I would like to quickly share with you my life-changing experience as a result of putting one simple idea into action. All it included was writing a simple, two-sentence email or introduction through LinkedIn.
Some time ago, while reading an article for my PhD proposal, I was so impressed by the content and the author that I decided to contact him. Not that his writing style was extraordinary, or his ideas revolutionary. However, reading through the article made me realise what research topic I would like to do in PhD, and finally, what kind of career I want to pursue. Couple of simple steps that resulted into many other links and connections were the following:
1. Google the name of the author
Why is it still important to consult Google as a first point of search? It is still the best search option that can provide very broad perspective and information about the name. When I put the author’s name in the search, I found out many useful information: his website, important organisation he is leading, links to his speeches at YouTube, his other publications etc. On that way I got a picture of his career, research interest and title of a new book, which actually became my main literature in research.
2. Check the available websites
Then, I started to check his website, read about him, researching what his company is doing and in five minutes, I felt like I know him substantially, as he is my faculty mentor whom I know for ages.
3. Search the name of the author on LinkedIn
Then, I put his in LinkedIn “Search for People”. As it usually goes, there were many names in search result but I recognized the name of the author by the description underneath the name. Somehow, I am always happy to find that academics are on LinkedIn. Maybe just because I’m frustrated when I don’t find someone on LinkedIn. Seriously, who is not using the LinkedIn today? In cases like that, it takes me much more time to find the contact details of people who refuse to use it. However, the next step is the one that changes everything:
4. Write a simple introduction email
Writing a simple “Hello, My name is __________, and I am a student…..very much interested in you work…….” Changed everything for me. Why? Well…there are many reasons for that. Firstly, there is no harm in introducing yourself as a student saying that you are interested in someone’s work. Or even better, that his/her research was an inspiration for you to find your PhD topic. Who wouldn’t like to hear that? Then, you are a student, not professional who is trying to sell his services or to get prospect business partners through LinkedIn. You are only sharing your enthusiasm and maybe even asking for further details about the topic. When I got a response, it also contained links to his other works that I found useful, but most of all, I had a strong professional link in my field.
5. Connect with co-authors or collaborators as well
On another occasion, I was reading a book that contained many collaborators in different areas of expertise. Then I decided to find all theses names on LinkedIn and to briefly introduce myself and connect with them. It was a simple idea that brought great results. Most of them were on LinkedIn and connected my request. Then, surprisingly, some of them contact me stating that they are impressed with my CV and wanted to find more about my interests and why are we actually connected.
These five, incredibly basic and simple steps resulted in great opportunities for me:
- Skype meeting with two of them, which followed to
- Introducing me to their professional web network – where members are allowed to join only by invitation
- Connections with other specialists in the field
- Volunteer options in some of their companies
- Incredible source of professionals and their expertise – only by reading their biographies, “About” sections of their companies’ websites or
- Points of contact at any time for information about the research or opportunities
All of these connections happened in last couple of months, through LinkedIn. Most of the people, no matter how successful they are, will be more than happy to respond to email written by a student who wants to learn from them. For these accomplished professionals, it is almost an honour to hear that their work is actually beneficial and interesting to others. Most of all, they just naturally behave like mentors to younger professionals or students.
Today, even before the official start of my course, I feel that I have a strong professional network that can support me in my course. All I needed for that was proactive idea, copy-paste two-sentenced introduction email, and a humble learning attitude.