Dear Sam: I have some questions for you on LinkedIn. I am not sure how skill endorsements work. I see that some of my contacts have said I possess specific skills, but what does that do for my profile? Also, I do not accept a LinkedIn invitation unless I know the person, but I have also never gone through and rejected them, so what is the most appropriate way to handle this? – C.
Dear C.: Great questions. For the endorsements, you would just need to “accept” the skill endorsements, and then those skills will display in the “Skills” area of your profile with a number beside the skill reflecting the number of times a connection has “endorsed” that you have that skill. This is great if your network is endorsing the skills you want to promote most heavily. If not, don’t worry, as you can delete skills, add new ones, and even rearrange the order in which they appear.
Regarding your question of accepting versus rejecting connection requests. In my opinion, LinkedIn is all about facilitating connections to people you don’t know. If it were just about connecting to those already in your contacts, then there would be little reason to virtualize your connections. The beauty of LinkedIn is that you can reach out to 2nd and 3rd tier connections based on the breadth of your contacts. So, again, in my opinion, accepting your open invitations would provide you the opportunity to access people you don’t necessarily know and the connections they have. So, say you were looking to relocate out of state and work for a specific firm, you could search LinkedIn by that employer’s name and see if you have someone in your network with that employer in their profile. This is crucial when trying to branch out of your existing geographic location or industry, as you can access people not in your physical network. If you just reach out to people you know, you will likely restrict access to the intelligence LinkedIn can provide. LinkedIn isn’t like accepting “friends” on Facebook. Instead, a connection request implies an understanding that you are connecting with someone—you may or may not know—so potentially, you can both benefit from each other’s network. Check out the free LinkedIn webinars available on LinkedIn’s help center for more guidance.
Dear Sam: I need help figuring out where to start building my network. I hear, all of the time, that it’s not what you know, but who you know; having just relocated to the area—due to my spouse’s career—I’m afraid I’m pretty light in the “who you know” category! As the new kid on the block, where should I start? – Paul
Dear Paul: Building a professional network is one of the most impactful and empowering things a candidate can do to benefit their job search. First, do you have a LinkedIn profile? Start online by reaching out to professional contacts and building a robust “virtual” connections network. Through this, you will have access to many professional connections that will let you expand your network and provide opportunities to solicit recommendations, be introduced to a key decision-maker at a target employer, or perform competitive and market research on employers and potential candidates.
Taking your networking offline is also essential. Search for a local job search support group—many cities have several options to support local candidates—and attend one of their meetings. I often meet newly relocated candidates when presenting to these groups, and this will be an excellent way for you to learn the nuances and trends of the local job market. Attend an industry association meeting to network with professionals in your field. Many associations hold free monthly meetings or networking sessions open to nonmembers; check out the local chapter websites for in-person and virtual networking opportunities. You could also volunteer in the community to meet other service-minded peers, providing an opportunity to open dialogues with like-minded individuals. And, of course, you could tap into your wife’s new network she has gained since relocating and starting her new job.
Even though the process of relocating to a new city and starting a job search can be overwhelming, think about building your network as a way to solicit assistance and support. While you are seeking out others to help you, remember that you can also help them based on your connections. Networking is a two-way street where you have the opportunity to help others, just as they have the chance to help you, making it such a vital and value-added part of any search.