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wtfSometimes I can’t believe the stuff I see on LinkedIn.  To wit: someone asks “Are arranged marriage more successful, and why or why not?”

I’m flabbergasted by both the question and some of the responses.  I just blew a few brain cells.

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Flag answer as: Spammy; Self-serving; Didn't read the question; Unnecessarily flippant; Proselytizing; Insufferably smug; tl:dr; Check all that apply…Why do we put up with obnoxious people just because they’re registered on LinkedIn?

I find LinkedIn very useful, but I’m amazed at how some people waste their time to write, my time to read, and some poor innocent electrons in order to provide useless answers in the Q&A section.

Mood-relevant links:

LinkedIn-relevant links:

Posts where I say good things about LinkedIn instead of kvetching:

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LinkedIn just borrowed yet one more feature from Facebook — and that’s a good thing.

As of this week, you can see two little links that say “Reply privately” and “Add comment” after the status line updates of each your contact. So if one contact says he or she is preparing a white paper on your favourite topic, or is visiting your city this week, you can chime in with a question, a comment, a recommendation, a congratulation, whatever.

The feature may seem like no big thing, and it’s certainly been available for a long time on Facebook, but it’s a really good opportunity to engage your contacts in conversation, to have short, quick, friendly exchanges without either side have to devote a whole lot of time to correspondence.

Another nice feature that is reminiscent of Facebook, and has been in place for a few months now, is the ability to post not only questions but also links to articles and news items in your LinkedIn Groups. This is a good way to share tidbits and technical information that may be of interest to your peers.

Both the comments and the news items are nice ways to stay in touch in a light-handed way. It has been nice to exchange a few notes with people in my network regarding books we are reading or industry news of mutual interest. I’m happy with the new features.

Related posts:

Links of interest:

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Blogger Guy Kawasaki had a good post last week on 10 ways to use LinkedIn for job search. A day later, Adam Nash followed with his own thoughts on the official LinkedIn blog.

If you know nothing of LinkedIn, I suggest you take a look — especially if you’re thinking about a possible job change this year. I have a number of links on this site to very good online resources on how to use LinkedIn effectively.

And on this topic, Jason Alba will host a free Web-based seminar on March 4 at 10am PST (1pm EST) to talk about using LinkedIn, with focus on job seekers.

LinkedIn now available in German

I mentioned recently that LinkedIn has begun to offer its interface in Spanish and French, as well as offering the option to save your profile in nearly four dozen languages other than English. Last week, LinkedIn announced that the interface is now available in German as well.

German has also been added to the list languages available for the Questions & Answers section, although the beta Portuguese section is no longer visible. I assume that means that the Portuguese version rollout will be done all at once in the next few months.


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I have a frightening number of friends who are looking for jobs right now; either they have been laid off or they feel they might be about to. Fantastic people, with lots of qualifications in a variety of domains and great personalities, reliable, experienced. Web designers, technical writers, librarians, teachers, purchasers, project analysts, plant ecologists, jacks-of-all-trades, and more.

I wish I could be more helpful in assisting their networking efforts, but in the mean time, I’ like to offer them a new collection of links to places that have good tips on professional networking, job search, career planning, or related topics. First, I want to point to some of my previous posts on my best tools during my recent job search, and on LinkedIn and its applications.

Next, here are some free ebooks, small PDF resources offered by savvy people:

Some of these may seem almost too simple, but I’ve found that a lot of the things that seem incredibly obvious are too often overlooked (including by me, usually to my chagrin later down the road.)

Next, some links to useful resource sites for job seekers, full of handy information:

For my next trick, I shall regale you with observations on what worked best in my recent job search and what I would do differently if I had to start over again tomorrow.

