Back in July 2010 when over 100 library staff from across Cambridge University’s libraries were participating in Cam23 (a 23 things social media programme) there was widespread agreement that of all the tools and sites explored, LinkedIn – the professional networking site, seemed to have the least relevance to librarians. I myself commented on this very blog, in a post called Collecting People, that using LinkedIn reminded me of the sticker collecting of my youth, however, ‘in contrast to sticker collecting, with which you were hugely motivated to complete your set, with LinkedIn the process never ends and we’re going to be collecting people for eternity.’ I added that ‘I might feel more ‘up’ about it if my presence on LinkedIn had ever resulted in any professional activity – conversation, learning, visits, but thus far it hasn’t.’
Looking back I think I was a little hard on LinkedIn, but not too hard, as back then the site had a very flat two-dimensional feel and its functionality was fairly limited. However, three months ago I found myself revisiting LinkedIn for one of the best reasons I can think of: because our students asked us to present a session on it to see if they were using it to its full potential. On returning to LinkedIn I made an unexpected discovery: I was definitely not using it to its full potential and what was more LinkedIn had changed markedly since I’d last given it a proper look.
These discoveries subsequently fed into a very well received class (co-presented with Meg Westbury) open to all staff and students at the business school and an even more well received PowerPoint (which formed around 15 minutes of the hour-long class) which, as I write, has had over 17,000 views in just a few days on SlideShare! The class and the PowerPoint was deliberately pitched at a general business audience but along the way I also became certain that the new LinkedIn has huge potential value to myself and other library & information professionals.
I’ve narrowed down this new value to 8 reasons why I feel we librarians should no longer ignore, or complain apathetically about, LinkedIn, as follows:
1. A FULLER PICTURE OF WHAT WE DO
The new sections, which include: summary, projects (see image below), skills and expertise – more popularly known as endorsements, certifications, publications, organizations, courses, honours and awards, and volunteering/causes, now enable us to present a fuller – more holistic – picture of our professional activities, experiences, abilities and aspirations. It can only be a good thing to add this information to our profiles – as a record, as an advertisement, or as both. Below: an example of projects from my own profile.
2. STRENGTHEN AND PROMOTE COLLABORATION
The projects, endorsements and publications sections are particularly valuable as they promote and celebrate networking and collaboration as we are encouraged to cite the involvement and contribution of colleagues, strengthening the linkages we make, or have already made, with other professionals. Below: an example of how collaboration can be demonstrated.
3. CURRENT AWARENESS
The new homepage, LinkedIn Today, offers current awareness on social media, technology development and many other apsects relevant to librarianship to help us keep engaged. There are also hugely valuable contributions from many ‘thought leaders’. I’d like to see more information-related stories but I think this depends on more librarians sharing within LinkedIn. Below: a librarian shares content on LinkedIn.
4. SOCIAL NETWORKING WITH OUR USERS
Via status updates, also on the home page, we now have another way for us to socially network and share information with other librarians and more significantly with those people we are connected to outside of the profession. This has led me to a greater understanding and awareness of the faculty and students I support in particular. Twitter has yet to fully catch on with these communities so LinkedIn is filling an important gap. Below: a Judge student shares news on Linkedin with me an other connections.
5. PRESENT A PROFESSIONAL IDENTITY WITH TRANSFERABLE SKILLS
LinkedIn now encourages us to promote ourselves via a summary section and a headline. Previously the headline was only a field into which you could enter your place of work, now we are effectively being encouraged to maintain our own personal identity (or brand if you will) and not necessarily to be defined by where we work. Personally I am far more comfortable with this diassociation as I do not and have never felt defined by the institution I work for. I’m of the view that we librarians need to present a more diassociated identity because are skills should be seen as transferable and jobs are not for life anymore.
6. PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT RECORD
We should all be keeping an eye on our professional development, and I am now using my LinkedIn profile as an up-to-date record of such development. The presence of this profile online is a great prompt for me to keep it up-to-date and this in turn means I will not have to climb such a horrendous mountain when I apply for my next job by having t build a CV from scratch. That is if my next employers don’t use my LinkedIn profile to recruit and bypass the traditional CV. The company Jagex recently visited our business school and informed students that they only hire via LinkedIn. Below: a metaphor for professional development.
7. NEW CONTACTS, CONVERSATIONS AND OPPORTUNITIES
I have really been hammering LinkedIn over the past few weeks, partly because I’ve been pulling a class and a PPT together but also because I wanted to see just how much I could get out of it, based on the presupposition that as with most things in life you get as much out as you put in. My activities have led to some very real results including renewed or new contacts with influential people inside and outside of our profession; interesting conversations that could lead to new opportunities and understanding; and most suprisingly of all a very real and exciting offer of work that I still have to decide whether to turn down or accept. Below: a new contact from beyond librarianship and the opportunity for a conversation and sharing.
8. ANOTHER ‘FOOT IN THE DOOR’
Finally, another great reason for us librarians to be on LinkedIn is because if we want to be recognised as the ‘go-to’ information experts at our institutions then we will be expected to know how it works and to be able respond in an informed way to questions from our academic user groups. Our recent class was a real win for us and did us no end of good in terms of how we are perceived and understood. LinkedIn is therefore yet another welcome opportunity for us to get our foot in the door and prove our worth.
So… will you be giving LinkedIn another go? Do let me know.
P.S. Our LinkedIn 20 Tips & Tricks Slideshare is reproduced below.