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How to network on LinkedIn: A guide for higher education professionals


Special thanks to LinkedIn’s Michael Levine of the Higher Ed industry team for providing valuable insight for this piece.

Within higher education, your professional network can be the key to better career opportunities, professional growth and advancement—and LinkedIn is one of the best tools to help you build and maintain that network. Knowing how to network on LinkedIn will ensure that you use that tool most effectively, helping you create valuable connections with education professionals in your field, at your university, and across the higher education space. 

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Knowing how to network on LinkedIn will ensure that you use that tool most effectively, helping you create valuable connections.

Higher education professionals should think “quality over quantity” when building their network and adding connections. The idea is to connect with people who are most relevant to your field and your interests. Start with colleagues within your department and across your university, but don’t limit yourself to only people you know or have met in person—feel free to reach out to people in relevant fields at other institutions. Just be sure to include an explanatory note when you reach out. Best practices are to be polite, explain the reason why you’re contacting them, and also hopefully add some value back to that person.

In practice, this might look something like the following: “Hello Professor X: I’m Professor Y, and I work in the same field of neuroscience as you. I’m looking to conduct research around the impact of the microbiome on brain function, which you have published studies on in the past, so I would value connecting with you so that we can stay in touch.”

Note that you don’t necessarily need to formally connect with someone on LinkedIn to stay abreast of their activities—you also have the option of “following” people, so that you can see the scholarly articles they’re posting, topics on their mind, conferences they’re attending, and so on.

When deciding whether to connect with someone or just follow them, consider whether it’s someone you might want to regularly be in contact with or potentially collaborate with—in which case, connecting is your best bet. Note that LinkedIn members with a Premium account can use InMail to contact anyone on LinkedIn directly, without having to connect with them first.

You can develop networks within higher education by joining some of the hundreds of LinkedIn Groups that cater to it. One of the networking strategies for narrowing your choices: Choose groups based on your function within higher education (for example, the “Higher Education Adjunct Faculty” or the “Higher Education and Research” groups), or based on location (for example, the “Florida Higher Education Professionals” group). There also may be groups outside of higher education, but specific to your research, that you could join.

Periodically publishing an original piece of long-form content on the LinkedIn platform is a great way for academics to stake out a thought leadership position and develop networks with like-minded professionals. Additionally, it’s an easy win to share their own research on LinkedIn, simply by linking to the original publication where it appeared.

The bottom line? If you’re not using LinkedIn to develop networks, you’re missing out on a valuable resource that can help you take the next step forward in your higher education career. The sooner you learn how to network on LinkedIn, the sooner you can start tapping into all that it has to offer and reaping the professional benefits in the years to come.

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Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America has created and the information within it for informational purposes only. Many of the experts featured in the content are unaffiliated with Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America, College Retirement Equities Fund, and their affiliates and subsidiaries (collectively TIAA), and TIAA makes no representations regarding the accuracy or completeness of any information on the posts or otherwise made available by the individuals. Statements of external featured individuals are solely their own and are not endorsed or recommended by TIAA. Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America and LinkedIn Corporation are independent entities collaborating to bring you
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