  1. I would register immediately for unemployment benefits. Don’t wait a minute to do this — I was so glad I hadn’t when a family emergency arose less than 4 days after I was laid off, which would have made it difficult to take care of these details. This is where I admonish everyone to swallow any false or ill-placed pride. Some people are “ashamed” to register for unemployment benefits. Screw that! You worked for those benefits, money was taken out of your pay cheques, it’s a benefit. It’s yours. Use it. Plus, the unemployment office — e.g., WorkSource in Washington, CalJOBS in California — offers tons of free job seeker resources that are really awesome.
  2. I’d consider hiring a consultant. Some — probably most — people need help with their resume. It’s appalling the number of truly crappy resumes really qualified people send out. Some people need a career counsellor to help them figure out where they really want to go, particularly if they have been unhappy in recent jobs. Some people need a job coach to help them through the grind of getting the job search done — I was fortunate that my husband was my job coach but often you want more distance than a friend or loved one can provide.
  3. I would register immediately with JibberJobber — well, if I wasn’t already registered — and start using it as I organize my job search, so I don’t waste any time scribbling appointment times and to-do lists that I would start forgetting within a day.
  4. I would go check my profile on LinkedIn and Facebook — or register for one — and make sure that my profile is updated and on-message. I might have to do this a few times as I got my resume together and perhaps got help from a career consultant. What is on-message? Shows all the good information about me and none of the bad, and reflects the kind of job I’m looking for. I would NOT use Facebook in my job search, but if an employer looked at my profile, I wouldn’t want them to read things that would cost me a job. I definitely WOULD want them to read my LinkedIn profile. Your mileage may vary: not everyone’s job search works with LinkedIn but you’d be surprised how helpful it can be.
  5. I would check out which of the mega-job search/job bank sites I want to use and register: Monster.com, BounceBase, whatever. But only one or two big ones at a time, and route everything through my feeds at JibberJobber so I can check them all from one place.
  6. I’d create a search for my local craigslist, and also route its RSS feed through JibberJobber. One or more searches on craigslist can provide avenues not covered by the big sites. I would also check other local lists; for example, I used NWJobs in my last search.
  7. I’d research small, specialized job boards in my professional field, such as the ones provided by trade associations, professional journals, interest groups, etc. For example, as an environmental engineer interested in water quality issues, I looked at professional engineering associations and the Association of Women in Environmental Professions (AWEP)‘s and the American Waterworks Association‘s lists.
  8. OK, that’s it for job boards for now: a few big ones, a few local ones, a few professional ones. I would use them to track which jobs are open, how long the employer has been looking, and how wide the search is.
  9. Under no circumstances would I waste an hour of my time submitting my resume to companies’ automated systems. Partway through my job search last year, I gave my impressions on the four basic approaches to recruitment; they only were confirmed as time passed. Despite getting slews of interviews, not a single one of them came from one of these automated systems. Nothing. I believe they are big virtual round files. A resume should be submitted to a person, whether a contact, human resources, or a recruiter.
  10. Before and throughout the job search, I would use the online networking thing like crazy. I’ve been getting really great results from using LinkedIn and its applications, along with this blog, and cross-posting to all my sites using Ping.fm. I try to keep it low-key and stick to the basics of online networking: leave substantive comments on other people’s blogs — stay courteous, stay on message — use LinkedIn and other similar sites to display your professionalism — get your own blog if you can commit to it — plan on several months’ lead time before you see results. I do not use the aggressive approach, “friending” everyone in sight and leaving self-promoting messages. I find this style tacky and a big turn-off.

OK, that was ten tips — probably more than anyone wanted to read. 🙂


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I recently wrote about the good and bad aspects of the LinkedIn professional networking site. Since then, I’ve discovered or explored some of the good features a bit more and I wanted to share the information.

Languages

Since last November 18, LinkedIn offers the option of saving your profile in 44 different languages. For example, I just created mine in French in addition to the basic English version. Fortunately, it’s a lot faster to create the additional versions after the first because LinkedIn obligingly displays what you wrote in English so you don’t have to go back and forth to gather your data.

Unfortunately, these multi-lingual alternate profiles are still only visible to your connections; your public profile remains in English. But my understanding is that this will change in the future.

