Are you harboring this dangerous belief?
“LinkedIn only matters if you’re looking to change your job.”
From conversations with my private clients, students in my online programs, and others in my speaking audiences, I’m hearing this more and more.
Maybe you believe this too.
But it’s wrong. Oh so wrong.
As its shiny newness wears off, LinkedIn has gotten the reputation of being primarily a tool to find a new job (with a secondary purpose for sales people finding new customers.)
But if you’re ignoring LinkedIn because you don’t fall into either of those categories, do so at your own career peril.
Why LinkedIn Matters, Even If You’re Not Changing Jobs
LinkedIn is the currently world’s 15th top visited website, of about a gadzonkillion sites floating around on the interweb. (It’s #11 in the US, right behind Netflix. Fill in your own cultural observation there.)
It currently has 100 million people visiting it each month. Plus, every second, two more people sign up.
But that’s not why LinkedIn matters to you. If you’re someone interested in taking control of your career and your life at work, here are my top three reasons why LinkedIn matters now, more than ever.
1. People Will Always Be Looking For You
Short quiz: when you find out you’re going to meet someone you’ve never met before, or if you hear an unfamiliar name mentioned over and over again, what’s the first thing you do?
A) Think happy, excited thoughts about how lucky you are to learn more about another human being;
B) Moan and groan about wasting time with other people; or
C) Look them up online.
Depending on your worldview, you might choose A or B, but my guess is that it’s often informed by C.
We don’t like to be surprised. And so most of us have gotten into the habit of investigating at least a little bit about any person we’re going to meet or talk to.
And a LinkedIn profile (which typically shows up on the first page of any Google search on a name) tells you significantly more about the people popping up in your meetings, on your projects, or in conversations with your clients or customers.
Even if they’re in our same company.
Yes, you know it’s true. You probably don’t recognize the face of everyone in your current company.
The consulting firm I worked for early in my career knew this. They’d take Polaroids of each new hire and file those pics in a book you could check out at the receptionist’s desk.
As a newbie, you were encouraged to go browse the book before a meeting with a fellow associate (or when you caught the eye of the blond hottie who smiled at you during lunch).
Today, that “face book” is more likely to be an internal directory. And it may even include photos. But still, LinkedIn provides more information you can use.
Don’t lie to yourself and say that you don’t care if anyone knows anything about you before you meet, talk, or socialize. You don’t like to walk in blind, so why should they?
Help them out by making sure your LinkedIn profile says what you’d want them to know.
2. Your LinkedIn Profile Tells a Story About You
And since we already know that people are looking you up online, we know it’s going to give someone a first impression of you.
What do you want that impression to be?
Do you want to be seen as current, professional, accomplished? Or out-of-touch, isolated, and lazy?
I know it doesn’t seem fair, but human beings are wired to make fast judgements about people. It’s in our DNA. Our brains are wired to react, and fast.
And we make judgments when we “meet” someone on LinkedIn, too, only we don’t always put them into words.
But I’ll do that here, as a public service:
When there’s no profile at all, even just a short one, we think:
- “What’s going on here? Maybe she’s retired or out of the workplace now.”
- “Hmm . . . I know he exists, but to not have a LinkedIn profile? Woefully out of touch.”
When there’s no photo or a bad photo, we think:
- She’s just lazy–everyone has a phone with a camera.”
- “He must be really vain.”
- “She must really hate how she looks.”
- “He must be lazy. Everyone else I’m looking for has a photo.”
- “She must really be uncomfortable with current technology. After all, who doesn’t know how to upload a photo?”
And when you have years of working experience but have fewer than 100 connections (some would say even fewer than 500 conveys this now), we think:
- “He just doesn’t care about his career.”
- “Looks like she’s out of touch.”
- “He must not be very valuable if no one wants to connect with him.”
I didn’t say any of this is true about you. I know you’re not lazy. I know you’re not vain (well, not that vain.)
But it’s the story your untended profile will tell.
So if your LinkedIn profile tells a story about you, AND you have 100% access to what shows up on your LinkedIn profile, AND it’s FREE . . . then why wouldn‘t you want to take control of that story?
3. Someday, You’ll Need Somebody
The final reason why LinkedIn matters is that none of us gets by on our own.
Companies change, projects shift, industries evaporate and new ones emerge. We move, change careers, or have them changed without our consent.
Other people are the cartilage that help us move around those changes more easily. So why not have a simple, free way to keep track of all those other people?
People move in and out of our orbit regularly. But making sure those people become connected with you on LinkedIn helps you create a powerful database to rediscover who you already know, whenever you need to know them.
And it’s free.
(Oh, and it’s also a leading tool for professional recruiters, whose companies pay LinkedIn big money for special uber-search capabilities. So if you ever do need to find a new job, LinkedIn will matter for you then, too.)