For professional purposes, I view LinkedIn as one of the best tools out there for branding myself, seeking information, and propagating materials and knowledge. Yet, it astounds me how many bright, progressive (in an innovative, not political, sense), career-minded professionals ignore (or are scared) by the possibilities on this site.
More than a century ago, the Wright brothers’ early inventions were proclaimed to be everything from crazy to frivolous. Today, most of us would jump at the chance for a week-long tropical retreat in the Caribbean, a European weekend, or a Tahitian hut in the South Pacific, all of which has been made possible by the ubiquitous growth of the airline industry. Similar analogies could be made to automotive expansion. Early skeptics feared what might happen to horses and buggies….the horror!!
Even where resistance remains to embracing these sites as a significant shift in the way we do business and run our lives (yes, even the personal information, values, and activities are important), it’s a good thing, I believe. You see, as a business owner, a consultant, and a learning professional, it’s critical for me to quickly identify those who can and will provide real value and to filter out those who will not. Let me give you an example….
I spend a short period of time each morning on my LinkedIn page, scanning through the recommended articles in those topic areas I have identified as useful for my career, familiarizing myself with the connections my own professional contacts are making, and quickly perusing other possible contacts I can make to expand my own network not merely in number, but more importantly quality.
Each and everyday, I come across someone who from word of mouth might be a good contact to me. But the screening “filters” I use to decide whether to send that person an invitation to connect or not include:
- Profile picture? – If the individual doesn’t in this day and age have a profile picture (and for me, it doesn’t need to be a professional portrait…in fact, I prefer those with more casual pictures), they typically don’t get a second look. It’s merely an indicator that this is a person hesitant for others to really get to know them. And in a professional environment that moves as quickly as ours does, such hesitancy is a detriment.
- Resume or more? – If all that appears on their page is a copy of their resume, I’m done. Even if I was seeking to hire an individual, I’m only interested in those who have intellectual curiosity enough to fully utilize the tools available to demonstrate a dedication to pursuing and sharing knowledge….and for them to be a benefit to me, I need that propagation of knowledge to be aligned with my own methods, which heavily leverage social media. It’s quick. It’s effective. And it’s the future of knowledge transfer.
- Activity type? – If the individual has a profile picture and has clearly set up their LinkedIn page as more than simply an electronic repository for their resume, I then look to the type of activity they involve themselves in ON THE SITE. I’m less interested in what projects or experiences they’ve had in their careers (again, those are simple resume line items) than in how they are using the site. Are they participating in forums and discussions? Have they posted links to interesting articles or at least press releases from their own company? Do they have actively blog? Are they readers?
I’ve focused incredible attention over the past several years on branding myself online. LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+. I use them all, leveraging each for specific purposes, but always with an eye to the big picture of publicizing my own personal style, values, beliefs, and personality. Some have criticized the openness with which I have done this. It’s true that what you post on each of these sites can sink you professionally.
The flip side is this…in an era in which personal and professional “fit” are increasingly vital, one should be willing to reveal themselves fully to others, if any sort of collaboration and relationship is to be forged. Do I know that if I post ultra-progressive or ultra-conservative political posts on Facebook, I may be eliminating those of the opposite political persuasion from hiring me? Sometimes, and I’m okay with that. With many of them, collaboration wouldn’t be a good fit. And for those who are more open-minded (politically, philosophically, etc.) and willing to accept diversity of thought and approach, well, quite honestly, those are the one’s I want to be working with anyway.
Moving forward, I believe the most fruitful and beneficial personal and professional associations will be between those who understand the richness of their partners. Social media allows for revelations of “fit” to be more easily made, particularly where triangulation of media creates a truly comprehensive picture of one’s experience, beliefs, and philosophies. So, leverage these tools for what they provide….both in seeking to expand your own networks (personally and professionally) and in informing the world as to what it is you bring to future potential interactions. The result can be transformative…both in authenticity and “fit.”