Is LinkedIn worth the effort?

04/04/2012 § 18 Comments

A classmate from my Transformative Learning and Technology Literacies class at San Jose State University sent me a LinkedIn connection request about a month ago prompting a total revamp of my oft-neglected and unfinished LinkedIn profile.  I realized that my profile needed to be presentable if my classmates were going to be looking at it, and also because, oh right, I’m graduating soon (I mean, I hope!).  And not to mention that part of the coursework for the above mentioned class includes creating our own Personal Learning Networks, or PLNs, which a LinkedIn account could be considered a part of.

So, of course, I said yes to the connection request, because it’s a part of a class assignment, and it might be good for networking for future jobs and lifelong learning–but oh no my profile!  I hadn’t looked at my profile in a year, and never really completed it to begin with, and I doubt I’m alone in this predicament.  As I became consumed with the task of making my profile presentable and exploring all the site’s features, I got excited about the possibilities that LinkedIn could offer, but after investing a lot of time (time I could have spent on Facebook!) updating my profile, I began to question the usefulness of such professional-based social networking sites, particularly for MLIS students and job-seeking librarians.

LinkedIn seems to be well on its way to becoming as ubiquitous as Facebook, but with connections instead of friends, and the allure of potentially finding  that amazing new job you’ve been dreaming of.   According to LinkedIn, they had 150 million members worldwide as of February 2012, with college students and recent grads making up the fastest growing type of new member.  There are more than one million professional networking groups on LinkedIn, including hundreds of library related groups.  According to this infographic, 13.9% of LinkedIn members are in the “Information Technology and Service” industry, which sadly could just indicate that there are a lot of librarians  looking for jobs.  But are librarians finding good job leads on LinkedIn? Based on a recent search I conducted there are very few actual library related job postings listed on LinkedIn, and overall LinkedIn does seem more oriented to big business and the tech industry.

But if you’re the type of person who reads this blog–you like to keep up with what’s going on in libraryland; you probably spend a little too much time on  the Internet; and you’re desperate, or soon will be desperate, to find a job–it’s likely that you’re already on LinkedIn or will be soon, no matter if it’s actually beneficial.  So let’s discuss what’s good about LinkedIn beyond finding a job.  LinkedIn offers a good way to manage all of your professional contacts in one easily accessible place for those times in the future when you might need a recommendation or reference.  It’s another way to keep up with what your classmates, colleagues, mentors, etc., are doing professionally, which can benefit your lifelong learning.  And it’s a great way to market yourself beyond the resume using LinkedIn’s interactive profile features like adding web links to projects that you’ve worked on, or linking to your twitter account, personal website or blog.   Like Facebook, LinkedIn allows you to share articles, videos, and even, status updates however, in most cases, what you share on LinkedIn should be relevant to the professional worlds that you’re involved in.

There are lots of ways to integrate your personality into your LinkedIn profile, just do it thoughtfully, and don’t forget the basics of managing your profile.  This might take more effort than Facebook initially because your LinkedIn profile needs to be professional and polished, while at the same reflecting your personality to potential employers.  And if LinkedIn is going to be beneficial to you, it’s going to require a more strategic approach than the usual randomness of Facebook.   For example,  don’t connect with everyone that you know on LinkedIn, but rather select the majority of your connections based on shared interests and goals.  Interestingly, LinkedIn requires that you already have some sort of relationship with a potential connection or, at least, connections in common, so they’ve eliminated some of the randomness of online networking right there.

LinkedIn may not lead to a job, but then again it might.  So, if you have a few extra hours, it probably wouldn’t hurt to create a glamorous LinkedIn profile and see where it leads. You’ll feel productive, at least!  But remember, in the end, it’s still about the connections that you make in the real world, so get out there!

What is your experience with LinkedIn?  Useful or pointless?  Or, is it possible, you actually found your job through LinkedIn?

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§ 18 Responses to Is LinkedIn worth the effort?

  • I didn’t get my full time job, but I had someone find and contact me for some free lance archival work. It ended up being a great experience and having it on my resume was probably helpful in obtaining my “real” job.

    I think the trouble with Linkedin lies with the connections. I get random requests from people and at first I would just accept them all, mostly because I’m so used to having a certain number of “friends” on social networking sites. Then one day, an actual friend contacted me and asked about a random connection (apparently they had applied for a job where she worked) and I felt kinda stupid saying I don’t know them.

    So, I guess I would recommend using it, but carefully…

    • Kevin Coleman says:

      That’s very cool that you got some freelance work through LinkedIn. And good point about connections. I do think you have to be more selective on LinkedIn. Thanks for sharing!

