LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional social network. While there are a lot of resources for using LinkedIn, there are few that help you as a physician. This LinkedIn physician guide, part of The Public Physician, is written to help you get the most out of this important networking tool.
What will LinkedIn do for you?
LinkedIn creates the opportunity for a basic online presence with a robust public profile. It’s a home base for your personal brand and a good place to start when looking to stake your claim online. It’s a site where you can park your bio; declare what you’ve done, where you work, and where you went to school; amplify your research; link to other professionals; and much more.
To put it in a context that doctors can understand, think of it as a public CV on (anabolic) steroids.
Perhaps most importantly, LinkedIn will offer you immediate real estate on the first page of Google. I sometimes call LinkedIn “social media lite” since it doesn’t require the time or commitment that other social media applications do in order to see a benefit.
And in 2020 LinkedIn reports over 660 million users worldwide. So you can’t ignore this. While LinkedIn has traditionally not been a prime destination for physicians its adoption is growing among health professionals. As Twitter becomes more politicized, some physicians like me are finding LinkedIn to be a more ‘neutral’ place.
Signing up is easy and intuitive. And just like I advise for every platform that you use as a public physician, study your colleagues to see how they build their profiles.
Elements of Linked In that will be useful to you
When I look at LinkedIn I see it from the view of its functionality. What can it do for you? It’s loaded with features but for now you might think about 4 core elements that will work for most doctors:
- LinkedIn profile. This is your core information page that’s home base for all your critical information. Everything on LinkedIn begins and ends on your profile.
- Feed. The stream of information shared by colleagues you are connected with.
- Slideshare. This function allows you to upload a slide presentation for everyone to see.
- In publishing. This feature allows you to write the equivalent of a blog post
Start with understanding the profile and feed and you’ll be off to the races. Uploading presentations and writing posts might be a second step for you. An advanced feature that you take on later.
LinkedIn profile: Basic elements for a great professional look
Here are the basic elements of a LinkedIn profile that you need to think about when setting up your profile. As you read about these elements you might open up my LinkedIn profile and use it as a basic example.
As you’ll see pretty quickly, in order to build out your LinkedIn page you have to have a grasp on your online purpose and identity. Go back and read Physician Identity Online if you’re still waffling on this.
Personal background photo
This is the wide wallpaper-like background picture at the top of your profile. Depending upon your identity and how you want to present yourself, this is a great way to express a little bit of individuality. See what other physicians have done and you’ll see everything from images of their hospital system to retro historical images. Have fun with this part. It is optional, however.
On my profile I chose a nighttime shot of my hospital, Texas Children’s Hospital | The Woodlands. It’s where I work everyday and it’s a beautiful, eye-grabbing image. Check it out.
Your picture is critical to how only to how you present yourself but to how you are found. Profiles with a headshot get 14x more views than those that don’t. So take the time to upload a high quality, cropped headshot.
- LinkedIn offers a great primer on choosing the right headshot.
This is obvious, hopefully. But be sure to put ‘MD’ or ‘DO’ after your last name within the text field. There’s no other place to put your degree. Most physicians will be searched not just by our names, but by our names followed by our degree.
Headline (120 characters)
The headline is the short description just below your name. This is the quick hit summary of your identity and what you do. As small as it is, it is one of the most critical parts of your profile. It’s the only thing people will see when your name appears on lists in LinkedIn. And your declaration sits right below your name.
As you will find, many physicians will note their specialty. Others will summarize their medical leadership positions or describe themselves as writers or entrepreneurs. Depending on how you want to present yourself, think of your headline as your opportunity to share the difference you make as a physician.
Look at lots of LinkedIn profiles to get a sense of the kind of latitude you have.
When you set up your account you will be assigned a URL that you can edit and customize. I would recommend using your name with your degree. The URL is pretty important because it’s what you will share with people when you want to direct them to your page. If you don’t have a core website you can share your LinkedIn URL at the bottom of your email. It’s a great way to direct people to what you want them to know about you.
Biography (2000 characters)
When I meet someone new and I want to know more about them, the first place I go is LinkedIn, and there’s nothing worse than going there and finding their name, institution, and nothing else (I call this a digital ghost town). So build a great bio.
Most physicians are used to laundry list CVs that detail every career move they’ve ever made. Good stuff for treating insomnia, not so great for painting a picture of you. Leverage your bio space to create a narrative description of what you do and where you’re headed. Make it personal and compelling. Tell a story. Even if your experience is limited you can still let your passion shine through.
A couple of more things to think about when crafting your LinkedIn bio:
- Study your digital mentors. The bio is definitely one element where you want to study your colleagues doing similar work as you. Often times you can take someone else’s bio and use it as a starting point for yourself.
- First or third person. As you can see by looking at my profile, I have written it in third person. Most doctors write in first person. It’s personal preference. I think first person looks more approachable (so I guess I should change mine).
- Consider outbound links. Your bio can contain links to things you mention. While you want to be careful about sending people away from your profile, this feature can be really helpful in accenting something you’ve done. Some of this shameless horn tooting can be done in the project part of profile if you choose to use it.
This is the part that looks like a CV. It’s important because people want to know where you’ve been and what you’ve done. This is key: Be sure to fill in the descriptions of what you did in your position. You can see on my profile how those descriptions really tell a story of what I accomplished in each of these roles. The titles on their own actually say very little.
Projects, Skills & Endorsements
This part of your profile allows you to build out information about key projects you’ve initiated, skills you have and who has endorsed you. Lots to think about here and its something you might want to explore. These features are less likely to apply to most physicians who aren’t in physician executive or business roles. But they are there for you to use creatively if you think it fits.
Your LinkedIn feed
If you are on LinkedIn and you navigate to the upper left of your screen and hit the ‘In’ you will be taken to your feed. This is all the stuff shared by folks you are connected with. It’s a great way to find stuff or catch up on what your peers are doing.
