hankrules2011

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LinkedIn and my Recent Adventures There, Part I

Posted by Scott Holstad on May 14, 2018

LinkedIn and my Recent Adventures There

 

My LinkedIn Profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/scottholstad/

Let me first say that this is going to be a strange blog post. I’ve been wanting to write it for awhile, but the topic is fluid, always changing and growing, so it’s hard to set a point to write about it in absolute terms. Moreover, I have struggled with how to frame this topic. If I’m not careful, I’ll come off sounding like the most narcissistic braggart on the Internet. If I approach it more cavalierly, I risk insulting countless good and kind people who have reached out to me. I want to explain a situation, starting from the beginning and describing its evolution, both in my mind and in reality. Without coming across as a giant asshole. It’s a tough task I’m placing before myself. But I’m going to try. I expect the writing and editing of this post to take several days, as the situation remains fluid and evolving, and as I try to gather my thoughts and describe things in a hopefully careful way. I guess I’ll begin at the beginning.

I have been on LinkedIn for at least 13 years now. That’s a long time. If you’re somehow, and I don’t know how this would be possible, unfamiliar with it, it’s a professional networking site that originated as somewhat of a glorified online resume service where companies, recruiters, and employees/job candidates could find one another. Its scope has grown over time. While your profile still has the appearance of a fleshed-out resume, and one can make it as detailed or not as they wish, now it’s possible to join innumerable groups of professionals with similar interests, occupations, memberships and the like, to share information, interact with others, engage in educational activities, and seriously network like a fiend. I’ve read countless articles over the past six months that all assert that HR people and recruiters look for a candidate’s LinkedIn profile in addition to or in lieu of one’s resume, often after receiving a job application or after an interview. Having a good profile is evidence that you take your profession seriously and that you are to be taken seriously. And one way to be taken seriously is by both the number and types of “connections” you have on your profile, for LinkedIn shows how many professional connections each person has right beside their name, initially maxing out at 500, indicating a person has more with “500+” beside your name. There are two things to know about this. One, you can of course exceed 500 connections. Your actual number of connections, or “followers,” is reported beneath your profile “header” in your Activity feed. There you can see just how popular or “important” someone really is: Do they have 730 connections, do they have 2,100 connections, or do they have a monstrous 22,000 connections? It matters. The second thing to know is while your profile shows you maxed out at “500+” officially, and while you can exceed that and people can see the true number, there actually IS a maximum number of connections one can get on the site. It is 30,000. I’ve only “met” one person who had reached that figure, and he had started a second, “personal” account, which when I saw it last, had nearly 14,000 more connections! That is one seriously well connected person. An aside. There is a program I don’t know the exact details of called “L.I.O.N.” People who are L.I.O.N.s are people who are serious about networking, about collecting as many connections as possible, for a variety of reasons. Not everyone with a ton of connections is a L.I.O.N., but in order to become one, you basically have to be a connection hog. These people “advertise” the fact that they are such by listing “L.I.O.N.” after their name and title. That way, if you’re interested in obtaining more connections yourself, you can send them a connection request and rest assured that they will accept. Because, you see, that’s the downside to LinkedIn. While people can send you connection requests, and you can decide whether or not to accept them based on whatever your criteria is, people are most certainly NOT obligated to accept YOUR connection request you send them, which can be both insulting to some and can render a proud, or insecure, person humble within a brief time. If you send out 10 connection requests, but only one accepts, that indicates the other nine did not deem you worthy of connecting with for whatever reason. And there are many reasons. One is quite simply that you are not in an industry they care about and you have little to nothing in common, so they see no point in connecting with you. That’s pretty common. Another is many people only send out and accept connection requests from people they actually have met or know. Those are actually LinkedIn’s official guidelines, which almost no one follows. If you meet or know few people and subscribe to this philosophy, obviously your list of connections will be quite small. That is why many people join various groups – to connect with others of shared interests, etc., in an online forum, hoping it’ll lead to personal connections with some in the group. Or more often, most people send out connection requests to strangers, usually because they’re in a similar industry, are alumni from the same school, live in the same area, WANT to connect with a public or high profile person and are hoping for an acceptance, or something similar. Meanwhile, all of the research I’ve done over the past half year unanimously indicates that recruiters or HR professionals view people with few connections as less desirable, interprets the small number of connections as proof that no one wants to connect with you because you’re not professionally worthy – you’re small fry with no assets to offer anyone. Fair or not, true or not, these are irrelevant. It’s the perception that matters, so it behooves those who are job seeking, or who simply want to maintain a current or updated professional profile, to always be trying to add to their connections and make sure they have “enough,” whatever that means. And, yes, that has been quantified. I’ve seen published a consensus on the part of many recruiters that one should have at least 10 connections for every year of your birth, or if you are 30, you should have at least 300, and if you’re 45, you should have at least 450. The reasoning is, one should encounter at least 10 people in a full year they could legitimately connect with on a professional basis, just in your daily job, life, travels, meetings, etc. Yet, you’ll see numerous profiles that don’t meet this standard. I can’t count the number of profiles I’ve seen that have only 75 or 50 or 20 or even fewer than 10 connections. And what that tells me and what that tells recruiters is that this person doesn’t take their professional profile and professional life and making their online “resume” important seriously enough to make it as appealing as possible. These are people who are lazy or don’t give a shit. Again, that’s not always necessarily true and is often unfair, but that’s the perception, and in candor, that DOES describe a whole lot of people. They don’t take it seriously enough to enhance their profile, and thus recruiters aren’t going to take them seriously and they’ll lose out on job prospects. And this is fact, not conjecture. But back to L.I.O.N.s Being one can be a stigma, as some people – mostly recruiters – actively hate them, others observe them as attention or connection whores who don’t care about who they connect with – just that they do. The two arguments I’ve seen not to become one has been that it dilutes your connection pool, and subsequently everyone else who connects with you, and second, it somehow leads to exponential spam growth. As I’ve added connections, I’ve seen about 1-2% more unsolicited messages, emails, and the like, so possibly this is true of “pure” LIONS, but if you’re merely adding a lot of more “targeted” connections, I don’t believe this is true at all.

