LinkedIn should be used professionally

LinkedIn is a useful tool for college students looking for internships or even jobs postgraduation. It’s the Facebook of the professional world. But there are important differences.

Unlike with Facebook – a site where you can easily choose to decline or ignore friend requests from random strangers (or even those individuals with whom you have mutual friends, but don’t recognize whatsoever) – LinkedIn etiquette still isn’t very clear.

As LinkedIn gains prevalence in our technologically driven world, especially with people in our own generation, we are still figuring out how to define the boundaries for this networking tool. Who are we supposed to connect with? Are friends’ endorsements an accurate measure of our professional capabilities? And should companies base hiring decisions off LinkedIn information?

Suppose you receive a contact request on LinkedIn from an individual with whom you’re not familiar, but you happen to have a mutual connection. I am sure this has happened to almost everyone in the LinkedIn world – myself included. Even better, the mutual connection is your supervisor’s boss. How do you know if this person wants to offer you a job and that this is a relationship worth pursuing – or if this person is, to put it bluntly, a creeper? The decision about which types of contacts and whom to add is still undefined, since these types of online professional relationships are still in their early stages.

In my case, the person in question had similar skills, an astounding number of degrees, and an experience list that read off like the supply list of a student returning to school after summer. However, I have not yet accepted this contact because there was no personal message included.

LinkedIn provides the option to send a personalized message, and if this individual were truly interested in contacting me about job prospects, it would have made sense for him to add a more personal message. Oh yeah, and he lives across the globe all the way in India.

With this much reasoning required (I could finish breakfast faster than making a choice about this contact), it is clear that LinkedIn etiquette still needs to be determined.

Facebook is for friends. LinkedIn is for professional contacts. However, there is an option to add friends on LinkedIn, and many people’s networks seem to consist of those same friends from Facebook.

Granted, networking with friends is a helpful mechanism when it comes to finding a job as well. But are friends really capable of vouching for one’s working capabilities? They can certainly speak to one’s character, which is also important, but if you crusade for your friends to endorse or recommend you, this may not be an accurate representation of one’s professional abilities.

You can endorse someone for virtually anything. Some of the strangest examples I have found include “groovy,” “blood,” “using the f-bomb” and “umbrella insurance.” Not to mention the group endorsement feature that allows you to endorse someone for a whole range of skills with the click of a button, which takes just one second and absolutely zero thought.

As the world becomes increasingly more dependent on technology – even finding potential employees and making recruiting decisions based entirely off of LinkedIn – students may wonder how to put their best feet forward in order to use LinkedIn for job prospects.

While the question is complex, the answer is thankfully more concrete. Try to obtain recommendations or endorsements from past supervisors. Glowing reviews should hold more weight in employers’ eyes than a review from a friend about just how generally “awesome” you are.


Alyssa Jacobson is a junior majoring in advertising and political science.

August 27, 2013


Alyssa Jacobson

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