But that’s not all! Since July 2008, the entire interface had been available in Spanish as a beta feature; and since November 25, it is also available in French. If you have international dealings with Latin America, Spain, France, Quebec, Belgium, and many more countries, this means you have a new reason to invite your international contacts to LinkedIn and expand your online network.

Edit: AND Questions are now available in Spanish, French, and Portuguese, so you can extend your visibility and show your expertise in these languages, even without creating an alternate profile.  w00t!

Using the apps for conversation

I talked in my previous post about the new applications that have been released for LinkedIn in the last two months. Although they are still few and still sometimes hiccupping, they offer great potential for really making LinkedIn more than an extension of your address book.

I have been particularly pleased with the WordPress application, which posts a feed of WordPress blogs to your profile and informs your contacts that you have a new entry; and with the Amazon reading list, which allows you to share notes and reviews about books that might be of interest to your contacts.

What I love about these is that they allow you to have more meaningful and varied exchanges with your contacts on topics that are both substantive and more personal than the basic feed about who is connected to who, and the questions and answers section that is broadcasted at large.

You may discover that you have a lot more in common with someone by reading their thoughts in a blog or from their book recommendations; hopefully, this may spark more conversation than learning that they now have X+1 connections in their network.

The new applications also give users a chance to send their contacts an unobtrusive yet visible reminder every few days. The Amazon reading list, in particular, is an indirect but excellent opportunity to do what Jason Alba calls blogging without blogging.

This version is a little different, because it’s not a case of leaving thoughtful comments on other people’s blogs; but it is your chance to leave some personal thoughts along with your book evaluations. I strongly recommend putting a little explanatory text, even a full-scale review, rather than just leaving a rating. Writing one or two sentences explaining your impression of the book gives your contacts some insight into your thoughts and your personality, a chance to know you a little better.

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Today I take a break from local environmental issues to talk about things I love and things I hate about LinkedIn, as well as Facebook and other online networking platforms. You can blame Jason Alba for putting me up to it.

Things I love

First, LinkedIn does really provide a fantastic way to accomplish the online part of your networking. It’s already well populated, so that you’re almost sure to be able to gather 20 or so contacts as soon as you sign on by going through your address book, your Rolodex, and your old yearbooks.

LinkedIn gives you a chance to introduce yourself on your own terms. You’re not responding to a job ad when you prepare your LinkedIn profile; you’re free to put the emphasis on the things that interest you. You can make your sales pitch to thousands of people without being intrusive or rude. Moreover, with the new applications such as the Google and SlideShare presentations, the WordPress blog feed, the Amazon reading list, etc., you can provide information about yourself that would never show up on a resume, a business card, or a quals brochure. The key here is that you can show substance, not just use pretty words to imply it.

LinkedIn is an excellent follow-up to a first contact. After I have met new people, I like to ask them if I can add them to my LinkedIn contacts. It helps remind them of our conversation, and if they agree — and they almost always do — they will henceforth see my name every few days whenever I update my status or post a new entry.

LinkedIn has a great interface with Outlook. I’ll be honest, I’m not much of a fan of the Microsoft Office Suite in general and Outlook in particular, but LinkedIn and Outlook make an excellent symbiotic combination. For extra oompf, tie into JibberJobber and really start managing your contacts. The three together are more than the sum of their parts.

Things I hate

LinkedIn’s interface is clunky and already outdated. The company has made laudable efforts this fall to catch up with the times, and as mentioned above I really appreciate that, but the site continues to be outdistanced by Facebook in terms of looks, ease of use, availability of applications, and customization.

Speaking of applications, LinkedIn’s applications are buggy. Perhaps it’s because they’re brand new, but LinkedIn’s apps have a tendency to go kerphlooey all of a sudden. Now, this is somewhat true on Facebook but not nearly as much — a small fraction of the problems on LinkedIn, really, and yet Facebook has apps up the wazoo, and more constantly being developed. LinkedIn has 10, count’em, 10, versus the hundreds in Facebook, and they still tank, or crash various browsers.

