LinkedIn is no secret, but few people realize that LinkedIn is a secret weapon for winning fellowships. LinkedIn can help you discover fellowships, secure affiliations for your project proposals, and get you introductions to former fellows. The first step is becoming an active LinkedIn user.
In my article 5 Ways To Kick Your Career Funk, I suggest that every time you meet someone interesting – in work meetings, conferences, alumni events, Happy Hours, yoga, etc. – ask for a business card and immediately send them an invitation to connect on LinkedIn. When that person accepts, they become your 1st Connection on LinkedIn, and you can discover your mutual contacts and see their unique contacts who are now your 2nd Connections. Your 1st Connection may not be directly involved in an organization, university or fellowship you are interested in, but some of their 2nd Connections may be, and you can now ask your 1st Connection for an introduction.
It’s also useful to join LinkedIn Groups representing your universities, professional associations and topics you are interested in. The more the merrier. Just be sure to adjust the email notifications for each group so your Inbox does not become crammed with daily notifications of posts and status updates from every group.
Now, with an active LinkedIn account, you have a new tool to find fellowships, affiliations and former fellows.
LinkedIn Search Strategy #1: Discover great people. With each person you link to, take the time to check out their profile – particularly their employers, universities, awards and publications. If you don’t do this, you may never know the person you just met for 5 minutes at that Happy Hour is a White House Fellow or a Pulitizer Prize winner. If someone you met very briefly turns out to have a really interesting background that aligns with your own work, take the opportunity to follow-up with them immediately and keep the conversation going.
LinkedIn Search Strategy #2: Find fellowships. Go to Advanced Search for People and enter “Fellowship” in the Keywords field and set Location to “Anywhere.” Hit Search and sort the results by Relationship. The profiles that are returned are ones that have the word “Fellowship” in the profile, so check out each one, particularly your 1st, 2nd and Group connections. This exercise will help you determine if any of your contacts have won fellowships and what those fellowships are. You can now ask those contacts for tips on the application process. Just take the time to learn more about the fellowship before reaching out to with your questions. Other Keywords to try are “Scholar”, “Fellow” and “Fellows.”
LinkedIn Search Strategy #3: Find affiliations. Many fellowships like the Fulbright and the German Chancellor Fellowship require you to find a university or organization that will host you if you win the fellowship. While many people find ideas for affiliations through Google, I’m often asked if it is ok to “cold call” an organization. Before you do any cold calls, check to see if you have a 1st or 2nd Connection to someone in that organization. Using the same search strategy I just described, use the Advanced Search to search by the name of the organization in the Keywords or Company field. If you don’t have any ideas for an affiliation, you can also find leads by using Advanced Search to find people who have won your fellowship and the organization where they were hosted.
LinkedIn Search Strategy #4: Find former fellows. You’re probably catching on to my strategy by now. Using Advanced Search, you can find people who have won the fellowship you are applying to. If a former fellow is a 2nd Connection, ask your 1st Connection to introduce to you to him or her. Talking to former fellows is the secret to winning fellowships. From speaking to hundreds of fellowship winners and seekers, we found that connections with former fellows during the application process is one of the key distinguishers between people who win fellowships and people who don’t.
These strategies have done wonders for my own fellowship applications and for building ProFellow’s network of fellows and aspiring fellows. While practicing my LinkedIn strategies for this article, I just discovered an old colleague of mine is currently a Robert Bosch Fellow in Germany! This site never ceases to amaze me!
© Victoria Johnson 2012, all rights reserved.