Getting Stuck in the LinkedIn Wasteland

Posted on December 12, 2013. Filed under: Career Management, Job Search Tips, LinkedIn, Personal Branding, social media | Tags: , |

social mediaYou would be hard-pressed to hear many negatives about LinkedIn these days, especially when it comes to the job search and personal branding. It is very popular to talk about how LinkedIn is the place to be for career networking and the job search.

And certainly recruiters love it.

Let’s face it. It has made their jobs a lot easier. Talk about access to a major database of active and passive job seekers…all at their fingertips for very little investment on their part.

“The resume is dead!” They will gleefully proclaim while they ooze their love for LinkedIn profiles (despite the increasing skepticism over how truthful or accurate most LI profiles actually are AND the fact that the LI profile is essentially a resume in disguise, and not even a good disguise).

Never mind that the hottest trend to hit the hiring industry since the inception of LinkedIn itself, mobile recruiting, is a flutter with the possibilities of using LinkedIn on your smartphone or tablet.

Why, it’s a hiring wonderland!

So Why, Then, Am I Calling It a Wasteland?

Despite LinkedIn’s enormous growth, it is pretty lacking in participation. In fact, those who are participating the most are, well, recruiters and career pros like me and active, very active, job seekers.

Most pros see LinkedIn as a place to throw up a profile, without much effort or thought behind it; add a few connections (the purists will add ONLY people they have worked with); and pretty much forget about the whole thing. Sure, they might join a few groups that sound interesting, but really, who has a lot of time for that?

That is, of course, until they decide to start a job search. Suddenly, they realize that’s where the recruiters are, and LinkedIn takes on a whole new meaning.

LinkedIn is just a reflection of how professional networking in general has always been.

An afterthought.

Important when the need arises.

Often a wasteland of inactivity.

Let’s face it. When times are good at work, the last thing you want to think of is networking and career management.

After all, you like where you are and you don’t want to leave. A job search is so dreaded, so why even think of one? And with internal promotions set to be on the rise, who cares about recruiters anyway?

The problem with this mindset, however, is that it ignores a lot of things (and it misses the whole point of LinkedIn in the first place). Here are just a few:

  • It’s so much nicer to turn recruiters down when they come to you than to have to chase them down later. After all, they much prefer to steal currently employed professionals than unemployed ones. So optimizing your profile to attract opportunities should be a continuous thing. It is NOT a matter of timing. You can always say, “no.” But just having a profile isn’t good enough. You need to understand how they conduct their keyword searches. Otherwise, they might pester you for jobs you have no interest in.
  • LinkedIn has become a professional stalking tool. Your colleagues are checking you out on there. So even when times are good at work, your profile still matters, and it is going to play a role moving forward in internal promotions and in the encouragement of more social media involvement by companies. Companies that were once hesitant about social media are now starting to see some benefit in having their employees represent their brand.
  • LinkedIn is really just a numbers game. For those high-minded individuals out there who like to tell you that LI is a more “quality” social media environment, they are skipping over the part that LI rewards those with larger networks and more endorsements with more exposure. It’s that simple. And if you are really good, and build your network up with your target “market,” you will most likely have one effective network.
  • Study upon study has been done on the value of a connection. This is a phenomenon I have experienced for myself on several occasions. The mere fact that I shared a similar connection with someone else was enough for that person to feel comfortable hiring me. People want to search their network and the networks of their “friends” to see who they can recommend.

There is no doubt that you can waste a lot of time on social media.

But turning LinkedIn into a wasteland is not the answer either. Instead, finding a way to spend an hour a week on a tool that makes professional networking a lot easier is certainly worth it.

I know…the whole thing seems a little shallow.

Of course it is! All networking has a bit of that in it, no matter how high minded we get about it. But it is a lot less so when it is something you do consistently when you aren’t expecting anything from it than when you only do it doing a job search…

Listen. You don’t have to love LinkedIn. You don’t even have to like it much. But ignoring it, especially if you have another 10+ years left to go in your career, is not wise, either.

See it for what it is, and use it to your advantage.

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Sure, LinkedIn Is Stuffy, But So What?

Posted on December 7, 2012. Filed under: social media | Tags: |

LinkedInIn a recent blog post, I posed the question, Is LinkedIn Too Stuffy? In that article, I shared some thoughts from a colleague of mine who liked the more corporate feel that LinkedIn provides while giving some of my own thoughts on the issue. Overall, I felt that LinkedIn has some great features and opportunities, especially from the career networking and social recruiting side, but it generally wasn’t an enjoyable place to hang out, kind of like a never-ending meeting, if you will. You might learn something, even meet some helpful people, but it isn’t somewhere you really like to be or are comfortable in. In other words, you find yourself asking, “Is it 5 o’clock yet?”