  • LinkedIn was not (originally) intended as a job search site. It’s purpose was to provide Professionals with a way to connect with other Professionals THAT THEY KNOW via the Internet. Obviously, LinkedIn has morphed into the newest version of HotJobs, which was the precursor to Monster. As a Consulting Archivist, I have used Linked to connect with people I’ve met at conferences or those I’ve worked with. If I receive a ‘random’ connection request from someone I don’t know, I check their profile and send a message. It is, after all, not a social site. I’m very active on Twitter and Facebook; they’re there for the social aspects of my life, though I use them to discuss my work. Having been a corporate recruiter in a past career, I can assure you that recruiters and HR staff are trolling LinkedIn daily; there was an article (apologize for not being able to find it or provide citation) that discussed the fact that many recruiters use LinkedIn to check their CURRENT employees profiles, using their connections to locate potential new employees. Food for thought.

    • Kevin Coleman says:

      Thanks for the comment, Laura! Good point about recruiters and HR staff using LinkedIn to find potential employees.

  • Lesley Firth says:

    I think if you’re going to have a LinkedIn profile you have to keep it looking professional and up to date as its one of the first things that come up in a Google search of your name. With that in mind, I like having a professional online presence that lists current job, qualifications/education, links to Twitter and blog, and shows groups you are a member of because its a nice overview of me as a librarian. I doubt I would get any offers of work from people finding/searching for my profile but I like that its there. I’d rather that anyone searching my name found a smart LinkedIn profile than Facebook or even (the horror!) nothing relating to me social media-wise!

    • Kevin Coleman says:

      You’re right, Lesley, it is becoming a horror to not have a social media presence these days. Excellent point about LinkedIn being a good way to show off your professional side in Google searches.

  • Annie Pho says:

    My favorite part about Linked In is that when you Google my name, my profile on there is one of the first things that pops up. I basically see it as my online resume and mainly use it to connect to other information professionals that I may or may not have met somewhere. I don’t really see it as a way to GET a job, but it just adds to my online brand, which we all have to keep up with- as you mention in your post. I do feel more comfortable adding other library folks that I have never met on Linked In, than on Facebook.

    • Kevin Coleman says:

      Thanks for the comment, Annie! I agree about adding other library professionals even if you don’t know them personally because you probably have shared interests. And you can always edit your connections list at a later point if need be.

  • Linkedin is like any other professional tool out there. It will reflect the effort you put into it. That said, you should not be connecting with random people. Instead, focus upon people you know OR people that you’ve been communicating with via the internet. It’s also a great resource for professional dialogues. I’ve had many great conversations via the SLA Linkedin Group.

    Being that I’m on the tech side of LIS I find that there are stupid amount of jobs on Linkedin although they skew towards upper management.

    As with Twitter, a blog, and even facebook Linkedin is another public face albeit one with a more professional bend.

  • I’m a LinkedIn evangelist—I keep my profile updated religiously, always ask for recommendations from previous employers and coworkers and join and actively participate in communities. I started my LinkedIn profile when I was working in B2B marketing and made a lot of strong connections through coworkers and clients that led to great discussions and great learning opportunities.

    Do I think it will get me a professional library or archival job? Not really. Do I want a complete, well-rounded CV available online that shows up high in Google results for my name? Absolutely!

    As someone who has been part of the hiring process for both library and non-library jobs, I understand that people are going to be searching for me on the internet, and with LinkedIn I can work to control what they see about me and that they are seeing my full range of skills and experience. Especially since I’ve dropped off most of my undergrad part-time work and volunteering to save space and keep my actual CV in the 1-2 page range. In addition, there are a couple of other people on Twitter and Facebook with my name, so I always make sure a current photo is on my LinkedIn so that they don’t look at a Facebook profile and assume it’s mine. (I had this happen once where my future boss found a Facebook profile with a really unflattering, drunken picture of a party girl and then was shocked when I walked in and was someone completely different!)

    • Aimee says:

      “…they are seeing my full range of skills and experience. Especially since I’ve dropped off most of my undergrad part-time work and volunteering to save space…

      Lydia, yours is the second post I’ve seen this week that mentioned including a very extensive work history on a LinkedIn profile. I, on the other hand, am always very hesitant to add more than the past five years to my profile or my resume unless it specifically has to do with library work. This is because I held multiple temporary summer positions, sometimes concurrently, and moved frequently from 2001-2007, so my work history for that time period definitely resembles excessive job-hopping. However, leaving it off eliminates nearly four years of part-time customer service experience from my work history. Can any of you offer or point me to advice on how to handle this?

