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References and LinkedIn

By August 4, 2009 No Comments
Reference Guy

Reference Guy

Photo Credit: revjim5000

When I teach people and organizations about using LinkedIn I strongly recommend that each individual not only fill out their entire work history in their LinkedIn profile but that they strive to gather at least one reference for every position they have listed. I make the same observations in my ebook, “Using LinkedIn for Selling and Consulting“.

Often I get a skeptical response. Really Ed? Everyone knows that references are easy to get in LinkedIn and having more of them makes them more meaningless. And besides, most people in LinkedIn are scratching each others’ back. You can even see it reported in your Network Updates page sometimes. Harry provided a reference to Sally and then immediately following you see that Sally provided a reference to Harry. What good are they?

I have responded in a variety of ways. My major thesis is the “body of work” argument. In my profile I have north of sixty references over more than a thirty year career. Could I have managed to manipulate that many people so successfully?  I don’t think so.

Or as Abe Lincoln’s is reputed to have said, “You can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.”

Adam Nash, a senior product director at LinkedIn, wrote a post entitled “Recommendations and the Reputation Economy” for the LinkedIn blog. In his post, he quotes David Weinberger‘s post “Transparency is the new Objectivity“. Both are worthwhile reads.

Adam provides 5 really compelling reasons for gathering references in LinkedIn and why doing so is  perhaps more worthwhile than asking for traditional paper or phone references.

He begins by suggesting three things that matter in a good reference,- the reputation of the author, the transparency of the source and the specificity of the content. LinkedIn, he points out, makes it trivial to know these things.

Adam concludes the list of five by pointing out that requesting references is normal and mutual references are to be expected. LinkedIn makes doing both of these so friction free.

How else do you get references except by asking? Why is it strange that I would “return the favor” for someone who has provided a reference for me?

What is your point of view on this subject?

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