Do I need a LinkedIn Profile?
With around 500 million members, there is little doubt that LinkedIn is the market leader when it comes to professional networking social media platforms. Talking to some of my non-museum friends and family – people who work in PR or engineering, food production or oil exploration – it clearly has a very wide following across many different industries. Yet usage rates for LinkedIn seem to be markedly lower within the museums and heritage sectors than without, and I have heard many of my peers speak of LinkedIn with tones which are, if not decidedly hostile, then definitely cold and unenthusiastic.
Do you need a LinkedIn profile to get ahead as an emerging museum professional? To try to answer this question, I will present a series of benefits and disadvantages, as seen from my perspective. In the true tradition of this blog, I will include below any savage rebuttals or ferocious counterpoints to my opinions as and when they are received – chuck them my way on Twitter!
Keeping up with your ‘real life’ network
There are a number of strands to my online presence. Facebook is by far and away the most personal and private platform for me, and I make it a rule to never be Facebook friends with current colleagues – not matter how fond I am of them. Twitter, by contrast, is where my professional presence is most open – and where I will freely make connections with people who I don’t know.
Sometimes, I can get in a bit of a jam when I want to keep up with someone and they don’t have Twitter, and I don’t feel close enough to comfortably connect with them on Facebook. In those situations, LinkedIn can provide the perfect solution – provided the other party themselves has a LinkedIn profile.
Cementing connections formed on-line
A Twitter follow is definitely not as concrete a bond as Facebook friend request, yet there are definitely some people who I know only from Twitter, but who I would like to bring more closely into my fold. Clearly, adding them on Facebook is not an option. I do not want them to see What I Got Up To At The Weekend, nor allow them access to any photographs of me as a teenager (long hair, pimples, lucky velvet pulling-jacket).
Instead, a LinkedIn connection can do just the trick. It’s an acknowledgement that we not only follow each other on Twitter, but are also happy to be associated together in a more formal and professional manner. It’s an affirmation that you’re a real human being and that you’re Safe For Work, and not some other Twitter jester, agitator or cat-picture peddler. And it is always most devilishly interesting to nose through another person’s work history.
Spying for success – who got the job that you didn’t?
In an earlier post, I wrote about the importance of not moping around after failing at interview. In a couple of months’ time, google the job title and institution. If the successful candidate has updated their LinkedIn profile, you’ll be able to find them.
Have a look at their skills and experience, and try to work out what they’ve got which you don’t. Sometimes, they’ll have an amazing skills-set and work history, and you can rest easy that the position went to the best candidate.
At other times, you might pick up on the whiff of nepotism. While frustrating to detect, it can at least explain why the stellar performance you gave at interview did not result in the outcome for which you were hoping. It also compounds with a stark clarity the importance of networking.
It cannot be used as a networking tool in and of itself
While Twitter can be brilliant for forming friendships and professional relationships with strangers in an on-line forum, LinkedIn most definitely is not. There’s no sense of personality on LinkedIn, and no warmth or humour. It’s just not an effective way to build ties with people.
I occasionally receive connection requests on LinkedIn from people I don’t know from Adam. I did once accept one from a random. He then decided to follow it up with the following message:
Thanks for linking up mate. Always good to meet new guys as contacts. Who knows where it leads?
Please do not do that. It is creepy and weird.
Headhunting is rare in the sector
One of LinkedIn’s most celebrated features is its ability to facilitate headhunting. While pro-active and vigorous recruitment techniques are practiced by some museums, it is very rare – and unheard of for all but the most senior positions. If you are looking to get your first paid job in a museum, or to move on to your first managerial position, then do not rely on being picked out and chosen.
Nobody really looks at it when deciding on a candidate
At least none of the middle-managers I’ve spoken to about this issue have. They will have already ready your covering letter and application form or CV. Why would they want to read the same information again in a slightly different format?
It is spammy and invasive
On average, I probably receive one email a day from LinkedIn. I have no interest in what they have to say. Yes, I could probably change my settings – but frankly, I can’t be bothered. It’s not my problem to fix – it’s theirs. The easiest thing is just to sit and stew at the ridiculous status quo.
It also has a feature whereby people can, in some circumstances, tell if you have looked at their profile or if you have searched for them. I don’t really like that feature, and it makes me feel a little bit uncomfortable.
Finally, it did a massive naughty to me when I first joined. Without telling me, it colluded with my email provider, and sent an invitation to connect with me to all of my contacts. As someone who is both lazy about deleting messages and who did online dating for a time, my email account is thickly populated with the contact details of a whole host of people with whom I have failed to germinate any lasting affection. Now I look like the creepy weirdo.
It is probably worth having a Linked-In profile if you can find the time to put one up, but don’t invest too much effort in the process.
A few thoughts from some of my sector colleagues (and betters) below: