The key to standing out on today’s LinkedIn

LinkedIn has introduced a ton of changes in the past year. There are more ways than ever to tell your story as a professional–and, as a result, a better chance than ever that your story will get lost in all the clutter.

It’s interesting, then, that the one thing most likely to help you stand out on LinkedIn is something that’s been around for years: the ability to request recommendations. A brief, written recommendation from a connection has always been incredibly powerful, but today it’s even more so. Why? Given the introduction of endorsements, recommendations seem to be getting somewhat marginalized as users either shy away from asking for them (thinking those who have given endorsements have already been kind enough) or don’t take the time to give them (because giving an endorsement is so much quicker and easier).

That’s a shame, because endorsements are far weaker than recommendations. (Need evidence? The comments to this post give a glimpse into how little value recruiters, just as one example, give to endorsements.) The fact of the matter is, a recommendation will always serve you well because it is:

  • Credible. Want people to think you’re great? If you say it yourself, they may not believe you. When someone else with no self-interest does, however, it’s much more likely to seem accurate.
  • Descriptive. Listing a skill doesn’t say much about your abilities, especially when compared to a brief narrative that shows why you’re great.
  • Digestible. Most LinkedIn recommendations are only a few sentences long. Enough to say something substantive for sure, but not too long to be consumed in a matter of seconds.

There’s a challenge that comes with recommendations, however: it’s likely you’ll have to request one to get it. That not hard from a mechanical standpoint (see this post for a walk-through), but many of us do have an aversion to asking others for their help. Don’t fall into that trap, though. There are likely many people out there who would be willing to say a few good words about you if only they were asked. And you can guarantee that, as you hesitate to ask out of fear of being too forward or too presumptuous or too needy, your competitors are swallowing their pride and sending out their connection requests–perhaps even to some of the same people you should be asking.

If you want to tell your story as a professional on LinkedIn, then, take the opportunity to have your connections tell it for you by asking for recommendations when they are warranted. Doing so has never been more rare–and therefore more effective–in helping you stand out from the crowd.


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