6 steps to growing your professional learning network—using LinkedIn
Before FETC 2019, my professional social media presence was exclusively on Twitter (@matthewxjoseph). That was until I had a conversation with a successful and reputable professional—Rita Oates, education consultant and former ed tech director for Miami-Dade County Public Schools—who told me I was missing out by not being on LinkedIn.
I knew of the site but had never joined. When I started to investigate, I found out that LinkedIn is the top online site for professional, social and career networking; it has millions of members in more than 200 countries.
Once I signed up, I quickly recognized that LinkedIn functions as an online directory of professionals and organizations, and facilitates the process of professional networking. Over the next year, I have used LinkedIn as a resource for publishing, learning and connecting with peers across the world.
LinkedIn can be intimidating for new users, so here are six strategies to help K-12 administrators grow their professional learning networks (PLN).
1. Create a strong profile
People will check out your profile as the first step in connecting. That’s their first impression, so make it a good one. A professional-looking picture is a must. Next, create a summary statement to serve as an “elevator pitch” that speaks to your skills, motivation and interests. People want a quick sample of who you are, so get to the point and make it memorable. Once that’s complete, add your education, certifications and publications. You are building your online cover letter and résumé—not just for a job, but for all the opportunities out there. Think of your LinkedIn profile as your professional brochure.
Think of your LinkedIn profile as your professional brochure.
2. Keep your profile active
The advantage of an online profile is that it can change or expand daily. If you want to stand out, add to your profile as often as you can with examples of your work. Blogs or reports you’ve written, presentations you’ve delivered, and any publications are all good options.
3. Post content
Similar to other social networks, LinkedIn lets you publish regular posts and even write articles. If you want to build your portfolio and reach your target community, make sure your posts are closely related to your skills and profile summary. This will give you a well-rounded summary and a more detailed and complete profile that shows your “professional” best and is focused on what you can offer the community and are willing to share.
4. Be proactive
As Kevin Costner said in Field of Dreams, “Build it, and they will come.” When your profile is complete, connect your emails and other social accounts and grow your existing network. Adding content increases your ability to reach out to former colleagues, college connections, professors, and individuals you’ve met at conferences.
LinkedIn provides a “group” feature to interact with people with a common focus or passion. In groups, you can comment on discussions, share topics on your own feed, and mention other individuals you have found as valuable sources of knowledge—just be mindful not to overwhelm the conversations or use this feature as your personal soapbox. Try to bring value to every post. I discovered that if a group includes LION (LinkedIn Open Networkers) in its title, it is trying to maximize its connections.
5. Check out the connection recommendations
LinkedIn uses high-level metatagging that enhances connection recommendations. In growing your network, you want it to be both diverse and concentrated. However, if you accept a request and find out later it is someone you don’t want to be connected with, you have the ability to disconnect.
6. Dive in
In my brief time on LinkedIn, I can already see the power of this free networking tool. My goal in the first month: dedicate time and effort to make the most of my connections and create an online presence. Another goal: to send a personal note to connections I accept as well as when I send a request. Remember: do not be discouraged by a small number of connections. The more you post and connect, the more quickly that number will grow.
Setting realistic goals to grow a professional learning network is important. It’s not about numbers; it’s about real connections.
Matthew X. Joseph is director of curriculum, instruction and assessment at Leicester Public Schools in Massachusetts, and he was a featured speaker at FETC.
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