      • Hey Aimee! I think everyone should make a choice that they feel comfortable with when it comes to CVs because at the end of the day we all have to be prepared to defend any choices we make to include/exclude positions. For me, it’s better to fully disclose everything and account for my time rather than have unexplained gaps in my CV. On my own resume, there’s an eight month gap between full-time jobs because I was unemployed in the UK and caught up in visa applications, and I always make sure this somehow gets explained so no one’s wondering what I was up to. I think the great thing about using LinkedIn to fully disclose work history is that there isn’t really a space limit and I can use the opportunity to explain things.

        If you decide to open up your full work history on your LinkedIn (or CV), you might note that these were temp positions during school holidays — before I switched my CV over to only having my last full-time positions, I had a separate category for Part-Time Work While Studying from my Full-Time Work category. An option that my current supervisor and I discussed is to limit your CV to those positions that are most relevant to the current application, but possibly putting a “For more information on each position and part-time student work visit [LinkedIn Profile URL or ePortfolio URL]” at the end of the section. He said that he would be likely to visit something like that or an individual ePortfolio/website if the candidate was strong and he wanted to know more/see examples of work. Currently, though, I don’t advertise my LinkedIn profile, but keep it maintained in case someone googles me. I might start linking to it on my CV, as my boss suggested, or asking more hiring librarians how they feel about it as I start thinking about my job search next year.

        These are all just my personal preferences, though! I think when it comes to CVs/resumes/LinkedIn profiles/etc. a lot of it shifts as necessary to support your relevance for a particular position so it’s difficult to give advice. I know what has worked for me in the past (even though a lot of what has worked for me contradicts what my friendly careers counselor advises), and I’m relying on that to guide me in the future. Woah, this ended up being long! If you’d like to take this off-blog and chat further about it, I’m happy to do that! :)

  • Hi, thx for opening this conversation. I am a fairly recent MLIS grad and was fortunate enough to find meaningful work during school through a library internship and am still on the same professional track, but LinkedIn has certainly enhanced my opportunities. The current position I have was gained via LinkedIn, where a recruiter found me.

    I’d like to address your comment – “there are very few actual library related job postings… [It seems] more oriented to big business and the tech industry.” This may be the crux of the problem in the seeming dearth of opportunities. While traditional library jobs may be difficult to locate, there are plenty of jobs to be found on the site (and of course, elsewhere), but I think we libs need to broaden our definitions of what we are and can do. Big business and tech is where it’s at and libs are needed more than ever in these industries. Whether they have titles or descriptions like information specialist/manager/expert/engineer/scientist, metadata whatever, data whatever, taxonomist, ontologist, database manager, usability, knowledge worker/specialist/manager/engineer, information architect, content strategist/editor/manager/archivist, and so on and so forth, there are jobs available. We are information professionals, not shushers, and as a collaborative profession, we should recognize and promote that.

    The explosion and refocus on information as economy is rife with opportunity for us as libs – we just need to know how to market our skills. As representatives of the information profession, yes, have a LinkedIn profile up, and always, always, boots on the ground. It’s always worth the effort.

    • Kevin Coleman says:

      Good points, Jess! I guess my professional interests fall mainly into the old-school librarianship category, but you’re right, it’s good to keep an open mind about what types of positions we might apply for.

  • Cynthia says:

    I meet a lot of people while at conferences, which is where I think the best networking happens. LinkedIn allows me to keep a connection with someone I’ve met.

    While I’ve not used it for jobs, obviously it doesn’t hurt that I have a lot of my information in there for connections to see.

  • It seems the general consensus is that LinkedIn is a great online resume, which I certainly can’t deny. However, it’s supposed to be a social network, and I can’t say I think it really does a good job on that front. I’ve tried to use it for purposes of actually interacting with people, especially through the Groups feature. It has been…less than satisfactory. I signed up with a number of groups that sounded interesting, but the actual content of what I got was spam, inane conversation, and articles I had already seen a couple days before on Twitter. I’ve had similar complains with the News section.

  • David Kerry says:

    I mostly use LinkedIn for the groups, some (not all) of which have interesesting and useful conversations taking place. I am not job-searching, and hope never to job-search again, and so have turned off the “open to job offers”, “business opportunities”, etc. flags in the profile. Nevertheless, someone did contact me about a job last autumn, although I was not interested.

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