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?  


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