I reluctantly created an account on LinkedIn about six years ago. All those comments about “you’ve just gotta be on LinkedIn” finally got to me so I signed up without truly understanding why I needed to memorize yet another username and password. Once I logged in I found a couple of good uses for LinkedIn. The primary value-add to me was that no longer would my contacts become obsolete because LinkedIn allowed me to access updated profiles with people’s new jobs and titles. That is pretty cool, I thought, especially because it’s challenging to keep up with people I don’t communicate with on a regular basis. The other potential benefit was to be able to connect with the people that my contacts are connected to. If say, I wanted to be introduced to the new Executive Director of Hispanic Federation in New York, I would send a request to the person or persons in my network who are connected with that person. Easy peasy.
Here is where the value of LinkedIn has fallen short. On a number of occasions I have reached out to people for a) an introduction or b) a direct connection, with no results. Last year, a recent college graduate wanted to connect with an organization with a focus on international development. All he wanted was an informational interview to better understand their work. He reached out for my help and wondered if I knew someone there. I did not but was able to find a connection to someone in HR. I was thrilled! I reached out to her via LinkedIn and asked her to please email me or direct me to the best person in her organization to talk to. I found her phone number and left her a couple of voicemails explaining my reason for calling and requesting to be redirected if she was not the appropriate person to handle the matter. Chirp. Silence. I am still waiting for her response.
Another disappointment has been that not everyone keeps their information up to date on LinkedIn so it’s not as reliable a resource for current information as one might have thought. Then lately there are the daily requests to connect – from TOTAL STRANGERS! Whenever I attempt to connect with someone who is outside of my network the LinkedIn online police asks me for proof that I have a right to request such connection – that proof is in the form of the person’s email address. Apparently the strangers who are trying to connect to me have found a workaround for this blockade. I recently accepted a sales meeting with a total stranger because she implied that two important people from my network had given my name. I felt compelled to take the meeting but when I pressed her about the context in which Claudia or Renee gave her my name, she admitted that she had simply found me on LinkedIn and saw that I was connected to these former clients. WHAT?! I called Renee about it and she confirmed that she had not given this woman my name and that she is not someone she would recommend. Lesson learned – confirm with your contacts first before taking a meeting with a stranger who claims they got your name from people you know.
Even I have joined the bandwagon and in my career management workshops have encouraged women to keep the LinkedIn profiles up to date. What I’ve observed is that this is more valuable for employers than it is for the user. Employers use it to confirm what you’ve told them. Recruiters use it to mine for more names and resumes. My profile, according to LinkedIn, appears in searches umpteen times per week, but so what? No viable opportunity has ever come to me as a result of my profile being viewed on LinkedIn and I don’t know of anyone who has gotten a job through LinkedIn. I get frequent invitations to “upgrade” my account which means I have to give LinkedIn my credit card and allow them to charge me every month. Perhaps the results are better if you are a paying customer, but I don’t think so. Strangers would still pretend that they know me and request a connection and my requests for connections would still be ignored because of this fact – social media is for the masses. It is not personal. There are no short cuts to making true personal connections and unfortunately that calls for making the time to meet people in person and to continue to cultivate relationships with regular communications.
Would love to learn if you’ve been able to leverage LinkedIn – I am open to other points of view.