Following conversations with colleagues and teachers online about LinkedIn I thought I would run a quick poll on Twitter to see how the site is used within education. The poll asked teachers if they have a LinkedIn account. 311 people voted. The results were 42 % yes with 58 % saying no, they do not have an account. The poll didn’t go in-depth about usage or interaction but several people commented and responded.
In case you didn’t know, LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network. Unlike Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media, LinkedIn is designed to be purely professional. LinkedIn was launched in May 2003 and according to the LinkedIn website it has over 467 million members across 200 countries.
Professionals set up an account with what is essentially an online CV. They then connect with other professionals in their field using the site to assist them (LinkedIn does state that users should not connect with people they don’t know but clearly people do).
The aim of this post is not to encourage teachers to create a LinkedIn account or to use LinkedIn more, but instead I will share how I use the site as an educator and explore the advantages and disadvantages with being a LinkedIn member. I will also raise some points and questions about using LinkedIn within education (I am discussing the free option, as you can join LinkedIn for free or pay a subscription fee for access to different features).
You can view my LinkedIn page here.
In response to my poll Head of Department Mark Enser replied, “I have it – don’t use it” I think this is very true with a lot of teachers, as the other responses were very similar. I wonder why this is the case? Why do many teachers set up an account, obviously with the intention to use the site, but don’t actually use it?
Another teacher responded to my survey that they did have an account but didn’t actually understand the purpose of LinkedIn. Perhaps some teachers feel that LinkedIn isn’t the best platform for professional development? Also, as teachers our time is very precious so dedicating time to LinkedIn is clearly not a priority compared to planning, marking etc but we do recognise that continuing professional development is very important. Many teachers informed me that they prefer Twitter as form of social media to network with other educators and would rather use and dedicate time to Twitter instead of LinkedIn, or don’t see the value/point in using both. Yet I know as a regular LinkedIn user, (with over 500 connections, although not all the connections are in education) that there are teachers/educators using the site daily.
Headteacher and co-founder of WomenEd Hannah Wilson highly recommends LinkedIn as you can, “be offered jobs, meet contacts, find articles, events and capture testimonials”. There are also teachers that don’t use any form of social media for professional purposes and wish to steer clear of doing so due to the issues that can arise with social media.
I reluctantly joined LinkedIn last year.
Like many others, I viewed LinkedIn as being connected to business. I struggled to see the link and relevance with the site and education, unless searching for a job. For many people the main purpose of LinkedIn is a tool for recruitment with recruitment agencies using the site, employers and people seeking new employment. In August 2016 I started a new role, teaching overseas for the first time. I do not intend to leave my current position for at least two years, as this is the agreement with my contract, yet I am still using LinkedIn on a regular basis.
After understanding how the site works, it is relatively easy and user friendly. I created my LinkedIn profile (my online CV) which has no template so you can include/not include what you want. As we know, when writing a CV it is not the time to be modest. I included my qualifications, areas of expertise, previous roles and responsibilities, skills, volunteering experience and some personal interests. It is a good idea to regularly update your LinkedIn profile as you take on new responsibilities or if you wish to share any areas of career progression such as courses, awards etc.
In February 2016 after a visit to Dubai I made the decision to start searching for a teaching position in the United Arab Emirates and leave the school I was at in North Wales. I told my Headteacher and she was very supportive about my decision. At this point I had been using LinkedIn regularly for six months and had already started to connect with a lot of teachers and Senior leaders based in the UAE. After the conversation with my Headteacher I updated my LinkedIn profile stating, ‘seeking Teacher of History position in the UAE’. A day later I was contacted by a Senior leader from the UAE informing me that there was a Teacher of History position at their College and that he was very impressed with my profile and encouraged me to apply. This was a fantastic confidence boost. I researched the College to find out more, then I decided to apply.
It is important to add that of course it wasn’t my LinkedIn profile that got me the job.
I had to complete the very thorough application form, send an up-to-date CV and letter of application to the Headteacher. I then had to complete a Skype interview. Two days later though, I was offered the job and I accepted. This shows how LinkedIn played an important role securing my new job in the UAE acting as an instigator.
As a tool for supporting educators in an international setting, LinkedIn works very well. In Dubai there has been a huge increase in international schools. Many schools have opened in Dubai for the first time this academic year. To advertise for whole School/College staff on various websites such as the TES can be very expensive. Whilst schools do invest money into recruitment and advertising there are also an increasing amount of recruiters and Senior leaders looking to LinkedIn.
As the end of the first term approaches there will be teachers who have not passed their probationary period or themselves made the decision to no longer stay at the school next term. Last week I received four messages from recruiters urging me to apply for teaching positions beginning 8th January 2017 in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Qatar!
In my opinion and experience LinkedIn is used widely in the international school sector although I do regularly see on my newsfeed UK based teaching positions advertised too. I am connected with several Headteachers, Senior leaders and teachers based in the UK. When I was considering moving to the UAE I contacted teachers already based there to ask questions and seek advice. The responses were very helpful and honest. In recent weeks I have had three teachers contact me asking about my experience teaching in the UAE as they are also considering the move.
