking for my interest in the subject of career paths for PhDs. As a result, I felt acknowledged and involved. And now, I have a new contact with an exciting company that has already sparked lots of inspiring ideas… 

But how do new connections like this happen?

Kris contacted me because I posted something in the Career Networking Group on LinkedIn that he saw. That is the short version. 

The longer version is more interesting, because it will give an answer to all those who are asking themselves what they need to do and how long it takes in order to create a meaningful online network.

HERE IS WHAT I DID

(and there is so much more I could do! – I’m curious about your additional ideas and stories in the comments!):

  1. About three months ago, I started writing most of my social media posts and comments in English, thus including myself into the international LinkedIn community.
  2. Around the same time, I actively started sending contact requests to people related to my field: PhD students, postdocs, industry experts with an interest in researchers, career coaches with a focus on academia. My contact list has grown from 280 to 357 in about 3 months. For someone who has been on LinkedIn for five years this is quite a steep curve!
  3. As a direct result of connecting with people in my area (and I mean both sides: those who might be interested in my services and content as well as those who do similar things as myself), I see more and more relevant content on LinkedIn. I make connections with people with whom I share a common purpose: bridging the gap between academia and industry or NGO or the public sector (or helping people bridge that gap).
  4. Another thing, I have been doing more actively and regularly than before is posting my own content, which in turn prompts other LinkedIn users who find this relevant to send me contact requests.
  5. I have been engaging with individual contacts via the LinkedIn messenger and found this to be a low-threshold way to make meaningful, individual contact outside my Corona bubble.

HERE ARE MY LEARNINGS AND RESULTS TO DATE

  1. In a matter of a few months, I have come across a bunch of inspiring thought leaders in my area (Chris Humphrey, Sarah Blackford, Jennifer Polk, Kris Jack), as well as great, new ideas and resources that might be of use to you who are looking for interesting and fulfilling careers outside academia.
  2. A lot more people have engaged with my blog posts.
  3. There is no end to inspiration for new things to try out, for resources to recommend to my clients and workshop participants.
  4. Staying engaged in online networks makes me feel more connected to what is happening in my professional field.
  5. Directly related to the above: I am experiencing the power of sharing great ideas and services by other people. Multiplying what’s helpful – what can be better?
  6. So far, 3 people have approached me on LinkedIn to express their interest in my coaching services. Imagine this happened to you, being contacted by employers who are interested in you as a candidate!

And yes, of course, you can create content that is relevant to your desired professional field without having a blog. You don’t need to be self-employed or a freelancer. There are lots of stories about people who have found their future employer or gained more expertise in their field via LinkedIn. 

What are you waiting for? Come and see me on LinkedIn! Connect! Find your crowd! 

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