I had several responses to this post, which not surprisingly varied from one end of the spectrum “I hate LinkedIn” to the other “I love LinkedIn”.

At the end of the day, I was reminded that LinkedIn is just one social media tool, a very popular one for sure (many people who don’t really “do” social media at least have LI profiles these days), which has its advantages and disadvantages like any other.

I was also reminded that there is a certain comfort to be found in the atmosphere.

Because it does mimic a real-life corporate event, the “rules” are easier to pick up. And most of your workplace etiquette can be applied there.

So, is that a bad thing? Of course not.

Many of the people who commented on my article, either here on the blog or on Twitter, certainly did not think so. They like that structure because they know it so well, whereas Twitter and Facebook are not so “corporate” and thus leave a lot of gray area in terms of interaction and etiquette.

But even still, I can’t help it.

I just don’t like feeling like I am stuck in a cubicle when I am engaging in social media.

I don’t want all my discussions to sound like corporate mixers and mini informational interviews. I don’t want to listen to people pontificate, and I don’t want to pontificate.

And I predict that as people become more comfortable with social media, they won’t want to put up with it as much either.

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Is LinkedIn Too Stuffy?

Posted on November 19, 2012. Filed under: social media | Tags: , , |

LinkedInThis was the question I found myself asking not too long ago after participating in a discussion group on LinkedIn, where some of my colleagues were acting as though we were negotiating some type of high-end corporate merger instead of “discussing” (more like vying for the microphone) the finer points of career transition. After attempting to make a comment to lighten up the conversation (nothing off-color, I assure you) and to engage instead of one-up, one of my counterparts basically reprimanded me!

Now, if this had been the first time I had come across this scenario on LinkedIn, I would have just chalked it up to that, but it turns out to be somewhat the norm when it comes to that environment.

Certainly, it is true that different social media sites have different “cultures,” but exactly what the “rules” are for each culture are still a little murky, if you ask me.

A colleague and I were chatting recently about the LinkedIn versus Twitter culture, and he was telling me why he did not like the Twitter “vibe.” Basically, he felt Twitter was too loose of a forum. Anyone could just participate in a Twitter chat (instead of gaining acceptance into a group, like on LinkedIn), and he felt like from a techie front, it was mostly inexperienced people or posers trying to sound “techie.”  On the other hand, he found LinkedIn made more sense to him because it had a more “corporate” feel to him, random streams weren’t whizzing by, and he could take his time to craft a well-written response. Plus, he could look up a person’s profile and get a better sense of his or her experience and background. Basically, he liked knowing who he was talking to, and he liked that it was a more formal discussion, especially if he were looking for advice or direction on a particular project or subject.

When I pointed out to him that some people lie or stretch their credentials on their LinkedIn profiles (see my recent article “Who Says LinkedIn Profiles Are Truthful?“), he still was not deterred. Overall, he felt like it was a more trustworthy environment and that more “experts” hung out over there.

He could be right. I certainly think he brings up some valid points.

In my mind, however, I still find the LinkedIn culture, well, stuffy.

And from a longevity standpoint, I’m not sure how well that will continue to play out as more people become comfortable with social media.

As someone who hangs out in both Twitter and LinkedIn groups, I find Twitter to be more cutting edge, frankly. It is true that it takes some time to get familiar with how things work there. And finding the right mix of followers and people you want to follow can be more time consuming for sure. But whether it is #TCFchat, a Twitter chat hosted by the Tech Career Forum on Wednesdays at 3pm East, or #tchat, hosted by Talent Culture, on Wednesdays at 7pm East, generally I find the discussion, well, more of a discussion.

For all of my LinkedIn discussion groups, I find them more of a lecture, where each participant is trying to impress me with his or her knowledgebase (so I can score them on the “best” answer). I’m not sure how that is engaging exactly…? Especially when it feels like we are constantly in interview mode, 3-piece suits and all.

Now it could just be my rebel entrepreneurial bias showing through, but generally, I am usually in favor of a more structured approach to things. And certainly there is a lot of silliness that goes on with Twitter (even if it is avoidable). However, in the case of LinkedIn, honestly, I just don’t find it an interesting place to be (it’s like one of those jobs where I’m stuck in an endless meeting, wondering “is it 5 o’clock yet?”). Now, if like my co-worker, I want a good lecture and some advice (although I rarely see the quality of the advice as any better, just longer winded), I can see the value, and it certainly is becoming the place to be for social recruiting, but the air is certainly thicker (and you might want to change out of your PJs before logging on).

But whatever you do, and I say this with all earnestness, don’t try and be funny!

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