Spotlight skills with LinkedIn endorsements

In Hauppauge, social media specialist Kevin S. Ryan

In Hauppauge, social media specialist Kevin S. Ryan leads a session on how to use LinkedIn “endorsements” for job searches, displaying his own endorsement page as illustration. (Dec. 11, 2012) (Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan)

A new year might find you resolved to update your LinkedIn profile. If so, you will want to know about endorsements, a feature that allows your first-degree contacts to surprise you with visual, as opposed to written, thumbs-ups for your skills.

If you scroll down to your profile's "skills and expertise" section, you may already see rows of endorsers' postage-stamp-sized photos.

As of mid-December, 550 million endorsements had been given, increasing by 10 million a day, says Julie Inouye, LinkedIn corporate spokeswoman.

Users' reviews of the feature, which rolled out in September, are mixed. Some appreciate yet another tool to help them refine their online personal brands, while others decry what they say is a click-happy approach.

Your LinkedIn profile is like your own "personal brand page," and while endorsements may carry the scent of the Facebook "like," they are yet another way to highlight your expertise, says Bill Corbett Jr., a public relations and personal branding professional in Floral Park.

Another plus? Giving such public high fives can lead to networking and relationship building, he says, with increased visibility for both parties.

Specific skills highlighted

Job hunters and career re-inventors can now be endorsed for skills they carefully select to position themselves for their next roles, says Kevin S. Ryan, a social media consultant in New Hyde Park who also conducts workshops at career centers.

Still, there's an "impulse purchase" feel to the process, says Ryan, along the lines of grabbing candy at checkout counters.

When people first click on your profile a pop-up box appears, suggesting several skills for which you might be endorsed then and there.

Career experts advise endorsers, instead, to scroll down to your "skills and expertise" section and thoughtfully choose from the full list that, hopefully, you've put thought into creating.

Donna Sweidan, a career coach and LinkedIn expert in Stamford, Conn., says she would rather see LinkedIn direct potential endorsers right to that section.

She also takes exception to a "blanket" approach in which a pop-up asks if you would like to endorse four people at a time. Such prompts over-encourage thoughtless endorsing, she says.

In response, Inouye says the feature is a way to "validate and reflect" your skills and allow people to see your strengths at a glance. "It's important to endorse others wisely," she says, and manage your own endorsements in "regular upkeep of your profile."

Here are some endorsement do's and don'ts.

Endorsing others

Spend a few minutes looking at the person's entire list of skills, says Corbett. "Think of how you interact with the person . . . invest a little time."

Remember that "your credibility is on the line," says Nicole Williams, a career expert with LinkedIn. "This isn't anonymous." Indeed, a LinkedIn blog post encourages users "to focus on skills and expertise you can personally attest to." It may be tempting to reciprocate the endorsement favor, but better stick to supporting those whose work you know firsthand.

"If you think your connection is being too humble," says the blog post, "suggest a skill they may not have listed." The endorsee can then decide if he or she wants to accept it.

Managing endorsements

If you're uncomfortable with an endorsement, say, from someone who barely knows your work, you can hide it by going into "profile edit mode," which also allows you to remove skills and hide all your endorsements.

Unlike LinkedIn's written recommendation process, there's no formal request mechanism for asking people to endorse you, so you will have to do that on your own.

Ask people you've worked with and know well to give support for certain skills. If you get compliments from customers, vendors or colleagues who are also your LinkedIn contacts, that's a good time to steer them to your skills list.

Touting your know-how

You're allowed 50, but stick with fewer. Focus on "what you want to be known for; what kind of opportunities you're attempting to attract," says Nicole Williams of LinkedIn.

Research skills in LinkedIn's skill section, where you can see which are on the rise and decline among the site's users.

Balance broader skills with specific talents, Williams says. That means you might pair "writing," with "health reporting" or "ghostwriting."

Check profiles of people who work in jobs and for employers of interest. Where accurate, mirror their terminology, Williams says.

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