In the not-so-distant past, maintaining an up-to-date record of your professional connections’ contact information required a great deal of vigilance. If a distant colleague moved to another institution, you might not know it until you tried calling his or her office and were told they were no longer there. Now, social networks help you keep in touch with the contacts you’ve made, discover and share information relevant to your field, and maintain connections with ease. Though many people join Facebook to maintain these relationships, some find that it’s more casual than they’d prefer for their professional lives. If you’re looking for a more professional online setting, LinkedIn provides these opportunities.

Most people are aware of using LinkedIn as a job search tool, and it offers great features for educators who might be seeking a new role. You can access all of these by creating a professional profile, connecting with people who you know either professionally or personally, and searching LinkedIn’s database for other people you may know. And if you’re looking for a new role, you can use these connections to learn more about open positions, organizations or even search LinkedIn’s database for more job postings.

Another use for LinkedIn that you might not be aware of is finding professionals in your field with whom you may not have a previous connection. Have you ever had a problem or question and wondered how other schools might be handling the same issue? Do you enjoy attending conferences but don’t have the available budgets for them that you once did? Joining a LinkedIn group related to professional organizations and publications such as the American Library Association or Inside Higher Ed, or a smaller group more targeted to your specific discipline or role, can be a very effective way to do this. You might connect with a group more targeted to the discipline you teach, your geographical area, or the LMS system that you use.

Start by using LinkedIn’s search feature to look for relevant topics and you can filter your search to show only “groups” in your results. Some groups are open, allowing anyone to join, but others may require approval for you to join—this is to ensure the integrity of the group and limit it to people whose qualifications match the group’s purpose, so you’ll need to wait for the group’s moderator to confirm your membership. Once you have joined the group, you’ll be able to see relevant content posted such as blog articles, and participate in online discussions with other members who share your passion and interest in the group’s subject matter.

Whatever way you choose to use LinkedIn—for searching for a new role or networking—it is a powerful career tool for both educators and students.

Have you had any successes using LinkedIn in your courses? Let us know—you can comment below or leave a comment on Cengage Learning’s LinkedIn page.