When we think about our web presence and connectivity, many of us have a number of overlapping networks roughly sectioned-off – public versus private, personal versus professional, all-encompassing versus interest-based.
This is all too obvious for a large group of professionals that leverage LinkedIn to network, generate sales leads, recruit, and get hired for jobs. LinkedIn effectively brought recruiting to the 21st century, by mirroring our offline behaviour with online equivalents. Work experience? Check. Education? Check. References in the form of recommendations? Check.
LinkedIn took offline professional networking online, thus creating a space where all the schmoozing can take place, plus it stores your Rolodex for all to see. It works extremely well on many levels – its popularity and profitability is a testament to that success. But I wonder whether if it will be comfortable with its current demographic profile – middle-aged, manager-and-above wealthy clientele, or innovate along with its younger generation of users.
The biggest flaw I see with LinkedIn, is how closely it parallels our offline career trajectory and all the limitations that come with it. A resume is backward looking, because it reflects choices we’ve made in the past, whether they be our educations or careers. And it can be incredibly constraining, because it doesn’t open one up with more opportunities, should they want a chance at a non-typical, cross-industry move. At least not without a degree or piece of paper to signal that intention.
When I was in university, we had a bunch of career counselors that implored us to develop “transferrable skills” by telling us how people our age will have more likely than not, have between 5-10 different careers throughout our lives. Not jobs, not industries, but careers. That seems fantastical, even in today’s economy, where fluidity is at its peak. Moving into an entirely different career path without connection, a huge break, or getting further educated in that field, is next to impossible.
For example, many companies return to the same university campus to recruit year after year, because they are after that ultimate “fit”. And the school – through its molding and cultural immersion, will more likely than not spit out the type of candidate the firm is looking for. Some even go as far as putting a premium on applicants belonging to a specific sports team or fraternity, all in that illusive search for fit. Surely, the signaling effect of attending a certain institution, belonging to certain clubs, and playing a certain sports is strong. But as recruiting matures in a post-campus environment, there are more signals that can be, and should be taken into account when it comes to assessing candidates.
Right now, LinkedIn does little to facilitate and gather signals of change, should one become curious in an area outside of his/her immediate career path. That is a great shame, because so many of us are, in every age range and point on the career ladder. And given an outlet, a channel, and a community, many of us would take the plunge and invest our time and energy into learning, participating, and even contributing to a knowledge base of our “curiosities”, that may or may not eventually blossom into a change. Read more...