The first time I heard about LinkedIn was 8 or 9 years ago through an email that popped into my inbox with the subject "Join my network on LinkedIn". After glancing at the subject I promptly moved that email to my trash folder. This was the beginning of the era of social networks and it seemed like a new social network popped up every other week, demanding that I create yet another "profile". By the time LinkedIn's email reached me, I had already acquired social network fatigue, so the safest thing for me was to just get rid of that email. Now in 2014, after many social networks have gone belly-up taking my "profiles" with them, I have become an active LinkedIn user with a full profile and over 200 connections. It turns out that LinkedIn was not only a new social network but a phenomenon that has changed the world of recruiting, affecting professionals worldwide.
LinkedIn was founded by Reid Hoffman in 2002 on the premise that people, especially professionals, would want to take control of the way that they were portrayed online. Hoffman stated this premise quite clearly: "Part of a networked world is that people will be looking you up, and when they do, you want to control what they find" (as cited in Hempel, 2010). While Facebook is for fun, and Tweeter is for temporary content, LinkedIn is the place where you go if you want to be seen as a serious professional (Hempel, 2010). Hoffman managed to provide the right solution for this need through LinkedIn and now LinkedIn has become one of the most popular social networks in the world. As seen in the chart below, in a study of Microsoft employees, LinkedIn was behind Facebook but ahead of Tweeter in the number of daily users (Archambault & Gruding, 2012).
Having a large number of users, however, is not the reason why I have a LinkedIn profile. After receiving many emails from people asking me to "Join [their] professional network" I finally gave in and joined LinkedIn in 2007. What happened next was interesting: a few times after I had a meeting, LinkedIn would email me, notifying me that the people I had just met were visiting my LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn had really become my professional online presence. The power of LinkedIn did not stop there, by being a centralized repository of self-reported professional data, LinkedIn became the tool of choice for recruiters to find candidates fit to fill open positions. Hempel, in an article discussing LinkedIn and recruiting, puts it bluntly: "If you don't have a profile on LinkedIn, you're nowhere" (2010). It became clear to me that having a full clean profile had become a necessity, not only for day to day interactions with professionals, but even as a job-finding tool.
If you are a professional and you do not have a LinkedIn profile, you must create one now. Start by filling it up with your basic information and continue by adding your work history and education. Although you may be tempted to avoid it, put up your picture, it helps people understand that there is a person behind the profile. Finally connect with other professionals that you know, so that you become part of their networks and are easily reachable. LinkedIn has changed the world of recruiting forever, do not get left behind.
- Archambault A., Grudin J., (2012) "A Longitudinal Study of Facebook, LinkedIn, & Twitter Use" Proceedings CHI 2012
- Hempel, J., (2010, April) How LinkedIn will fire up your career. Fortune Vol. 161, No. 5