Linking up


School leader Paul Ainsworth looks at the professional benefits and practicalities of using the popular LinkedIn social network.

Are you looking for a new method of meeting a range of educationalist across the world who you can share ideas with? Do you want to have subject-
specific conversations about the challenges that you face? Would you like a way of recording your professional development? Is this the time to find out how the careers of your contemporaries from school or university have
turned out?

What is LinkedIn?

LinkedIn is the world’s largest business-orientated social networking site with more than 120 million members. If Facebook reflects your social life then LinkedIn is seen as the equivalent for your work life. You have your own
page or profile, you can make connections with other users and have private conversations with them via its messaging service. You can use LinkedIn to communicate pieces of information, provide updates for your connections, and to join professional discussion forums.

How do I get started?

The first thing to do is to sign up on the website (it is free). You can make your account private so that no-one can view it until you decide that you want it to go live.

Creating a profile

Your profile is like an online CV. It can be private so only your first name and the first letter of your surname is given or you can create a public profile which is visible to all. Most LinkedIn users have a photograph and a short statement (known as your professional headline) explaining who you are and including information such as your current position or a short personal statement.

LinkedIn provides a set of headings including your experience, education, interests, skills and publications. You choose how much detail you wish to give. For example, you could list your complete employment history, describe your main achievements or just list your current job title.

LinkedIn gives advice on how make your profile more complete. The website can be a good way of keeping all your career information up-to-date and in one place.

Making connections

You can search your friends and colleagues to see who is also on LinkedIn in order to build your network quickly. You can also search by organisation. LinkedIn can scan your email account to identify which of your contacts are also signed up with LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is a little stricter on who you connect with as you have to state in what capacity you know the person –such as from one of your professional roles from your profile or simply as a friend. You also have to send a message explaining why you want to connect with someone.

The default text is “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn”, followed by your name. It is a good idea to personalise this if the connection is not someone who would instantly know who you are as you may need to explain why you want to connect with them.

Once you have made some connections, other people will contact you and ask to join your network. If you do not know the person, you may choose to politely ask them why they wish to connect, or you can simply ignore the request.

If you are looking for specific information, you could ask people with these skills to connect with you by beginning a conversation and asking if they would be prepared to give you advice (you can but ask and if people say no, you have not lost anything).

Sharing updates

LinkedIn allows you to share updates of what you are working on. You can even upload documents or presentations. You can also link it to your Twitter output – so that your profile lists all your tweets, but remember that LinkedIn is a professional network so you may not want your personal tweets to appear.


You can also make recommendations on LinkedIn. These are effectively a public reference about your connections. At the same time, you can ask your connections to give a recommendation about a specific project that you have worked upon. You have to accept a recommendation before it is placed on your profile.

Groups and forums

There are wide number of education forums which you can be part of. You can sign up to public forums where you can read the discussion threads freely, or private forums, where the forum co-ordinator must accept you before you can get involved. The forums provide a good way of making connections with people who share your interests.

Using LinkedIn

In the world of education it is unlikely that you will receive job offers via LinkedIn. However, it is an effective method of managing an online CV and is an excellent way of connecting with a wide range of people in education and industry. As with other forms of social networking, what you get out of it is likely to be proportional to what you put in. 

  • Paul Ainsworth is the acting principal of a Leicestershire secondary school and the author of Get that Teaching Job and Developing a self-evaluating school: A practical guide (

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