My skills (according to you)

30 Apr

LinkedIn skillsI’ve not been a fan of LinkedIn endorsements.

These are the professional network’s equivalent of the Facebook ‘like’ button, taking little time, asking for little engagement and requiring little thought.

(LinkedIn recommendations remain the exact opposite; they are hard won and hard to give, a gold standard.)

And yet, is LinkedIn onto something? Though each individual endorsement means little (though it’s pleasant to know that someone remembers you and thinks highly of you in some way), collectively they add up to something.

They paint a picture of your skills and expertise that’s an honest picture because it’s composed of lots of small votes.

What does this popular vote say about me? That I have expertise in public relations is not surprising as my job title (senior lecturer in public relations) proclaims it, as do my professional experience and memberships.

Next to this, I’m evidently an expert in media relations. If you add press releases to media relations, that’s my main specialism, eclipsing all others including my social media expertise.

How can I be such an expert in a field I’ve not practised for over 15 years? The vote probably comes because of the number of students I’ve taught over the years, and a few may even have read the chapter I wrote on ‘media relations’ in a well-known textbook. I can’t disown my past, and I am proud of the classes and lectures I’ve given in this field.

But is there a problem with crowdsourcing? Does it encourage crowd-like behaviour? Are some endorsing me for skill simply because they’re following the herd and being swayed by the popular vote? In verifying our past, does LinkedIn make it harder for us to reinvent ourselves?

3 Responses to “My skills (according to you)”

  1. Meg McAllister (@MegmacPR) 30/04/2013 at 3:42 pm #

    I think two key terms in this well written piece says it all: popular vote and crowd sourcing. I myself have come to view LinkedIn endorsements as meaningless. LinkedIn users are all victims to the platform’s experiment which is a thinly veiled attempt to emulate Facebook ‘like’ activity. While I’d like to agree that the skills we’re being endorsed for paint a picture of our overall expertise that would really only be a valid premise if everyone endorsing us had first-hand knowledge of that expertise and/or had seen those skills in action. The fact is I’m connected to over 900 people on LinkedIn. And while I’ve made a concerted effort to be strategic about my social networking, I admittedly haven’t met or worked with approximately two-thirds of the people I’m linked to. Yet every day I receive numerous emails letting me know that someone has endorsed me for a particular skill or skills, often someone with no true knowledge of my background and experience. While I can appreciate the validation — like Sally Field, don’t we all strive to be “liked”? — I don’t feel any real sense of accomplishment or pride. To-date 293 people have endorsed me, many of whom I’ve never met or spoken to or even communicated with online. All because LinkedIn prompts us every time we sign on to endorse people with a simple click of a button. It’s nice…but it’s meaningless, and I can’t fathom than anyone who is a true expert in our field, or any discerning and objective observer for that matter, would take much stock in it.

    In fact, I would argue that LinkedIn does its members a disservice with the simplistic endorsement system. The 25 recommendations I have, from clients I’ve represented or people I’ve worked with or managed, are far more validating and informative. Yet I’ve been told by many that they now have difficulty soliciting/receiving recommendations because no one wants to take the time to do a full written assessment when they can simply click on a button. Some don’t even discern the difference and think they have recommended the person by endorsing them; that they are one and the same. I think the practice needs to be reviewed and modified so that it is more select and accurate. Otherwise I think LinkedIn is in danger of marginalizing the credibility of the platform.

  2. Richard Bailey 30/04/2013 at 8:32 pm #

    Thanks for commenting, Meg.

    You raise another issue I also have with LinkedIn. I haven’t worked out who I should be connected to or why I should accept connection requests – and in some cases I don’t even know how to connect because the system demands every relationship to fit a known box.

    With Facebook I find it easy: friends are an exclusive club. With Twitter it’s also easy: following implies no relationship and reciprocity isn’t even expected (hence those celebrities with many followers who themselves follow very few).

    Yet despite all these reservations, LinkedIn seems to keep on growing and it demands more of my attention (the scarcest commodity of all).

  3. Sammy 01/05/2013 at 3:44 pm #

    While I myself started on social media somewhat reluctantly and still don’t have a Facebook account but I do use LinkedIn. Compared to masses on Facebook folks on Linkedin are by far professionals! This is an age of social media and does not look like it is going away anytime soon. By definition these votes are “social votes” i.e., what your connections perceive of your skills. There is probably some “herd” effect in play as well. Folks are also typically voting based on their experience and different people may have seen different aspects of your professional capability depending on how or where you met them.

    If you have folks in your personal professional network that you don’t know of, is that Linkedin’s fault? So while I am not necessarily defending Linkedin, nor am I necessarily saying that these votes are necessarily accurate or comprehensive. However, nonetheless they do provide a window into a person’s professional skills and from folks that presumably know them in some professional capacity. Lastly but not the least getting endorsements generally makes folks feel appreciated anyways.

    Since you seem to suggest there is something not right with this. The bigger question then is how or why is any other kind of PR or professional endorsement any better?

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