Career Network for student Scientists and Postdocs at Yale

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LinkedIn: The Basics – Part 1

This week we’re highlighting Post #2 of the 2016 CNSPY Summer Spotlight Series. Here, guest blogger, Tenaya Vallery, CNSPY Executive Board Member and former CNSPY President, takes us through the basics of the LinkedIn profile and highlights how we can maximize our professional online presence. Here’s Tenaya…


LinkedIn! In a series of four posts, we are delving into LinkedIn and discussing its advantages for science PhDs. In this post, I will go over more basics of the LinkedIn profile – editing your profile, the profile picture, and your professional headline. Along the way, I will share examples and tips. Here we go!

What is LinkedIn?

LinkedIn is an online platform that helps you “build and engage with your professional network.” The basic premise is that you have an online profile similar to a CV and you can connect with others, establishing a visible professional network.

In this post, I will focus on creating your professional identity, your LinkedIn profile. Your profile is a window into your professional journey, and it may be your first interaction with recruiters, hiring managers, potential bosses, and other scientists. Ergo you should present yourself professionally, with both images and words.


Editing Your Profile – Turn OFF the Notifications

First, I encourage you to edit your profile at least twice a year or whenever a major career change happens.

Second, when you edit your profile, I recommend turning off your notifications. Your network does not need to know that you changed a little thing in your experience section. The notification feature is great for letting your network know that you switched jobs or got a big award. Otherwise you should turn off this feature.



The Profile Picture

A profile picture is necessary!  A profile without a profile picture does not seem genuine, while, in comparison, one with a photo engages the eye.  I cannot connect the name with a real-life person.  This is also an opportunity to appear warm and inviting. Take advantage of the chance to build a sense of trust with someone before you even meet them!

That said, I am also aware that prejudice can come from a photo. Last year AirBnB, the online room-share website, ran into this problem. AirBnB found that African American users are more likely to be denied a room request by hosts compared to white American users. Specifically, the discrepancy between rates of denied and accepted requests depended on profile pictures and African American-sounding names, leading many African American users to not use a profile picture. Despite what I have heard about this issue, I still believe that your professional profile should be a truthful representation of you, including your photo.

A few tips. I have chatted with several recruiters about the profile picture and picked up a few suggestions.

  • In the picture – ONLY YOU. Some people put up their wedding photo. I understand that this is a significant moment and you both look wonderful, but I am confused about whose profile it is. Be direct. Have a photo of you, by yourself.
  • Background – Neutral, Outdoors. The goal of the photo is for them to look at you. Don’t let the eyes of the recruiter get distracted by your surroundings. The lighting should be even and of good quality. Avoid shadows on your face and behind you. Also keep in mind the rule of thirds. The rule of thirds in photography suggests that, in a headshot, your face should only occupy 1/3 of the image. If the picture is just your face, it is not visually appealing. Alternatively if your face is too small, a connection might not recognize you.
  • Apparel – Professional dress. Dress in business casual with business jackets and collars. Myself, I prefer professional sweaters and dresses.
  • Facial Expression – SMILE!!! No sexy or cute face. Have a warm smile. Be you!
  • Quality – Medium. Professional photographers and high-quality cameras are nice. But I don’t have these. I asked my cousin who works for a TV news station to take and edit my photo. Maybe you can ask a friend with a quality camera to take your photo. If not, use your phone. There are some great apps that provide free filters to edit your photo. Adobe Photoshop is also a great program. The goal is to have a strong, clear image of YOU!! Avoid graininess, shadows, and weird enhancements.


The Professional Headline

When people look you up, they first see your professional headline. It is a statement of who you are professionally, such as Biochemist. I encourage you to use the professional headline as a marketing device.

  • If you are trying to apply for positions outside of academia, try a title like Biochemist, rather than Graduate Student. By doing this, recruiters searching through LinkedIn Premium might find you more quickly.
  • Or you could reword your position. Instead of Graduate Student, how about Ph.D. Candidate or Pre-doctoral Fellow.
  • Do you have a fellowship? Try NIH (Insert Award Code here, e.g. K99) Post-Doctoral Fellow at Yale.

Observations: Some people are putting check marks and adjectives into their professional headlines. I am not a fan. Let your audience judge if you are a Successful Biochemist. Your experience and publications speak for you.

Note: The professional headline has a 120-character limit.


Simplify Your LinkedIn Page Web Address

LinkedIn provides a letter and number code for your LinkedIn page. However, you can simplify it to your name or a simple handle.

How to:

First, click on the gear icon next to the web address on your profile. Hover your mouse to the right side of it for the gear icon to appear.

LinkedIn Web Address

A new page will load. On the right side, there will be a banner with the edit option for the web address. I used my name. Luckily it’s unique and was available. If your name is not available, use alternatives like ‘TVallery’ or ‘tenayavallery_biochemist.’ Remember to stick to professional handles.

Edit Web Address


In closing, the LinkedIn profile is for professional purposes. Ergo you should approach your profile picture and headline through a lens of professionalism. Good luck!

In my next post, I will discuss the experience section, the meat of your profile. Until then, please reach out to me to provide feedback or ask questions. I am happy to help!

Summer Spotlight Series:

  • LinkedIn vs. ResearchGate
  • Basics Part I: Editing, profile picture, and professional headline
  • Basics Part II: Experience section – media, recommendations, endorsements, and publications
  • Basics Part III: Invites and InMail


** Check your LinkedIn profile and see if yours abides by these guidelines. If not, make a few adjustments and let us know how it helps you improve your professional image! **

Share your thoughts below by clicking the “Leave a Reply” link or by clicking the chat bubble in the top right of the post.

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  1. This was such a great post. I am a very experienced LinkedIn user and I learned 2 lessons from this post, which also led me to figure out a 3rd piece of wisdom that I had been struggling with.

    Great work and well executed.

    • Thank you! So glad that an experienced user found my post helpful. It’s been fun putting together this series and even pushed me to expand my use of LinkedIn’s features. The next post is my favorite. I really go into the use of media on LinkedIn, which might also be helpful. But in the meanwhile, I’m curious what the lessons you learned, especially your third piece of wisdom.

      Take care,
      Tenaya Vallery

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