I’ve seen people who say they don’t want apps on LinkedIn because they don’t want it to be another Facebook. I agree that I sure don’t want games and “virtual gifts” and other distractions on LinkedIn, but I do want applications that are useful in a professional context.

LinkedIn’s groups and discussions are full of inane or spammy material. In this environment, as in some spin-off sites I have tried, there is an excess of tolerance for content-less posts by people who really don’t want answers but only to be noticed. On the ‘Net in general, you can expect to be greeted by baboon cries of “Newb! Read the FAQ! SQ! STFU!” when you post blatant self-promotion full of typos, or yes-or-true questions. On LinkedIn, everybody goes to the other extreme by pretending that you’re a legitimate poster, which allows the truly cretinous to thrive there.

LinkedIn’s ads are intrusive and hoaky. Some don’t even look very professional. They’re large, often animated, and distracting. Most of the time they’re ill placed for the content that surround them. Compare that once again to Facebook, that has lots of ads but at least keeps them smaller and off to the side. (Though in both cases, thank God and the Mozilla-based code monkeys for Adblock!)

The crowd who uses LinkedIn is not diverse enough. Frankly, it’s full of marketing and recruiting folks. While I understand how incredibly useful LinkedIn is for them, they’re just not very interesting to talk to. They don’t care whether they’re talking widgets, kumquats, or decibels. Everything is a commodity and all is equal.

I long for the day where we have more people there who discuss the substance of things or work, rather than about managing or marketing things and work. I try to push LinkedIn among engineer and scientist colleagues, but the very fact that they have few people to talk to over there makes it a hard sell.

The LIONs are hungry. There’s the “LinkedIn open networker” factor. To be blunt, seeing that someone has 500, 1000 or 1500 contacts on LinkedIn does not impress me; it simply suggests that this person’s contacts are meant to be consumed, not cultivated. How could “Joseph Bleau III esq. (LION) me@myspammyaccount.com” really follow 1500 contacts? They’re just names on Joe Bleau’s list. They’re tick marks.

Getting a bunch of contact requests from these people mostly creeps me out, and I turn down the majority unless there is in fact some connection. For example, I have accepted a few LION contacts who share my professional associations or groups, even if I don’t know them personally.

On my wish list

Tagging and ranking. I really wish LinkedIn let me have different levels of contacts: the true contacts, the more distant or second-tier contacts, the open networkers, etc. For now, I use JibberJobber to track this, but it would be nice to be able to filter feeds from contacts on LinkedIn. Similarly, I would like to be able to assign tags that would show when I mouse over a name. This is another thing I handle through JibberJobber.

Fortunately, LinkedIn just started allowing users to add notes to their contacts, but it’s not quite refined yet. The notes are more like post-its, but I’m hoping the features will continue to expand.

Real penetration among technical professionals (other than IT). I’d like to be able to talk shop with engineers, biologists, urban planners, architects, geologists, hydrologists, etc.

Custom views and dashboard. I would love to be able to rearrange the elements on my pages the way you now can with the WordPress dashboard or Google widgets.

So I mentioned a lot of features on which Facebook kicks LinkedIn’s ass all over the court. Why don’t I just stick to Facebook, then? Because although Facebook can be used for professional purposes, it’s really built for play. It has all these games and cutesie apps that are hard to resist; and the next thing you know, you’re mixing business and personal life.

Now, I don’t think you can hide your personal life, and in fact I think that would be unhealthy. But that doesn’t mean I want to mix wall-to-wall quips exchanged among friends with business presentations. That would be like showing up at the office in my pyjamas; no one minds if I wear them at home, but no one wants to see them at a staff meeting. Facebook is optimized for play while LinkedIn is solely dedicated to business, and that’s the way I want it to stay.

Despite my gripes and my unfulfilled online networker aspirations, LinkedIn is a really useful tool and I think the recent releases of applications and new features is a step in the right direction. I recommend it without hesitation to anyone who has a ‘Net presence. Just bear with the rough corners and make a niche for yourself.

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