Updated December 21, 2022
If you’re a PhD who is getting active on LinkedIn, or perhaps creating a profile for the first time, you might be wondering whether you should put PhD after your name.
In this short post, I argue yes and give my reasons. Don’t forget to read our guide to LinkedIn for PhDs here. You’re welcome to connect with me there too- Find me here!
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Should I put PhD after my name on LinkedIn?
Yes. There’s no harm in including PhD after your name on LinkedIn, and it may help. As your career progresses, you can decide whether or not to keep it as your skill-set gets more defined and you build a reputation for other things.
Why you might leave PhD off of your LinkedIn profile
The reasons often cited for leaving your PhD off of your LinkedIn profile are as follows:
How many PhDs believe that they are overqualified, especially since they’re often told this by managers?
I am hesitant to accept this. Managers might be concerned about two things: someone whose overqualified might expect higher compensation or might get bored and leave fast. Either of these might be reasons why they say you’re overqualified, but you can have that conversation in an interview–if you get there.
However, on LinkedIn, you want to attract the highest denominator of people who would be interested in your talent–as in, people who could actually envision a use for your PhD. Yes, they exist. You want to get the most AMAZING people to notice you, not the manager with no imagination who wants to use you for grunt work.
Did you know? When managers don’t want to hire PhDs, for any number of reasons, overqualification becomes an easy excuse for them to say no. If you suck at interviewing or don’t have the experience, they can let you down gently by saying, “We would have loved to hire you, but you’re overqualified.” It’s difficult to know if they’re actually telling the truth or if you are ACTUALLY overqualified.
2. Changing Industries
Some PhDs, like me, end up working in a different field than what their PhD was in. They’re worried that including a PhD on their LinkedIn profile is misleading since they haven’t actually obtained the qualification in their new industry.
If that’s the case for you, keep it on. Everybody’s career trajectory is different, but if PhD is a PhD. If people care enough about the details of your history, they can go figure out that you have changed fields. And if your PhD was in English literature, they won’t hire you for a job that requires a PhD in neurobiology–simple as that.
Why I think you should include it…
1. PhDs are leaders
If you have a PhD, you are a leader. In the long term, develop a big-ass vision for your life and work that lets you operate at the very edge of all of your potential.
Today you might need a crap job to pay the bills. I’ve been there.
Tomorrow, once the bills are paid with your telemarketing gig (true story from a PhD I know), step out and grow a vision worthy of you.
I don’t care what somebody told you about you being overqualified, the hardest thing about being a PhD in the labor market is growing your leadership ability to match the letters after the name.
There are a lot of things you can do to influence your brand. You can create a LinkedIn account for example that screams leader instead of a dispensable employee.
But either way, those letters after your name are a sign of your greatness. I wouldn’t get rid of them. I would grow the rest of your brand until you look like a leader to everybody who looks at you.
2. People respect it
It might be hard to believe, but there are a lot of people out there who respect your PhD. I think some PhDs get mixed messages about this because they talk to family members or others who don’t understand our world.
The thing is, you need to understand that not all work outside of Academia is created equal. Not all of it will respect your PhD.
So your uncle who is in management at a paper mill or your cousin who works in a municipal government office are not going to get it. Why would they? They are not in the right type of workplaces.
Some PhDs do end up working in these kinds of spaces. And sometimes aren’t appreciated.
However, if you can get around the knowledge economy, your PhD is going to be respected.
So leaving it off of your LinkedIn because of what certain people might think is actually pandering to the wrong people anyways. You want knowledge economy people to notice you, and it’s totally fine if some of the others don’t.
FURTHERMORE! I’ve heard from women and racialized folks that including the “Dr.” or “PhD” can, in some cases, help them get the respect they deserve.
3. You might remove it with time
I’ve noticed that, with time, some of my contacts who are PhDs have removed the letters from after their names. In most of these cases, they’re not job searching. They are established and known for things other than their PhD. They’re running companies, they have high-quality product management skills, etc.
If you are just starting out, it makes total sense to keep PhD on your LinkedIn. And make sure your LinkedIn looks great, I have a guide for how to do that here.