Posted by: kenwbudd | February 21, 2009

Linkedin – Make the most of it

I was invited to join Linkedin some years ago when it had just a small following and I subsequently lost the e-mail account that I was using to log in and could not retrieve the Password. So recently, I had to start again and try to re-connect with past colleagues and friends in other locations. It has been an interesting voyage but I still have a long way to go.

I have decided to share with you some of my findings and some suggestions from others about improving your Linkedin account. Hopefully, this will make it more interesting and more effective.

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Within your LinkedIn profile you have a section for recommendations. This is intended to be a useful tool for recruitment consultants and potential new bosses, to find out something about you. Do you play well with others? Unfortunately it can be a bit incestuous, with a circle of friends patting each other on the back and congratulating themselves for doing what they do.

The section suggests that you seek out approval and recognition from a list of your contacts, to allow potential employers a fuller view of you as a direct report, boss, colleague, or client. They are intended to make your LinkedIn profile more dynamic and personal than the fairly static information (where you worked, what you did) that appears in your general resume.Be aware that employers will look beyond the shallow and obviously long-standing friendships, to find the real you.

Instructions on how to get to the Recommendations page;

  1. After you log into your LinkedIn homepage, scroll your mouse over to the left navigation menu where it says “Profile.” Click on the subsection that says, “Recommendations.”
  2. On the Recommendations page, click on the “request recommendations tab.”
  3. You can then walk through a simple three step process.
  • Name the job (among those listed in your resume) for which you want a recommendation, using the drop-down menu.
  • Decide who you’ll ask for a recommendation. And lastly,
  • Write a customized note, telling the person why you’d like them to recommend you.

a) What kind of recommendation should you have
While you should have a recommendation in which your boss praises your abilities and how your work helped drive good business results, don’t stop there. You want to be able to demonstrate that you were a team player, having your peers say in a recommendation that you go the extra mile or help mentor people can help shape your image with a potential employer.

You also might want to look externally to clients and internally to your direct reports. If you really want to show that you’re an effective manger, you want to have endorsement from those people, not just the person above you saying so. Recommendations are about how you work with the people around you, and that should really be all the way around you: above, below, and sideways.

Clearly, make sure you know the person well before asking them for a recommendation. Not only will that ensure a recommendation with greater depth and detail, but also, you avoid putting someone in the awkward position of saying no.

b) Setting Expectations for a Recommendation
Like a recommendation written for the paper-based or e-mail world, a person recommending you on LinkedIn can benefit from some guidance on what specific thoughts and key items you’re looking to present in their recommendation. It doesn’t hurt to meet them halfway and state what aspects of your experience and relationship you’re wanting to convey.

Don’t put words in their mouths unless you know more appropriate ones. Do ask them to accentuate one or two good points about what it was like working with you. You can sit back and leave it up to chance about what they might want to write but you may not get the answers you want.

That said, you want to make sure you’re not shutting down a colleague from writing something about you that you were unaware. Something that would bolster your image and that you may not have even thought of. In the invitation to write the recommendation, you shouldn’t set overly specific guidelines, but mention that you’d be happy to offer them some ideas, if they think it would be helpful.

You might get a happy surprise if they create something that exceeds your expectations and then again you may not.

c). Length: Quality over Quantity
It doesn’t hurt to give your colleague some guidance for how long the recommendation should be, and in this case, experts agree that quality should trump quantity. Reader attention spans on the Web are known to be very short. So, you don’t want potential employers missing the overall message of a recommendation because they were unable to take several minutes to read it. Time is money and always short. One paragraph should be sufficient, with two paragraphs being an absolute max.In most cases, recommendations with as few as three sentences communicate the most essential points about a person.

d) Number of Recommendations: Again, Quality Over Quantity
Some LinkedIn profiles look like infomercials if you overuse the recommendation feature. You should not follow such a blatantly obvious deviant strategy. I know people who have 300+ recommendations but it waters down the impact of any of the individual recommendations and can confuse and distract the reader. If you have five really important ones, that’s sufficient. At a guess the next 295 will be saying roughly the same thing i.e. this person is great! It adds too much noise and degrades your integrity.

We certainly recommend having no more than 10, or if you must have recommendations from each previous position or employer, limit yourself to two to three per job.

e) Give Before You Get
The importance of building social capital and goodwill can not be overstated and it’s really unavoidable when it comes to LinkedIn recommendations. Before you can expect serious endorsements from people, it’s better to start by recommending some people yourself. This way, when you find yourself in need of a new job, hopefully you can rely on them returning the goodwill.

A mirror on your bedroom ceiling reflects badly on you
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