Q: I think I understand the value of networking as well as the next businessman, but
for the life of me, I don't really see what sites like LinkedIn, Ryze and Ecademy can
do for me. What's the point of these sites other than just as some sort of digital
A: My good friend and colleague Liz Ryan, head of the women's power networking
group WorldWIT, Women in Technology, has a great answer to this sort of question,
an answer that I'm quoting here with permission:
I ask people to join LinkedIn, and often they say "I don't want the spam." So I say
"You won't get any spam." And they say "But I'm not job-hunting." And I say "You
don't have to be job-hunting." Then we go back and forth for awhile. It's a bit of a
challenge to get my own friends to see the forest for the trees, sometimes.
When Monster.com was new, the big idea was to post jobs online. As an HR person,
I can tell you, Monster is a pretty awful place to post jobs. You get KILLED with
unwanted resumes from job seekers all over the world. I truly believe that
Monster.com is the reason that HR people no longer respond to online job seekers -
and sometimes offline job seekers - with any kind of response.
Anyway, over time HR people and recruiters figured out that the real value to
Monster is the ability to search the candidate database (for a fee). Maybe some of
the same thing is happening with LinkedIn. What seems like the obvious benefit to
membership may not be the key feature for a lot of users. See what you think about
this LinkedIn primer that I share with my friends. If I'm doing something I shouldn't
be doing on LinkedIn, I'd love to know that too!
1) Your profile itself is a great value to joining LinkedIn. I get great, useful contacts
from my profile appearing on LI, and of course it's free.
2) Even if you're not job-hunting or doing business developing or searching for
contacts yourself, it's a great thing to be able to be a conduit for your friends. They
really appreciate that service that you can provide for them. Just the reconnect-
with-an-old colleague bit is a godsend: where else can you do that online?
3) LinkedIn is the google for individuals who aren't high on Google rankings. That
means anyone who's in a corporation but not senior enough to appear on the About
Us/Management Bios page (although of course, those execs are often on LinkedIn
too); anyone who is a partner in a consulting firm but perhaps not often in the news
or otherwise mentioned online; and zillions of other people whom you'd have
trouble finding if it weren't for LinkedIn.
4) Let's say you have a business meeting with the VP of Marketing at a major
corporation next week. If it weren't for his profile on LinkedIn (say, if you were
having this meeting three years ago), how would you learn where he went to school,
where he worked before his current job, and other details about him? With the help
of his LinkedIn profile, you're a zillion times better prepared for the meeting.
5) Now let's say that VP of Marketing is behind the curve and doesn't have a
LinkedIn profile. No big; you find another connection of yours who works at the VP's
current company, and ping her for some background. See? LinkedIn to the rescue
6) Want to know who's working in a particular industry space in a given city?
LinkedIn search. Intelligence gathering, even if you never contact any of the people
My point is that there's lots more to LinkedIn than just reaching out to people for
job leads and for business development leads - not that either of those are bad
things. And I agree with other posters that you have to use the tool, rather than just
join up and sit there like a lump. But I'd love to hear stories of some more creative
uses for LinkedIn, from other users...
Thanks for sharing your compelling story with everyone, Liz. When I think about
your point with Monster.com causing recruiters to never list jobs online anymore, I
not only know that it's true from personal experience, but also find it to be an
interesting example of the law of unintended consequences, in the same way that a
site like LinkedIn helps with market research or background checks.
At the end of the day, in business you're ultimately constrained only by the skills
you can bring to the table and the network of friends and acquaintances you can call
on for help, advice and assistance. And if you don't help them when you can, of
course, it doesn't take long to be ostracized from a group, however informal or far-
flung. But if you are part of a circle of professionals, you will always grow your
career faster, smarter, and more profitably.
Dave Taylor is an internationally recognized expert on business and technical topics
and is the author of 18 different books and thousands of magazine articles. His Q&A
Web site is http://www.askdavetaylor.com/