As an online adjunct instructor you have a lot to manage both within and outside of your courses. How do you find teaching opportunities? Where do you seek out advice and information about online teaching? Are you sharing your favorite resources with other online instructors? LinkedIn is just one professional social networking venue that includes the tools to do all of these things. This system is currently used by recruiters as well as by those who want to be recruited.
Are you working on a contract basis, or term-to-term? Maintaining an accessible professional profile can be beneficial as you reach out to contact possible schools as employers. There are multiple applications for setting up digital resumes, but a social networking system, like LinkedIn, allows you to not only set up an online resume-type profile, but also use it to network with peers and potential employers who are also using the system. There are free and premium accounts available, but this post is focused on the basic options.
Think of your LinkedIn profile as an online resume. What information is important for those who are hiring adjunct instructors to know? The system offers a lot of options, but the basics will help you establish your online presence and highlight your teaching experience.
- Personal Information: The "basic information" section includes your name, a headline, location options, and industry. Take a look at how other LinkedIn users have set up this area – you'll find a lot of great ideas and a variety of approaches. You can add your credentials (i.e. Ph.D., M.Ed.) to the end of your last name if you prefer they be a part of this section. For more detailed instructions and advice on profiles, check out this blog post from Shari Sax that includes helpful examples and screenshots.
- Work History and Education: Provide a chronological list of positions you've held and education and training you've completed, especially items that relate to the work you are trying to find. You can include as much or as little as you wish here, but make sure what you do include is as accurate as possible and provides details about your accomplishments.
- Summary: Often discouraged on traditional resumes and C.V.s, the Summary feature allows you to provide a brief introduction to who you are and your professional interests. This can be narrative in nature and include a bulleted list of specialties.
- Links: Are you active on Twitter? Do you maintain a blog? Do you have online artifacts (e.g. presentations, papers) that might be interesting to those hiring online instructors? You can add up to three links to your profile, and integrate even more outside information by using LinkedIn Applications (e.g. WordPress, Slideshare, Events) to add sections to your profile.
- Additional features and functions: The Sections feature provides a list of new items you can add to your profile, many of which mirror a traditional academic C.V. Look for: Honors and Awards, Languages, Organizations, Projects, Publications, and Volunteer Experience just to name a few.
Keep in mind that your profile is completely yours, and completely editable, so experiment a bit and see what works best for you. A good profile is also one that is periodically maintained. Social Media Today and 12most.com both list specific activities and updates you should consider including as you move forward with your networking in LinkedIn.
Once your profile is established, it's time to start networking! LinkedIn Groups are organized areas in which members with similar professional interests and goals can meet to engage in asynchronous discussions and exchange resources. Your step-by-step guide for getting started with groups:
Locate Groups. There are currently thousands of LinkedIn groups out there. Here are just a few of those that are focused on adjunct instructors:
- Adjunctprenuer: Members of this group are focused on the entrepreneurial aspect of today's adjunct instructor, who is likely managing multiple contracts.
- Adjunct Faculty Directory: Add your profile to this group and join conversations related to part-time opportunities and the practice of adjunct teaching.
- The Adjunct Network: Another group that relates to the small business aspects of adjunct employment and encourages an exchange of resources and perspectives.
- Online Faculty-Adjunct, Full-time, University Administrators: This group maintains a job board and focuses on online learning opportunities. You'll find lots of advice here for new and aspiring adjunct faculty.
Join Groups. While many groups are open to anyone who wants to be a member, others require approval for access to the group pages. Either way, you'll need to log in to LinkedIn, access the group's main page in the directory and then click on "Join Group." Don't let the approval process deter you from joining a specific group! Many just want to make sure that your professional interests match with the ongoing discussions. You'll receive notification when you've been added to a closed group's roster.
Participate in discussion forums. Once you are a group member, take some time to review the most recent posts in each group's area online. What are the most relevant and popular topics? Who are the most active members? (You can explore their individual profiles from links within their discussion entries.) You may quickly be able to identify threads where you can share helpful information, ask follow-up questions, and commiserate with previous comments. Take the leap and join in a discussion – don't forget to set up the notification for future replies and/or check back later to keep the discussion going. Your professional interaction here will be key to establishing your expertise, so avoid sharing information that would be a breech of student confidentiality or otherwise inappropriate in a professional forum.
Adjust the notification settings. You can modify the default settings of each group you join: select an email address for communications from the group and choose how often you want to receive email updates from the group. (Some groups are much more active than others – you can choose daily or weekly digest email messages to suit your preferences.) You can also choose whether or not to have the group displayed on your profile page.
After you've established your presence in a couple of groups, expand your network with additional groups that include a wider range of issues you are interested in, such as your academic discipline, workplace training, K-12 learning, eLearning and higher education, as well as conferences and professional organizations. Use the Groups Directory to find more options for networking.
While several of the online groups also include a job board of some kind, there are additional tools for finding position openings within the LinkedIn system.
- Follow schools. You can follow individual schools and/or join their groups to find out more about a host of activities, including their hiring announcements. Not every college or university is doing this, but if there are schools you are targeting in your search, check to see if they have a presence on LinkedIn.
- Use the search features. LinkedIn Jobs allows you to search for posted positions within the system using keywords, location, job title, and company or school name. A more advanced search menu also includes job type/function, experience level, industry, and date posted. This kind of search isn't unique, but an added feature of LinkedIn search results lets you know if any of your LinkedIn connections are affiliated with the hiring schools. If you find a position at a school where someone in your network is already working, this is indicated on screen. Why not reach out to that contact and find out more?
Engage Your Network!
If you are new to LinkedIn or haven't visited your profile in a while it can take a little time to get everything updated and in place. This will be time well spent, making it easier for you to make initial contact with prospective employers, expand your professional network, discover new resources, and develop an online presence relevant to your work as an online adjunct instructor. Keep in mind that LinkedIn is just one of the available social networking options for online instructors.
Image credit: Nan Palmero, Flickr