Having heard about the new Endorsements feature last week, I planned to avoid adding them to my profile before seeing what the reaction from other LinkedIn members would be. But then yesterday I received an email notification letting me know I had been endorsed, a situation that resulted in questions to be answered and decisions to be made.
If you are on LinkedIn, you may have recently received similar notifications or requests about the Endorsement feature.
“Congratulations! Your LinkedIn contact has endorsed you.”
I was endorsed in a skill that I had already chosen to appear on my profile. That’s how it works. Your contacts can see the specific LinkedIn Skills and Expertise areas you’ve selected for yourself and decide to add their name to a list of people who agree with you that you are skilled in that specific area. It’s basically a “thumbs up” or a “like” essentially indicating to anyone viewing your profile that these people are vouching for you.
My first endorsement was for “eLearning” by a contact I worked closely with in higher education student services, but before I entered the eLearning arena. Her vote of confidence is welcomed and appreciated, but I wondered how she might expand on her endorsement if contacted by a third-party about my eLearning skills. (I’d like to think she is also reading my blog!) This may not be an issue at all. It’s too early to tell if these endorsements will lead to that level of activity, but it’s a question that helps determine the potential value of having this information on your profile.
“Does _____ know about ______?”
When I logged into my account to find out more about the endorsement I received, I was immediately prompted to endorse a bunch of other people’s skills. Their profile pictures were presented each with a specific skill, and a question for my response. As an example: Does James know about Instructional Design? For many of the scenarios presented, my reaction was “I’m not sure.” Leading me to rethink my connections.
There are different schools of thought about LinkedIn connections. Should you only connect with people you know well? Or should you become a LION (LinkedIn Open Networkers who are open to connecting with anyone interested in doing so)? Something in between may be the most realistic approach to both building an online network of contacts with whom you regularly communicate and expanding your network to add new professional connections beyond your existing crowd.
There’s no right or wrong way to make LinkedIn connections, but it’s good to decide how you are going to do it. I had been connecting with people I know well, but also accepting invitations from those I don’t know, but are members of the same LinkedIn Groups. When those accounts appeared as options for me to endorse, what could I say? I had no idea. I know they have an interest in the skills they’ve identified, through their membership in the relevant group, and I have access to the details they’ve added to their profiles, but I can’t attest to them possessing the skill – not as a co-worker, classmate, supervisor, instructor, or client might.
Benefits and Challenges
Endorsements are quick and easy, requiring only one click, which may be a significant benefit of this new feature over LinkedIn’s Recommendations. There’s no denying a certain satisfaction that comes from both receiving and providing endorsements. It’s a great feeling to get validation that you are skilled in your field. And it’s nice to be able to say to someone that yes, they have value in their field, too. It’s a positive way to publically recognize contributions and strengths.
There is, however, the potential that Endorsements will become just another box to check when completing a profile. How long before we see pop-ups like Do you have endorsements?, Get endorsed to complete your profile!, or John Doe has the most endorsements in eLearning! when we log in?
Some endorsements, as we are starting to see with recommendations, may be more helpful than others. What would be the value, for example, of an endorsement from a LION, or someone who had endorsed hundreds of members, versus someone who has only endorsed a few? Mutual endorsements – when members endorse each other – may also be important to track in some way. There’s a moral aspect of the process that should make you stop and think about how you would respond to an inquiry for more information. There’s nothing wrong with choosing not to provide an endorsement or recommendation for someone whose skills you haven’t experienced or observed in some way.
While I’ll continue to make connections within my Groups, I won’t provide the endorsements to those I haven’t worked with directly. My strategy may differ from yours, but it’s good to have a plan in mind to help you manage your network in a way that makes sense for you.
There seems to be a certain implied protocol that emerges with these types of features on LinkedIn and on other networking platforms. It’s more organic than prescriptive in nature as each system’s users develop their best practices. What Endorsements will ultimately mean to you as you move forward with your professional networking and career development, is still to be determined. In the meantime, here are two areas to watch:
Levels of endorsement: As with LinkedIn Recommendations, it may be helpful to have some quick reference information about the relationship of endorser to endorsee (e.g., co-worker, supervisor). LinkedIn may decide to modify the capabilities of this feature at some point.
Employer expectations: One of the reasons I write about LinkedIn is that it has gained wide acceptance as a professional networking platform in which employers are also connecting with members. Recruiters need to weigh in on whether or not they find endorsements useful as they screen applicant information and reach out to individual job seekers.
Have you used LinkedIn Endorsements? Tell us more about your approach and thoughts about this new feature.
Image credit: ideagirlmedia, Flickr, CC:BY-ND