LinkedIn Skills – Useful or Useless?

LinkedIn Skills.

Useful or useless?

First off, what are they?

LinkedIn itself states the following:

LinkedIn Skills & Endorsements helps you discover the expertise that other professionals have.

You can:

  1. Add a skill to the Skills & Endorsements section of your profile from the Edit Profile page.
  2. Add up to a maximum of 50 skills.
  3. Endorse your 1st degree connections’ skills.

The cynic in me believes this feature is simply an attempt by those at LinkedIn to accomplish their stated goal of building (and I would suggest selling) the world’s first economic graph. As LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner states:

We want to digitally map the global economy, identifying the connections between people, jobs, skills, companies, and professional knowledge — and spot in real-time the trends pointing to economic opportunities.

My big data dreamer brain thinks it’s a brilliant idea, but how does it help you and me?

It’s definitely cool. The graph would be incredibly revealing. But it’s not going to help you become a better person or professional.

Data points like “The 25 Hottest Skills That Got People Hired in 2013″ — also distributed by LinkedIn — can provide some interesting insight, but does it help you personally?

Again, it’s interesting … but I doubt the 25 hottest skills list actually helps you personally.

There are countless articles and posts by others helping you with the skills itemizing and selection process. The skills you choose can then be showcased on your LinkedIn profile for others in your 1st degree network to subsequently endorse. Mine looks like this:

linkedin_skills

If you’re in recruitment or are hiring someone I can see the benefit. For example, if you’re reviewing someone for a role, the number of endorsements related to their various skills may help you distinguish one candidate over another. You can also click on the number associated with each skill (eg. 99+ for Leadership Development in my case) and those that have endorsed the skill will appear in a new window. If the candidate possesses some influential people who have endorsed the skill, that may also distinguish one candidate from another.

Of course you can click on the skill itself and from there you’re taken to another screen that details positions related to the skill, people in your network with the skill, amongst other options. The example below is the result of clicking the skill ‘Strategy’ from my profile:

linkedin_skills2

A clear and positive advantage with your LinkedIn skills rests in the fact the endorsements are people driven versus the algorithm driven model found in applications like Klout. (I’m not a Klout fan or user.) The disadvantage, however, is if the LinkedIn connections you accept into your network aren’t really your professional colleagues — you have never worked together and know one another only through LinkedIn itself — and if they endorse your skills, does that make you out to be a liar? On the subject of whom to accept into your LinkedIn network, Alex Samuel writes about the favour test and says, “The favor test is simple: Would you do a favor for this person, or ask a favor of them? If so, make the connection. If not, take a pass.”

So what to do?

I don’t think the skills feature in LinkedIn is critical for success in your career. It provides a great crowd-sourced adjudication of your skills, but it’s not ever going to become the sole reason you get a job or advance your career. The skills feature provides good insight on professional experience — and there are additional features noted above that might help you source new positions or reconnect with old contacts — but be wary of placing too much stock in its bottom line career benefit.

A snapshot like this of your skills background is an anecdotal representation of you and your successes. That’s not a bad thing, per se, so you may want to ensure the skills that are being profiled are the ones that you truly want to be known for. Make note of this point and edit your skills now, if you haven’t done so already.

In my mind, LinkedIn skills are useful not useless … but the usefulness itself is somewhat limiting.

What are your thoughts on the LinkedIn skills opportunity?

 

Comments

  1. says

    Difficult to see any value in an individual endorsement. I agree that it is more for LinkedIn’s benefit to cause an exponential increase in the number of times they can interact with their users. The addition of the flag at the top of the page near the same time endorsements came out seems to be related.

    In the aggregate (the sum of all my endorsements) for an individual user have some value in that employers are constantly approached by job applicants who say “I think I can do that” vs. “Here is what, when and how I have done this”. The endorsements are an affirmation from a lot of third parties who say “yes, they have that skillset.”

    The “open endorsement” groups are detrimental to any useful purpose. Endorsing a new connection for everything they have listed from enthusiasm that they accepted your connection (or some other motivation…) diminishes credibility of the endorser and doesn’t add value to the system.

    Good piece. Thanks for sharing it.

  2. says

    Hey @Russ … thanks for dropping by. I’m with you … if your LinkedIn contacts haven’t actually worked with you — and they endorse you for anything and everything under the sun — that’s a bit like handing out Valentine’s Day cards to everyone in your elementary school grade 3 class and saying, “Look Mom, everyone likes me.”

  3. says

    Excellent insights, Dan. I have been asked many times to give endorsements to folks I have never worked with as well as received endorsements from others. The gaol and intent by LinkedIn seemed noble, but without controls, some folks are gaming the system.

    Speaking of gaming the system, Kris Rockwell designed a game that was played by a few, #LinkedinWars. The goal? Get your friends by putting in an endorsement that undermines their credibility in their industry. A colleague of mine endorsed me for lawncare and seamanship. I responded with an endorsement of pole dancing.

    So, some boundaries on the endorsement function might be a good thing.

  4. says

    I FIND LinkedIn VERY USEFUL. INTENT & IMPACT ARE IN THE EFFORT OF THE MEMBER. To me, it is about access and visibility. When joining LinkedIn or any other association, both physically or virtually, I join with the full knowledge that the intentions and the impact will be determined by me and the effort I invest. What I have found within LinkedIn is a consistent community of world-wide professionals. Some I have known in other professional endeavors and have reconnected. Many, I have met that I would not have encountered otherwise. For both I am grateful. The professionalism is pervasive. Do I maximize all of the benefits available? No. Is it my responsibility? Yes. While I have barely scratched the surface, I find LinkedIn very useful.

  5. tatum says

    Linkedin skills will decrease in usefulness as the average age of its users reduces. Why? The same reason #l4l #f4f exists elsewhere… in LinkedIn, its less explicit.
    If I endorse a skill, they are sure to endorse a skill back. If they endorse a skill for me first, and I don’t respond with an endorsement, they are sure not to endorse in the future. Also, endorsements are a reflection of perception… so the genuine endorsements are necessarily a reflection of your skills…. e.g. i might be a good presenter, but actual,, my skills are storytelling, marketing, PhotoShop, etc etc.

    What do you think?

  6. says

    Dick, I am a huge fan of serendipity. Perhaps what you say has merit and perhaps not. It doesn’t matter to me what others do; what matters is what I do. Visibility is a powerful force. When you combine exposure to authenticity; eventually serendipity will be activated. Even if it does not; my joy is received in the anticipation and the sharing. I love Linkedin for the people it attracts including me. I don’t get an invoice from them so the price is right and the opportunities are better. I am glad I am “linked” to Linkedin. This is what I think Dick.

  7. says

    Responding to two responses; one Dick and the other Dan. Did not realize I had interchanged the names. Unable to edit the incorrect name Dan Pontefract.. I apologize for that profusely. No edit and no delete, The time is also incorrect. Could this be my “serendipity?” That, I do not like. :-)

Want to leave a comment? I'd love to hear from you. Cheers, dp.