What does your LinkedIn network say about you?

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By Consultant, Trent Swindells 

Having just landed a job at Font PR, I can tell you first hand that the Tasmanian job market is as competitive as ever. Some people will do anything to try and get a competitive edge, including faking relationships on LinkedIn.

If you’re not yet familiar with LinkedIn – alarmingly, some aren’t – then you need to get onto it. It is the social network for business, essentially providing you with a free, publicly accessible digital resume. In fact, LinkedIn is so much more than that. From small beginnings in California in the early ‘00s, LinkedIn now claims to have more than 300 million users globally. It’s not ‘Facebook big’, but LinkedIn’s focus on professional networking means you cannot afford not to have your own profile.

One of its best features is the ability to connect with colleagues and to endorse each other on the skills in your resumes. LinkedIn is the latest manifestation of the truism that a person’s worth can be measured in the love of their friends – or their work colleagues. Particularly in a small market like Tasmania, personal contacts and endorsements are everything. Carefully curated overtime, your LinkedIn profile becomes part of a web of trusted colleagues. But the key word is ‘trust’.

Anyway, there I was looking for work, building my LinkedIn profile, and I found myself being bombarded by connection requests from random strangers! These were Tasmanians, looking to create some kind of network. Weirdly, following an unsuccessful interviewone of the selection panel followed up by requesting a LinkedIn connection. He’d asked me just one scripted question! These were hardly trusted colleagues.

Maybe it’s just me? I know people who accept every LinkedIn connection possible, because it might lead to a job, or they’re trying to build an audience, and – because Tassie’s so small – they worry about offending the wrong person by refusing. It’s a dilemma. Maybe online networking really is about quantity, not quality? LinkedIn is also a great platform for publishing articles or videos that can position you as a business or thought leader. But for many of us, it’s just about looking for work. Personally, I’d rather keep my LinkedIn network small and know that the colleagues I’ve endorsed are the best of the best. If one of those random connections turns out to be dodgy, I don’t want to be dodgy by association!

Anyone who has a Facebook page will attest that there is an element of performance to what you choose to post online. If we’re honest, most of us are selective about the ‘truth’ of what we post, or just plain showing off. Nothing wrong with that. Your friends know you’re really a doofus and they’ll forgive you.

Your LinkedIn profile is fundamentally different. More than any other social network, it has implications in the real world. An impressively confabulated online resume and web of connections might help get you an interview, but what are you going to do when someone asks to back up your claims with action, or relates an anecdote about someone you don’t actually know?

Surely, when you’re building your LinkedIn profile the rules are much the same as they are in real life? Use your common sense, be authentic and just remember – everyone is watching.

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