Other than recruitment there are some other features to LinkedIn which make it a helpful tool to use. I regularly check LinkedIn to read different educational blogs and articles, by educators that I am connected to. It is an excellent way to keep up-to-date with current affairs, updates and debates surrounding education. The same can also be said for Twitter. I am a huge advocate for using Twitter as form of professional development and having a PLN (Personal/Professional Learning Network). There are however a minority of teachers who have been rude, abusive and unprofessional to others teachers on Twitter, sometimes through anonymous accounts which are much easier to create on Twitter than LinkedIn. I think debate and discussions are important and helpful as practitioners to reflect and progress, plus people show such passion for education and trying to reform the system. That said, I do avoid the confrontation and unpleasantries as it makes me very uncomfortable. As LinkedIn is a professional network I have never seen (although that is not to say it doesn’t happen) educators be rude, demoralising or using bad language. People respond in a professional manner and tone (should you ever encounter or witness inappropriate behaviour online both Twitter and LinkedIn have a block feature and a feature where you can report accounts for abusive behaviour).
I am a regular blogger and a quick analysis of my stats page shows that many of my views come from LinkedIn. If you are a blogger using LinkedIn can certainly increase your audience. LinkedIn has allowed me to connect with educators globally and has been fantastic for my professional development.
I am always striving to learn more about teaching and further develop my knowledge and practice. LinkedIn helps me to demonstrate this interest, commitment, enthusiasm and desire to progress to potential future employers.
Connections and endorsements
I was able to connect with many teachers before I arrived at my new College. I messaged a History teacher in my department to introduce myself. Everyone I contacted replied and was very welcoming and friendly. During the induction week I was able to recognise several teachers after connecting on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is also great to stay in touch with former colleagues, should you not wish to do so on personal social media such as Facebook.
An important feature of the site is the ability to endorse people. On the profile section you can list various skills and people you are connected with can endorse you for those skills. After recently speaking at an event in Dubai, the JESS Digital Innovation Summit, a teacher who attended my session then connected with me using LinkedIn and endorsed me for public speaking. I have also recently endorsed a colleague I work with as she has a Head of House role for the Pastoral House I am based in. I think she is fantastic and has demonstrated many excellent leadership qualities and skills. I was happy that I could endorse her on a public and professional platform. This is a good insight for employers as other professionals can endorse your skills or write a recommendation for you (all recommendations have to be approved so if someone did write something about you that you were not happy with you have the control not to show it on your profile).
My research has shown me that the number of young people using LinkedIn is rising quickly. 40 million students and graduates have joined LinkedIn resulting in the fastest growing demographic. Should we as teachers be sharing LinkedIn with pupils and offering advice and guidance or actually does this generation not need teachers to assist with this area of career development as many are setting up accounts independently? The minimum age in some countries to have a LinkedIn account is 13 years old. Do any 13 year olds actually use LinkedIn? What skills do they list on their page and do their friends endorse them? Should teenagers be setting up a professional account whilst in education? Do Schools encourage or discourage pupils to use the site? Do Schools/teachers/parents know if their pupils/child are using LinkedIn? Whether or not LinkedIn is good or bad for young people, online safety must be considered and taken seriously as with all forms of social media.
I personally enjoy using LinkedIn and find it very useful and beneficial. However, not all teachers believe the site is useful or beneficial to them for various reasons. Here are my quick pros/cons of using the LinkedIn site.
- Easy to use. User friendly. Available as a free app.
- Access to a worldwide network of educators that you can connect with, interact, share and learn from.
- Regular updates, blogs, news etc surrounding education posted daily.
- Great potential when searching for a teaching position. I have seen teaching positions advertised on LinkedIn before advertised on other sites (probably because it is much cheaper to advertise/recruit).
- A fantastic platform to showcase your skills, experience and passion for education.
- A professional site purely focused on professional development, networking and recruitment.
- Turn off notifications in settings and e-mails because this can become overwhelming when people will ask to connect or accept your connection request.
- Anyone you can connect with can message you. I have received many very generic messages or messages from people selling educational products that I am not interested in in addition to the fact that I do have the power/influence/finance to purchase such expensive whole school equipment and products!
- Some people argue that LinkedIn is becoming more like Facebook, as people post personal photo’s and posts. Others argue this is to show work/life balance but the LinkedIn user agreement states very clearly to “use the service in a professional manner”. There was also a recent post by a woman on LinkedIn saying she had been approached by men and that she was aware of some women that had used the site to meet professional men, claiming LinkedIn was the new Tinder! I cannot comment on that but again that is not what LinkedIn is designed for!
- Think carefully about what information you decide to share on your profile. My example…I decided to add that my personal interests include theatre, fitness and travel. I have been contacted by several people asking me to buy their fitness products such as protein shakes etc, asking would I be interested in becoming a fitness instructor or a sports coach. I meant I go to the gym. That is all.
- Random people will want to connect with you that are not in your field. Obviously decide who you wish to connect with but if you connect only with educators then your newsfeed will be focused on education, rather than sifting through and scrolling down to find the posts that will be of interest and relevance to you.
Thanks for taking the time to read my post. I would be very interested to hear if or how you are using LinkedIn for your professional development as an educator. Please feel free to follow my blog and leave comments below or why not just drop me a message on Twitter or LinkedIn.