LinkedIn: Don’t Teach It If You Don’t Get It


“My teacher in College told us we should be on LinkedIn but I don’t get it. They said it’s like Facebook for grown-ups. What does it do?” I’ve heard this sentiment expressed almost word for word with three different College students I know just this past week alone, the latest only yesterday. It almost makes me wish those introducing LinkedIn to their students would skip it entirely if they don’t really get it themselves.

Yes it appears from talking with these students that their teachers told them they should be on LinkedIn but didn’t go on to demonstrate to them exact what they could do with it. The result I’m noticing is that these students either don’t see the point in even attempting a profile, or they start to construct their profile and stop almost immediately, leaving little more than a shell which then has the undesired impact of being entirely underwhelming. Ouch!

Telling college-aged people that LinkedIn is like Facebook for grown-ups accomplishes two things; it makes them think it’s just another socializing platform and this demographic is turning away from Facebook in droves, so it’s like being saddled with something else they don’t want. In other words, you’re not turning them on to LinkedIn at all, you’re turning them off.

Yesterday there was 10 minutes left in the day when a placement student who was sitting behind me suddenly said she didn’t get LinkedIn and didn’t know if she should be on it or not. I turned to her and said, “Well, in my opinion if you don’t use it you’re a fool.” Notice what I didn’t say is, “if you don’t GET ON IT you’re a fool.” There is a huge difference between just being on it and knowing how to use it and maximizing its benefits.

She’s 21 and I’m 55. I’d like to use this experience in some future job interview when the interviewer shows concern about my ability to grasp and use technology! I’ve been using LinkedIn for years now, and she didn’t know it’s been around for years.

So I started my pitch. “What do you want at this point career-wise?”, I said. “A job in Probation”, she replied. So I then asked her how valuable it might be to assemble a room full of people currently in Probation, all at various levels of seniority, then have a corner of the room full of job postings solely in her field, and as she walked around the room she could join various conversations people were having related to probation. “That’d be great, you mean like a convention?”

Okay so LinkedIn would expose her to these people through connecting with people currently holding positions in Probation. It would also allow her to find them discussing mutual points of interest in the group functions, so she could join and be surrounded by people with similar career interests. Jobs in the Probation sector can be searched for filtering the opportunities in her geographical area, as well as by entry-level, and by connecting with others, she could even ask for advice, inside information about a company or an opening. It’s still who you know much of the time, so you should get to know people.

I asked her to tell me when it’s appropriate to give an employer your professional references in the application process. To this, she replied she’d be taught that you only give these at the end of a face-to-face interview when they ask for them. “Old school”, I said. I told her about recommendations and how employers can read what people are saying about you if you’ve got them BEFORE you even get the call inviting you for the interview. No recommendations and how good can you be? Lot’s of recommendations and your value rises.

“I’m going to make a profile”, she said. I told that was a good move, but as our 10 minutes was up and just before we left for the day I told her I’d only scratched the surface of what she could do with it. We agreed that next week when she returns we’ll find more time to talk about it and how to make it productive.

Like anything else, the best person to learn from is someone who not only knows more than you do, but who can communicate it in a way that you find meaningful and can understand the personal benefits to be realized from. Those who didn’t like math in school usually complained, “I don’t see the point. I’m never going to use that in real life.” Same goes for those who didn’t get Chemistry, Geography or English Literature. If there is no practical application understood, why learn it?

My pitch for LinkedIn is that no matter what discipline or line of work you choose to pursue, connecting with professional people who are in that field has to be valuable. Don’t have the time to invest in using it? That’s your personal choice and I respect your right to use it or not, but understand it first and what it can do for you, and what you can do for others.

Facebook for grown ups? Facebook is, “Look at what I had for dinner!” “Here I am taking a selfie – boy I’m good!” LinkedIn is, “I’m launching or advancing my career and in doing so enriching my life.” Maybe it is for grown ups after all!

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