Sunday, November 01, 2009

Are you a fan of LinkedIn?

I received my first invitation to connect on LinkedIn about a year ago from an insurance salesperson. My second invite came from a recruiter a couple of months later; curious to learn what this networking site was about I created a LinkedIn account and entered basic job information into my profile. To date my profile remains lacking; it consists only of my name, current company and job title.

Throughout the year, I received additional invites resulting in 12 connections. I also joined two groups affiliated with my profession, but I have not been convinced a LinkedIn account holds any real value for me. So far, the most useful LinkedIn message I received was a colleague recommending her interior designer.

Here is what Penelope Trunk writes about LinkedIn:
LinkedIn is great. I’m on LinkedIn. I have 650 connections. At first I wondered, why do I need this list of connections published on LinkedIn? What was the purpose of it? But now I get it. With LinkedIn, people can tell that I am a very connected person.

Potential employers like LinkedIn because they can glance at your LinkedIn profile and get a sense of how connected you are and how much money you make. (Yes, large networks correlate to large salaries.) That's the utility of the scorecard.

But what you cannot do on LinkedIn is build a network. Networks are built on relationships, which grow from conversation. LinkedIn is not for conversations. So you need to go somewhere else to build your network, and then, when it’s big, display it on LinkedIn so you’ll look great.

I recently attended a continuing education session titled, “New ways LinkedIn can benefit you.” After attending, I remain unimpressed. As a fellow seminar attendee stated, “This is basically a resume on steroids.” And to Penelope’s well connected comments, LinkedIn caps your public profile connections at "500+", meaning Penelope may have 650 contacts, but profile viewers only see she has 500+. I think the value of a large number of contacts is profession specific, it is important for someone who is promoting their business or works in sales, but for a bean counter like me I think future employers would prefer to see quality contacts over quantity.

Then there is the LinkedIn message I received from a contact asking me to endorse him. I was a little taken aback; I don't know this person well enough to endorse him. As a viewer, I don't see value in reading pumped up recommendations written by acquaintances.

And here is a bit of caution for employers found on Anita Bruzzese's blog:
She quotes Shanti Atkins who says "Even LinkedIn, which is considered the “professional” online networking site, could get managers in trouble because of the feature that allows you to “recommend” someone."

“Ninety-nine percent of companies have a policy that says you can’t give a letter of recommendation for an employee because it’s a liability and a risk if the employee doesn’t work out for the other employer,” Atkins says. “But if you recommend someone on LinkedIn, you’ve just published one.”

Thoughts on LinkedIn from others:

A colleague working in the recruiting industry tells me LinkedIn was initially designed as a tool for recruiters. She became disenchanted with it when a fellow recruiter offered to share her network if my colleague shared hers. After doing so, she felt it was an unfair trade; the connections she received were sub par in both quantity and quality to her own.

From an overtaxed friend and fellow seminar attendee:
Having a LinkedIn account would mean I’d have one more thing that needed to be maintained. Plus, LinkedIn seems like an on-line popularity contest, I thought high school ended a long time ago, no thank you.

What am I going to do?

The worst impression I can give is to continue portraying a LinkedIn account with a weak profile; it screams I don’t care about this. Since I've gone to the trouble of creating an account and accept connections, I might as well put in the extra effort to create a quality profile. As to whether my account will incur any real value, it can’t hurt.

How about you, do you find value in LinkedIn?


  1. I have a LinkedIn account but haven't quite decided how valuable it is. I have a few connections but as I am not actively looking for a new job, I keep it updated but don't really worry about it too much. I know someone who was going to write a recommendation for me, and I for her, but I've been tremendously lax in getting around to doing so. Again, I don't see the urgency. I do know some people who have gotten jobs through connections on LinkedIn, so I am loathe to dismiss its power completely.

  2. Michelle,
    It is encouraging to hear some people have actually gotten a job through LinkedIn connections.
    Another point I forgot to mention is many of my true contacts and mentors either do not have a LinkedIn account or have one with minimum profile information and only one or two contacts. I think you’ve summed it up correctly, if you are not actively looking for a new job or need “sales contacts” there is no urgency in becoming or updating LinkedIn. To that, the speaker at the LinkedIn seminar would say the time to build your LinkedIn connections is before you really need them.

  3. I like LinkedIn because it put me back in touch with past co-workers and gives me a place to go when I need or want to contact them. I've used my contacts once or twice to help find candidates through my connections. I've also been contacted once or twice about my interest in a new position.

    I agree with you on the written recommendations. While I am sure there are some that are legit, I am sure there are many that are blown up recommendations.

    I think it's good to have a detailed profile because I do know in the recruiting world there are many recruiters who use it to find candidates.

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  5. I like LinkedIn. I was able to connect with past coworkers and supervisors. I also enjoy the group discussions.

  6. Darlene,
    I still don't use LinkedIn very often. The President at my company uses it to help remember names and details of people he meets. He clicks on their profiles to refresh his memory before attending an important business function. I think that is a great idea. I was a member of several LinkedIn groups and enjoyed getting their emails. Most have them have changed my email frequency since I never clicked on the links. I haven't bothered to try changing the settings.