I shout it from every rooftop I can – perhaps you've heard me if you've ever in the Halton Hills area! If you are serious your career you want to ensure that when you need to find that next “Great Place To Work”, you have the best resources and networks available at your disposal. Back in the days of Web 1.0, that meant having your resume up-to-date and a good stack of business cards and contacts that you could reach out to. In some ways, things have not changed – your professional network and your resume still remain the two most important assets you have when looking for work. The not so subtle difference in the present day socially connected web is that converting your resume and professional network into digital assets means instead of having to “reach out” into your network, you can get your network to “reach in” to you.
Effectively, as in the popularly misquoted line from Field Of Dreams, “If you build it they will come” – in this case “IT” is your digital footprint and representation of the analog you. It seems like everyone I have ever worked with or done business with is finding their way onto LinkedIn, and with that comes the benefit of the Network Effect. The folks over at Mashable wrote an article worth reading that gives you 13 Essential Tips For Landing A Job On LinkedIn.
For the most part I am in agreement with their tips, except for one – #5 Says Connect With Everyone (even people you vaguely know). I don't endorse this practice – there are those that would argue that “size does matter” when it comes to your professional network. That the more people you are connected with the greater the chance of being “discovered”. The argument is sound – it's the approach I caution. Aside from the risks of compromising the integrity of your LinkedIn network with individuals more interested in monetizing their connection to you, than supporting you professionally there is another greater risk. From a Making IT Work perspective I consider this “a flaw” in the LinkedIn ecosystem that the vast majority of LinkedIn's users are unaware of – the dreaded IDK (I Don't Know) response. For those of you who use LinkedIn, you will find the below dialog box quite familiar. This message shows up in your inbox whenever someone invites you to be a 1st level connection on their network.
The issue arises from the fact that there are 3 response choices – Accept is obvious and is what you would select in most cases when the connection is someone you know and want to be associated with. When however, you don't want to accept this invitation, you have two ways of making it disappear from your inbox. Archive will remove the invitation from your inbox, effectively leaving it in “pending” status with the originator who will eventually either retract the invitation or Archive it themselves. The option that many people take is the “I Don't Know This User” option – or IDK for short. Buried deep in LinkedIn's support area is clarity on what the impact is when you, or someone you have invited takes this option – here it is for future reference. Basically, after receiving a number of these responses (somewhere in the order of as few as 4-6), LinkedIn may effectively remove your ability to grow your network by making you supply the connections email address when inviting anew connection. This means if you don't know their email address (which in many cases you may not if you are re-connecting with someone who has since changed their email address), you will be unable to send that invitation. If you are curious, LinkedIn also provides guidance on how you can check how many “I Don't Know's” you may have received – the instructions can be found here.
What is particularly odd is that there is no way to “undo” a response of “I Don't Know” – once that option has been taken, it can not be revoked nor changed. Another invitation needs to be sent out and even if the recipient then accepts your invitation, or answers differently with an Archive, the previous IDK response still remains on your account. This is something which the service should really change – or at least make it clearer by rephrasing the button text to include that this action will “report the user” – or perhaps a pop up dialog box/help link with these details explained. I only stumbled upon this by accident, and though was happy to see that I had not yet received any IDK's, can easily see how this could happen due to a lack of clarity around these buttons and their impact.
I would love to hear techniques you might have for leveraging LinkedIn in your job or career management activities. Fire off an email or leave a comment – if I get enough of them I can put together a follow up post that mashes up your responses. Until my next post, Have A Great Day and Keep Making IT Work!