My full interview with Alexandra Samuel for Work Smarter with LinkedIn

In April, I was interviewed by Alexandra Samuel for a book she was writing for Harvard Business Review Press. Here are the questions she asked, and my answers–including the one underlined below, which made its way into the book. If you’d like to read more from Alexandra and the others she interviewed, Work Smarter with LinkedIn is available now–and it’s just $4.

Alexandra Samuel: What is an example of a relationship you initiated through LinkedIn? How did you make the connection?

AJ: It’s rare that I initiate relationships on LinkedIn; they usually begin somewhere else and a connection on LinkedIn follows. However, there are exceptions, including relationships that begin in LinkedIn groups and evolve to become more substantive. For example, answering questions from fellow group members or having them answer mine sometimes leads to a connection.

AS: How do you decide which connection requests to accept? If you turn some people down, how do you do it?

AJ: The first question I ask is, “do I know this person”? That doesn’t require a real world connection; it may just be that I know him or her from online interaction. However, I tend to be more restrictive in accepting connection requests on LinkedIn than I would be on Twitter. If I don’t know the person making the connection request, I’ll look for guidance from him or her in the way of a personalized connection request. In other words, did the connection request include background on why connection is being sought? It’s rare that this guidance is given, but when it is I usually accept. Finally, I’ll ask whether it’s immediately clear how we could be resources to one another. A connection request from someone who works for a client–even a very large company–will probably be accepted; a request from someone at a company I’ve never heard of and/or that’s outside my market probably won’t be. I generally just delete the request and move on. I rarely click on “ignore,” knowing that users can be penalized if that action is taken too often by those with whom they seek to connect.

AS: Are there any red flags that immediately turn you off when you are viewing a LInkedIn profile? Anything that makes you immediately think, wow, I’ve got to meet this person?

AJ: I’m turned off by profiles that suggest the person is more inclined to overtly sell a product or service than be a resource to his or her connections. Keyword stuffing is also a huge red flag. There’s no one quality that makes a profile stand out in my mind; it’s more a matter of whether the person has skills or knowledge that would be helpful to me and those with whom I’m connected. Also, less is more. I’m more likely to read a short, well-written summary than a lengthy one. Five sentences is often better than five paragraphs.

AS: Have you used LinkedIn in any ways that go beyond recruiting/job hunting? What do you think is the most under-used or unappreciated use case for LinkedIn?

AJ: Most of my use of LinkedIn is entirely unrelated to job search. To me, the primary benefit of LinkedIn is the way in which it helps professionals nurture and enhance their existing relationships. It allows me to keep in touch with my connections in a way that mitigates the labor intensity that can come with keeping in touch. I always say that if professional relationships are important to you–even if you have no interest in changing jobs–than LinkedIn is likely worthy of your time and attention.

AS: What is your favourite targeting strategy/hack on LinkedIn? Any clever combinations of terms or filters you use for specific purposes?

AJ: I use advanced search in a pretty straightforward way. Still, I think advanced search is one of the most underappreciated features of LinkedIn because of the way in which it exposes the interconnections in your network.

AS: Do you use LinkedIn to help you make or follow up on new contacts when you are on the road? If so, how?

AJ: LinkedIn’s mobile apps have improved dramatically in the past few years. I spend a lot of downtime just browsing status updates and clicking “like” when something resonates. It’s amazing how much that can mean to one of my connections.

AS: How do you maintain your own LinkedIn presence? Beyond maintaining your profile, what do you think are the most useful LinkedIn features (groups? updates? other features?) and what is one that you use regularly?

AJ: I always say that status updates are “the engine that drives LinkedIn.” If I rely on my profile as the main way in which I share my story, then I’m assuming people will think of me, seek me out, and digest the considerable amount of content in my profile. I think it’s much better to tell your story one sound bite at a time via status updates. Doing so allows you to make an impression without needing to be sought out (since they’re automatically populated to your connections’ news feed on the home page)and position yourself as a resource in a specific area or as a subject matter expert. The key is consistency. I try to update my status once a day, Monday through Friday, posting the most interesting thing I’m working on or have to share in a given day. Collectively over time I think those status updates do more to describe my work than my profile ever would.

New book helps you “Work Smarter with LinkedIn”–and it’s just $4

I’m thrilled to have a very small part in a new book by Harvard Business Review Press author Alexandra Samuel called Work Smarter with LinkedIn. The book is a brief overview of the many ways in which LinkedIn can help professionals succeed beyond job search. And right now, it’s available on for less than $4.

Tomorrow, I’ll share my responses to Alexandra’s questions–including the one that made it into the book.

