Posted tagged ‘LinkedIn’

Why I’m not endorsed on LinkedIn

January 24, 2013

“Sam Smith has endorsed you for editing!” says the email subject line.

That’s nice, I think, recalling the time Sam Smith and I shared a cab from the airport to an editing conference. But although we exchanged business cards and connected on LinkedIn a couple of years back, Sam Smith has no idea how good an editor I am. Why would he endorse me, someone he met over three days, for a skill he can’t vouch for?

This is the odd new feature on LinkedIn, the business online networking group, aka Facebook for professionals. Whether you’re looking to develop a client base, looking for a job, or just looking to keep up career connections, LinkedIn is useful without the downsides of other social networks — the pokes and LOLs, the intrusive in-laws, the exes who know too much of your business.

Some people list simply a name, a title, and an employer. Others, including me, have filled out pretty much everything and use LinkedIn as a second resume. I’ve cited several articles published in the past year. I also have a dozen recommendations on there, everyone from previous bosses to a few colleagues who can attest to special skills to a student who was nice enough to volunteer (thanks, Bruce!).

There are two reasons I didn’t jump on the endorsement bandwagon when it showed up last fall: I already have a bunch of thoughtful, thought-out mini-references from people clearly familiar with my work. And they take up a fair amount of space; endorsements would take up even more.

Here’s a third, more nuanced reason. Endorsements are redundant. They’re plastic imitating glass, vinyl imitating leather. They’re for people without the time or inclination to read. They’re the “like” button of LinkedIn. LinkedIn isn’t Facebook, so why is it trying to be?

Facebook has its place; it’s hard to argue with a billion users. But LinkedIn is different, and it should be. Its 200 million users are on there for a different, though sometimes overlapping, purpose. It should follow the same advice given to all those people: Be yourself! Stand out as the individual you are; who wants to hire/recommend/befriend a copy of someone or something else?

By now a bunch of articles recommend collecting endorsements. “Catch the eye of recruiters who are short on time but long on candidates,” one says. Quality over quantity, I say. If a recruiter is picking Sally over Suzy because Sally’s string of little boxes is one longer than Suzy’s rather than scanning skills and experience, that doesn’t speak well for the recruiter.

“Recruiters can get a quick overview of your areas of expertise,” one says. Isn’t that what “summary” is for — or even the tagline at the very top? To see that, the recruiter doesn’t even have to open the whole profile.

So why did Sam Smith, whom I barely remember, endorse me? “When your coworkers and friends log in to LinkedIn, a big blue box at the top of the site will ask them to endorse you and confirm that you possess the skills you claim.” Ah! It’s an arms race, a popularity contest. Is so-and-so good at this or that? If you click yes, maybe so-and-so will return the favor.

But then we’ll all have a string of little boxes on our pages. Eventually, how will that help recruiters? Won’t they have to read something at some point — when it’s that much harder to get past all the little boxes? “This simple way to offer a possible employer a quick overview of your potential value,” says one article, “could give you an edge over candidates who require recruiters to read all 1,000 words of their profile.” Sigh.

Not surprisingly, commenters have been as cynical as the article writers have been enthusiastic: “I’ve never found it useful.” “Closed my LinkedIn account because of this whole thing. So annoying.” “I’m still not convinced. Won’t recruiters realize that endorsements are low-value, low-effort as opposed to recommendations and actual experience?” “I see so many profiles of peeps I know who do NOT have good skills in ‘advertised’ areas! Recommendations mean so much more.” “Endorsements in comparison are worthless, and the idea that it’s up to me to ‘manage’ them is ridiculous.”

Oh, look, another email. “Sam Smith has endorsed you for newsletters!” Okay, we were at an editing conference. That’s why he endorsed me for editing. But Sam has absolutely no idea that I’ve ever worked on a newsletter. That says nothing good about him … and nothing helpful about me.

So I’m siding with the commenters. No endorsements, but thanks to my connections who’ve meant well by them. Maybe endorsements will run their course, and LinkedIn will back off from its experiment. If not, lots of people will have profiles full of little boxes, and mine will stand out for being full of words. That’s fine. After all, I’m in the word business.

Copyright 2013 Ellen M. Ryan. All rights reserved.

Purple prose

August 18, 2012

LinkedIn, the business networking site, has a place to type in one’s publications. This is rather useful for those of us who write things that are published. Since this option came along, I’ve typed in news of my last seven freelance articles.

Well, seven of the last eight. The eighth has just come out, and I got as far as … typing. Then I thought about it, looked at the article a few times, made some faces, and backed out of the site. Much as I’d like to show off my latest article, this one will remain a secret. (Anything printed, in print, for tens of thousands of people these days can be considered a secret if it then goes to pulp and disappears. It is, of course, also online — but I’m going to pretend that if I don’t call attention to it, no one will realize that.)

Now, why am I ignoring this latest piece of fine writing rather than showing it off? Because what started as fine writing got edited. Badly. Okay, I’ve been doing this for a while. More than 400 articles. They’ve pretty much all been edited, and more than a few times the editing has left something to be desired. Unfortunately, this was one of those times. I don’t know how many people were involved, but she/they not only changed what I wrote; she/they added new lines and phases wholesale.

That’s bad enough. What’s worse: This was a personal essay. Really personal. It was about me and certain well-known relatives. The editor(s) had me saying and thinking things I didn’t say and think, and my attitudes toward relatives in general and these in particular came off as not reflecting reality — even after delicate negotiations in the author galley. The result was an essay purple enough that I was grateful the piece was published a few hundred miles from home in a city where few people I know are likely to see it.

It’s not the first time that’s happened. An interview with an elected official earlier this decade was serious and carefully crafted to explain a major legislative issue to readers of the publication, who were eager to understand the official’s thoughts on nuances of the issue. The piece went through editing, and I was pleased with how it turned out. But the publisher decided to get colorful before going to press. Seeing the printed copy, I was shocked: The long introduction was ablaze with purple, a fawning kiss-up to the official in words and phrases I would never, ever use. Instead of a clip to be proud of and use with job applications, it rated a shudder and a quick burial.

One of the worst cases of editing in recent years did get salvaged, thank goodness. This one was more than a matter of pride — it was about accuracy and utter unprofessionalism on the part of the editor. The article was a meticulously researched, hour-by-hour look at how a medical staff saved the life of a young man in the middle of the night. The editor inserted thoughts and quotes on his behalf. I’ve never seen that before or since. When I objected, she said, “But he must have felt that!” How do you argue with someone who would do such a thing? I just said, “He didn’t. It has to come out.”

It’s a lengthy article, and there were dozens of other examples. Thankfully, I’ve put the pain of most of them out of my mind and don’t want to recall them. The piece as published isn’t perfect, but I can live with it. I guess you could say I no longer turn purple upon seeing it.

Copyright 2012 Ellen M. Ryan. All rights reserved.

Monkey SEO, monkey …

June 27, 2011

This week’s project: interview marketing experts around the country about how recycling companies can improve their B2B and B2C marketing by use of SEO, SEM, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. So much of what they’re saying fits in with the content of my Writing and Editing for the Web class through MediaBistro, which is covering much more than writing and editing. Both for me and for the editor who assigned this article, that’s value added!

Copyright 2011 Ellen M. Ryan. All rights reserved.