When you put something into the feed it’s called a ‘post.’ This is different from an ‘article’ which I talk about below.
While Facebook may be a place to share a status update of your latest vacation, LinkedIn is a place to update your professional network on your latest presentation or promotion.
Personally, I share posts from 33 charts that I feel would apply to a professional audience. I also note when I’m speaking at a national meeting. That’s something that really ‘fits’ on LinkedIn but might seem boastful on other more personal social feeds on my digital map.
Connections versus followers
Of course the power of LinkedIn is your ability to link, or connect. Connections are people on LinkedIn with whom you have a special relationship. Connections happen by invitation – you can accept or decline. Connections can see each others shares and updates in their feed. You can also directly message a connection. Who you choose to connect with is a personal decision. Some people simply connect with anyone who asks. I know some who only connect with people they have met in person. The problem with this latter personal policy is that you will get alot of requests from people who you will turn down.
Following someone on LinkedIn allows you to see the person’s posts and articles on your feed without being connected to them. However, the person you are following won’t see your posts. You can reach a larger audience by allowing others to follow your activity and read what you’re sharing on LinkedIn.
The Slideshare feature of LinkedIn allows you to upload a Powerpoint presentation. The value here is that it allows you to showcase your granular interests and passions. I would reserve this for a couple of your select ‘landmark’ presentations that really show your stuff. I have seen some people upload every presentation that they’ve ever created which defeats the purpose, IMHO.
When you are signed in to LinkedIn and you go to your feed, you will see a blank square at the top of your feed that allows you to make a post or invites you to ‘write an article on LinkedIn.’ Articles are like blog posts. They allow you to build out an idea for everyone else to see. This is a great place to write when you have something to say but you don’t have a blog or a site of your own. I think it’s really underutilized.
I would suggest that you use this space for professionally related issues. Or issues related to your identity or focus. Since this will be visible to people who stumble on your profile, it’s a chance to showcase your brilliance and how it relates to your expertise.
More things you can do with LinkedIn
Here are a few ways you can use LinkedIn to optimize your public presence:
Park your CV. You can also upload a hard copy of your CV, so when someone needs it, you can just direct them to your profile. I’ve seen some doctors put their LinkedIn profile URL on their business cards.
High-five your colleagues. LinkedIn has added the ability to endorse other people in certain specialties or disciplines. This is like a vote of confidence or a “Like” from peers and co-workers, although the categories of endorsement are fairly vague. Despite that, it still affords you the opportunity to let your network know that you’re thinking about them, and there’s a lot to that. Time will tell whether this feature offers further value.
Keep up with your professional world. LinkedIn sends you periodic summaries of your network that tell you about job moves and major changes within your network. As the number of people you’re connected to grow, LinkedIn provides a great way to keep tabs on the career moves of your peers.
A few more things to keep in mind
Be active on the platform. The more you comment and like things the more likely people are to see you.
Keep it current. LinkedIn should be one of your first stops when you change jobs or want to share a career accomplishment. Be sure that its current. That goes for your picture as well. You should be changing your headshot every couple of years.
Keep it professional. If you maintain a blog on the cultivation of orchids, it may not have relevance to those looking to hire you. While some will argue that this is a true reflection of who you are, I recommend you preserve your LinkedIn presence as a reflection of your professional life.
Suspend updates when editing. Under your account settings under Settings and Privacy > Visibility > Visibility of your LinkedIn activity > Share job changes, education changes, and work anniversaries from profile. When ‘on’ you network is notified by email of any changes to your profile. So if you tweak your bio or change your head shot, your connections will get notified that you have a new bio, etc. At times in my career when I’ve been overhauling my LinkedIn profile, I have turned this feature off so that my network isn’t continuously updated with my compulsive clipping and pruning.
LinkedIn advice for students, residents and trainees
So when can you launch a LinkedIn page? As soon as you’re committed to a line of work. So for medical trainees, this could be as early as late medical school when you know what you’re going to do. Certainly in early residency you should be shaping your LinkedIn profile.
Biography. Sure you haven’t done a lot. Use your bio to riff on your passions and what you’ve done to date. Admittedly, you won’t have much for a big bio. But you can still take the space to tell about who you are and where you are going.
Don’t try to look like a big shot. If you try to create the look of someone more along in her career by overstating small things, you won’t be creating a good look. Keep it basic and real even though it is brief. You will grow it every year.
Peek at what your peers or senior residents are doing and how they handle their limited experience. Emulate the best of what you find.
LinkedIn may have greater value for the non-traditional physician
I believe every doctor should have a LinkedIn profile. I see this strictly from the perspective of digital footprint and Google real estate. But I will concede that this is a platform that will probably have value for physicians looking to grow their work beyond bread and butter clinical medicine. If you are a small town internist in upstate New York and you have no aspirations of ever moving beyond that line of work, LinkedIn is less likely to bear fruit.
If you are an internist growing a corner of your career as a speaker, writer or entrepreneur, the presence and connections from LinkedIN will likely create super valuable opportunities for you.
LinkedIn as a platform for the changing physician demographic
There are many ways that doctors can benefit from LinkedIn’s growing popularity, but as I always say, your mileage may vary.
Years ago there was a book by entrepreneur Harvey Mackay, Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty, which suggested that you should always have options lined up in the event that things don’t work out. Times are changing and as more and more physicians make the move from practice owners to employees, this advice may hold real meaning. Different practice environments and models of care may favor those with an unusual element to their background. Your story may work in your favor if you are willing to share it.
If you found this LinkedIn Physician Guide useful, check out The Public Physician. It’s an online resource for physicians navigating life in an connected, always-on world.
Updated November 2020