The 3 R’s of LinkedIn: A Formula for Making the Most of Your Time – my guest post on Firmology

Yesterday, I wrote the first of what I hope will be many guest posts for “The 3 R’s of LinkedIn: A Formula for Making the Most of Your Time” is, in summary, a breakdown of how LinkedIn users can effectively use their time by focusing on three critical areas: relationships, research, and reputation. But read the whole thing here, why don’t ya?


Question of the week: do you have a premium LinkedIn membership?

Sam's Bday/80's Party

LinkedIn has been pushing premium memberships pretty hard in recent months (for example, there are two opportunities to upgrade on the new “Who’s viewed your profile” module alone). My advice, however, has always been that the paid memberships are usually not worth the cost. This is driven by my belief that the true value of LinkedIn is the opportunity to enhance relationships with 1st degree connections. Because the paid versions mainly focus on activity related to 2nd and 3rd degree connections, you may end up spending time on things that are less productive.

There are exceptions, of course: those in sales and recruiting, for example, have an imperative to research those with whom they don’t have a current connection, so the paid version may prove to be worthwhile for them. However, I think the benefits are overstated for the rest of us. I’d like to hear from you, though, if you’ve ever upgraded your LinkedIn membership, even temporarily. Was it worth it? What benefits did you see as compared to the free version? Would you recommend it to others? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

“Who’s viewed your profile” gets a new look

LinkedIn is changing everything–and that includes the “Who’s viewed your profile” module. Much of the data is the same as what was displayed previously, but it’s presented in a much more visually interesting way. There’s one cool addition: as shown in the area circled below, you can see how many people have viewed your profile within the last 90 days, giving you a sense of how much attention you’re attracting. As always, knowing who’s paying attention is a great way to determine what you should be sharing on your profile and in your status updates.

who's viewed

Quick Tip Tuesday: how to use LinkedIn when you’re in between jobs


LinkedIn presents a challenge to those who are in between jobs. After all, when your current position is “job seeker,” how are you supposed to present yourself in an environment that’s all about who you are as a professional?

The answer is related to yesterday’s post. Just as the goal for any professional is to position yourself for the work you want to do, job seekers should position themselves as capable of doing the job they want to get. With that in mind, here are a few pointers:

Do NOT call yourself a job seeker (in your headline or otherwise). Any value you’ll get out of alerting someone to the fact you’re looking for work is outweighed by the risks that come with being seen as unemployed. Instead, continue to refer to yourself as a professional in your industry (remember, your headline doesn’t have to be a job title). Don’t say anything that’s untrue, but don’t scream “unemployed,” either.

DO contact those in your inner circle directly and privately telling them you’re looking for your next opportunity. This may seem contradictory given the point made above, but it’s more about sharing the right message with the right audience. The reason you don’t want to position yourself as a job seeker on LinkedIn is that it’s not the best story you have to tell to the masses, and it’s especially inadequate as a first impression. Still, you’ll want to make sure those who know you and respect you as a professional keep you in mind when they hear of a job opportunity. Have these conversations privately, and you’ll put your connections to work for you while avoid sending the wrong message publicly.

DO ramp up your activity level on LinkedIn overall. Status updates relevant to your field of choice, content that showcases your expertise, and participation in relevant industry groups are all great ways to make a positive impression on prospective employers. It’s likely you’ll have a little more free time than you did when you were working, and this activity can be one of the most productive ways to spend that time.

What other tips would you give a job seeker when it comes to using LinkedIn? What approaches have you seen that you find especially effective?

Your profile should be about the future, not the past

When presented with the opportunity to tell your story as a professional, it’s tempting to think of it as a look to the past. You may believe your story is an amalgam of all the things you’ve done, all the things you’ve accomplished–and that’s certainly part of the equation. However, it’s important to make a slight distinction when crafting your LinkedIn profile: you want to think of it not just as a rehash of what you’ve done, but as a means of showcasing your capabilities for the work you want to do.

This little tweak can go a long way to helping you decide everything from what experience to include–whether to incorporate a job from the past or given volunteer commitment, for example–to what to say in your headline or summary. The key is remembering that your audience will go where you take them. If you rely upon them to sort out what you have to offer, you may end up sending the wrong message.

Gather as much evidence as you can to back up your capabilities: past work experience for sure, but also media that shows examples of what you do, recommendations from those who can speak to your strengths, and status updates aligned with your goals. It may seem unfair, but as our work environments continue to evolve, what you’ve done in the past will only take you so far. You need to demonstrate what you can do to serve as a resource to your connections–now and into the future.