Is LinkedIn Worth the Effort?

by Kevin Coleman

A classmate from my Transformative Learning and Technology Literacies class at San Jose State University sent me a LinkedIn connection request about a month ago, prompting a total revamp of my oft-neglected and unfinished LinkedIn profile.  I realized that my profile needed to be presentable if my classmates were going to be looking at it, and also because, oh right, I’m graduating soon (I mean, I hope!).  And not to mention that part of the coursework for the above mentioned class includes creating our own Personal Learning Networks, or PLNs, which a LinkedIn account could be considered a part of.

So, of course, I said yes to the connection request, because it’s a part of a class assignment, and it might be good for networking for future jobs and lifelong learning–but oh no my profile!  I hadn’t looked at my profile in a year, and never really completed it to begin with, and I doubt I’m alone in this predicament.  As I became consumed with the task of making my profile presentable and exploring all the site’s features, I got excited about the possibilities that LinkedIn could offer, but after investing a lot of time (time I could have spent on Facebook!) updating my profile, I began to question the usefulness of such professional-based social networking sites, particularly for MLIS students and job-seeking librarians.

LinkedIn seems to be well on its way to becoming as ubiquitous as Facebook, but with connections instead of friends, and the allure of potentially finding  that amazing new job you’ve been dreaming of. According to LinkedIn, they had 150 million members worldwide as of February 2012, with college students and recent grads making up the fastest growing type of new member.  There are more than one million professional networking groups on LinkedIn, including hundreds of library related groups.  According to this infographic, 13.9% of LinkedIn members are in the “Information Technology and Service” industry, which sadly could just indicate that there are a lot of librarians  looking for jobs. But are librarians finding good job leads on LinkedIn? Based on a recent search I conducted there are very few actual library related job postings listed on LinkedIn, and overall LinkedIn does seem more oriented to big business and the tech industry.

But if you’re the type of person who reads Hack Library School–you like to keep up with what’s going on in libraryland; you probably spend a little too much time on  the Internet; and you’re desperate, or soon will be desperate, to find a job–it’s likely that you’re already on LinkedIn or will be soon, no matter if it’s actually beneficial.  So let’s discuss what’s good about LinkedIn beyond finding a job. LinkedIn offers a good way to manage all of your professional contacts in one easily accessible place for those times in the future when you might need a recommendation or reference.  It’s another way to keep up with what your classmates, colleagues, mentors, etc., are doing professionally, which can benefit your lifelong learning. And it’s a great way to market yourself beyond the resume using LinkedIn’s interactive profile features (like adding web links to projects that you’ve worked on, or linking to your twitter account, personal website or blog). Like Facebook, LinkedIn allows you to share articles, videos, and even status updates; however, in most cases, what you share on LinkedIn should be relevant to the professional worlds that you’re involved in.

There are lots of ways to integrate your personality into your LinkedIn profile. Just do it thoughtfully and don’t forget the basics of managing your profile. This might take more effort than Facebook initially because your LinkedIn profile needs to be professional and polished, while at the same reflecting your personality to potential employers. And if LinkedIn is going to be beneficial to you, it’s going to require a more strategic approach than the usual randomness of Facebook. For example, don’t connect with everyone that you know on LinkedIn; instead, select the majority of your connections based on shared interests and goals. Interestingly, LinkedIn requires that you already have some sort of relationship with a potential connection or connections in common, so they’ve eliminated some of the randomness of online networking right there.

LinkedIn may not lead to a job, but then again it might. So, if you have a few extra hours, it probably wouldn’t hurt to create a glamorous LinkedIn profile and see where it leads. You’ll feel productive, at least! But remember, in the end, it’s still about the connections that you make in the real world, so get out there!

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