Earlier I wrote “one way to be taken seriously is by both the number and types of “connections” you have on your profile.” I’ve just addressed the number, or quantity. Now, the types, or quality. People want to see that you matter and that others think you matter. If all of your connections are what some would consider “minor league,” i.e., low level blue collar, secretarial, restaurant servers, etc., while there is nothing inherently wrong with those professions, people want to see that people higher up the career ladder than you are also connections, i.e., people above you take you seriously enough to connect with you publicly and professionally. So, not only your fellow administrators, but senior managers, a director, possibly even vice presidents or “C” level execs, such as COOs, CTOs, CISOs, or best, CEOs or Presidents of companies. Does it matter what the breakdown is between working grunts and higher ups as connections? I think the answer would vary from recruiter to recruiter, but I personally don’t think the ratio matters too much, at least the lower down the career ladder you are. As long as you have some “decent” connections, most can be at your level or even lower. But for people higher up in their career path or for people trying to scale the corporate ladder, the ratio DOES matter. You want as many connections higher up and more impressive than you for connections as possible. The more, the better. That’s why I’ve seen it written that when you send out “blind” connection requests, you should aim higher rather than lower, knowing your acceptance rate will be lower, but also knowing it’s highly likely that at least a certain percentage of these people will accept your request, thus enhancing your profile and hence your credentials. Because connection quality matters possibly as much as quantity, perhaps more so. Of course, it’s cool to connect with all of your friends, but unless your friends are all senior execs, you need to develop a strategy for attracting execs to connect with you. And two things can affect this. One, how fleshed out, fully developed, and thus appealing have you made your profile. Because that’s the number one thing. It is, after all, essentially your online resume no matter how you look at it. But the other variable that can factor in is, the more high level connections you have, the more OTHER high level people will want to connect with you, because they’ll see that you are desirable to some higher ups, and therefore to them as well – even if they don’t know why! Ultimately, your “regular employee” to “high level” or executive ratio should be tilted toward the higher, the better, because once you’ve achieved that, such people will be sending YOU connection requests based on the quality of your connections, which they’ll want to join. Fact, not conjecture.

All of which brings me to my story…

To Be Continued…

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