LinkedIn, the business networking site, has more than 300 million members across the globe. It is accessed by companies and employees looking to stay in touch with others in their professions, provides job seekers with information about firms they are considering, and contains the profiles, emails, contact information and photos for all those individuals.
So, why would an athletic director, principal, superintendent, school board member or teacher want to have one more online presence, one more login and password to remember and one more site to check on a regular basis? For the same reason all those business people are there . . . to stay connected.
While LinkedIn’s membership is primarily business-oriented, millions of educators use the site as well, not only to connect to each other, but to connect to those businesses as well. Schools make thousands of purchases each year and look for financial support in thousands of places, both of which LinkedIn connections can assist with making, managing and improving.
Using your LinkedIn connection to send out a query about needed volunteers, equipment purchases, people interested in coaching, help for an event, or best practices for any task provides a much broader and more receptive audience than ads in the local paper, pages on your school websites or emails to your nearby colleagues. Even if you don’t use LinkedIn to ask for help, guidance or direction, others will be able to connect with you (those you have agreed to do so with) to see if you have something to offer them or can collaborate with them on a project or activity.
So how does it work? Create a login, add a profile for yourself (with or without photo) and connect, either to those already in the system or to others with whom you wish to be in contact. You can form connections to fellow educators, search for employment or employees, list job opportunities, view the profile of potential employees and check on their references, post photos or view others, and see who has visited your page.
Send out a question you need help with to your connections (and thereby their connections) to ascertain if others have the same issue, have a solution or have something to add to the discussion. Ask local (and not so local) businesses for information, quotes, estimates, product reviews, suggestions or even donations. Congratulate your colleagues on successes at work, new jobs, retirements, changes in their profiles. LinkedIn’s controlled connection (you must agree to become someone’s connection and must approve of someone using you to connect to others) provides a level of trust not found in other networking sites, one where members feel free to reach out without fear of deception.
LinkedIn has taken educators to heart and provides a variety of specific services for teachers, students, administrators, school board members. One such service is YOUniversity where you can find rankings, alumni, course offerings and contact information about every college in the country and many foreign schools as well. Included in YOUniversity are a variety of search engines to help your students find the right school based on degree offerings, location, cost, etc. Your connection also lets you see, seek and research the latest news, trends and insight in your educational area as well as post your own ideas and information.
But the best reason to join LinkedIn, according to a retired athletic director with limited, but growing computer skills, is to replace stacks of business cards, email addresses lost when computers die or are no longer used, and scraps of paper collected at a convention or conference with one place that is updated every time someone changes his or her email address or school affiliation. And because your information is kept up-to-date, others can seek and find you for help, offers, connections and just to stay in touch.
LinkedIn for educators – connections to a worldwide campus. Really.
Steffen Parker has worked with computers since the mid-1970s and has been a Macintosh user since its introduction in 1984. Owner–operator of Music Festival Software Solutions, he develops online registration and information Web sites for music festivals, state organizations and professional societies. Serving as an IT support person for the Vermont Principals’ Association and the Information Support Specialist for Lamoille North Supervisory Union, Parker supports computer use for adults working in education, administration, finance and publications, including the NFHS High School Today Publications Committee serving as the performing arts representative.