LinkedIn, the World’s Largest Professional Network, is fast becoming one of the most important ways to connect (with employers, partners, mentors, former colleagues, employees, subject matter experts and clients) online. As such, the interactions which take place here (or which could but don’t) are increasingly important to understand. Even if you are not using it, other people, including your potential employers, probably are, so it is to your benefit to better understand the complexity and nuance of social interaction in this context.
If you are brand new to LinkedIn, my post on the Many Worlds of LinkedIn provides a bird’s eye overview.
What is LinkedIn About?
LinkedIn is about doing things like finding people and being found, discovering and creating opportunities. It is a place to be active, so that you show up on newsfeeds to stay top of mind with your network. It is about continuously cultivating your digital presence. To engage this dynamism, think about the progressive form of the verb – linking – not Linked, the stative form of the verb, which I argue contributes to the proliferation of misundersandings about the site.
There are many things to do on LinkedIn, but as an interactional sociolinguist, I am principally interested in the role that language plays in accomplishing ends, and how LinkedIn in turn catalyzes and organizes language. Click here to read more about the Linguistics of LinkedIn.
What is LinkedIn for?
At its core, LinkedIn is designed to help you network. Linguistically, it facilitates networking interaction in a number of ways: by helping you talk about yourself, by connecting you to other people in a way that facilitates conversation around similar (and diverse) interests, and by structuring an environment where asking for things is naturalized and foregrounded.
Another good way to think about LinkedIn is as a self-updating rolodex. Better than paper rolodexes, this digital means of both capturing and facilitating connection can actively suggest your information for inclusion into others’ rolodexes, as it passively keeps track of people for you as they move jobs or change geographic location.
What to do on LinkedIn
The basic action is the “request to connect.” Like “friending” on Facebook, this links you with another user. In so doing, LinkedIn also shows you how you are connected to that person (people who you know in common), “degrees of connection” in the nomenclature of LinkedIn. This helps you not only to maintain your network, but also do research to see how you might work to increase its density.
To learn more, read the post How And Why Do we Link on LinkedIn?
It goes without saying that finding jobs is why many of us are on LinkedIn. I have read many a statistic that nowadays plenty of jobs are posted on LinkedIn and nowhere else. That said, many of these are only posted as updates or directly on a company page.
Company Pages contain at least three sources of information that are more easily found here than anywhere else and which are invaluable to the jobseeker:
1. Who is following this organization? Whose radar screens have they pinged on? What does this tell you about their reach? How they connect with the public?
2. Who are their employees? How long have they been working there? What backgrounds and training do they bring with them? When they leave the organization, where do they go?
3. How many of them are on LinkedIn? What do their profiles look like? (to me this says something about the company’s attention to language).
Additionally, when you look at an organization, you are also shown your connection to the organization (who you know who works there, or has worked there). Because this information is tremendously valuable, you are incentivized to continually update your network by adding connections, so that you can discover more and more “ins” available to you. If you are actively wanting to network your way into the organization, see what groups they are a part of, what events they might be attending.
Joining groups is important for many reasons. Being a part of groups is an organic way to find people with shared interests. The set-up provides you with the conversational fodder for networking, and it also helps in professional self-presentation. A quick look at the groups you are involved with can tell a visitor to your profile a great deal about you and what you care about.
One last way to think of LinkedIn is as a database containing myriad examples of professional self-presentation strategies. In the hands of a linguist, I cannot think of better data for learning about career and for presenting oneself professionally.
Wanna get started? Think about spending an hour a week on LinkedIn.