Linking In

I am, to no great surprise, a fan of social media. You will find by me near-daily tweets, posts on Facebook, check-ins on Foursquare. Lately, I’ve been playing a lot on LinkedIn, trying certain features, and have been genuinely intrigued by some of the functionality that didn’t strike me (initially) as something I’d find on LinkedIn. To wit: a year ago, when I would wake in the morning and want to read the “news” — and by “news” let’s be honest, I mean “news Bobbie is interested in and therefore skewed toward 2 or 3 specific topics” — I would read my twitter feed (follow reporters AND the companies they work for), then I’d check mobile CNN, After looking at my Facebook feed, (oh, work email too), and maybe Twitter again, I’d check LinkedIn.

(Why all the checking? Not all apps update your alerts to the icon on your mobile phone screen. Sometimes you get the little red bubble of awesomeness, and sometimes you don’t.)

Today, the pattern is more likely (mobile), LinkedIn, Twitter, work email, Twitter, and maybe one more round to LinkedIn. Why? Many reasons, mostly dealing with personalized news retrieval and access to information about companies, jobs, etc. that I wouldn’t normally have. But there are many misconceptions about LinkedIn, and that’s what this post attempts to remedy.

Wait, Isn’t LinkedIn for if I’m looking for a job?

Not necessarily. LinkedIn offers a variety of other services that you can use, regardless of your current job circumstance. There’s personalized news feeds, updates on your “linked” connections, and for those of us who are stats-centric, tons of little data updates. I recently tried playing with their business logic: changing my title (and ONLY my title, not dates, company, or description) from “Applications Development Manager” to “Manager, Applications Development” triggered a “congratulate Bobbie on her new job” notice to those I was linked to. Awkward, true, but interesting to note the sensitivity. My personal favorite is Pulse, their personalized news service. You pick themes or people who are interesting to you, and it does the rest. Daily updates of articles, and discussions therein with other people both in and out of your network.

But I’m only linked to people I work or have worked with, right?

No, no, and no. You can link to anybody. You will want to link to people you know, regardless of if you “work” with them. You’re on the PTA? Go find your PTA Board members, link to them. You’re on the board of a NonProfit? Link them. Went to college and remember some pretty cool people? Link, link, link. Met some great people socially? Link. Link to them all. You will get recruiters you’ve never worked with asking to link to you — proceed with caution. Do you do a lot of hiring? Then link to them. Do you want to get poached? OK, link to them. But if you’re an individual contributor who doesn’t want to move, tell them honestly and then link anyway — after all, a friend of yours may want to use a recruiter.

Hey, some of those people don’t work, or are retired, or are in a field I’m totally not in to. Why should I link to them?

You don’t know who THEY know. I’ll take the reverse-route on this and look at it from the “what’s in it for me” aspect; most of this logic works if you think of yourself as a relatively altruistic person. That stay-at-home-mom may know a double dozen people who would love to donate to your charity, or may know someone who works as a recruiter at a company you really want to work for. That artsy friend of yours who does installations at hotels may know someone who manages them, which may fit in with your marketing and sales job. You don’t know what you don’t know — the whole point of LinkedIn is to establish routes of communication. If you’re going to use it as a tool, use it properly.

OK but I should only link to “my level” of people or higher, right? So I’m a Manager, I will only link to Managers and above.

First off, this is just plain douchey, but let’s just assume you didn’t mean it that way and are looking at it pragmatically. You’re wrong, and that’s okay. We’ve all been there.

You will want to link to people, regardless of rank and title. Just like you, people will expand their horizons and grow. Some people grow faster than others, and to quote Sigourney Weaver in “Working Girl”, “Yesterday’s junior prick is tomorrow’s senior partner”. Now, NO, people junior to you (real or imagined, rank or age, etc.) are not pricks. But the tenet is legitimate: you don’t know where their career will lead and if you’re going to pick people based on their success, remember you can’t know it. So link to people you know, and that you respect, and ignore their title (high or low). I know some people who give pause in the other direction — that maybe they “shouldn’t” reach out to that VP or that CEO. Do you know them? Have you been in a meeting with them, talked to them? Do they know you or have they worked with you? Then link to them. They may have something interesting to say, their company may want to work with yours, you may want to solicit a donation, they may want to read your white paper.

No one really fills in all the portions of a profile, right? It’s not just me, right?

Of course not. I don’t have anything published (aside from this blog and another one) and so I haven’t got anything for that section. And so I don’t put anything there. I put in what I’ve got, and “curate” my profile as necessary. Sometimes that curation is to see what happens with the business logic because my business *is* logic, and data, and software, and how that rolls together. So I follow people in that vein and I play with my “persona” on LinkedIn to that end.

They offer a lot of stuff for a fee, is it worth it?

Recently I got an offer to try Job Seeker Premium for free. While I don’t think I’d use it just yet, I do know that free is better than not free, even if only for a month. If I ever do go that route rest assured I’d blog all the details, and with as much anecdotal evidence as I can provide.

But for right now, I’m content to get my news.

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