What I Learned About LinkedIn Profiles From Reaching Out To 2000 Connections

(skip the first paragraph if you have read any of the other three articles I have written about my 2000 connection research).

Background

A couple of years ago I had 1500 LinkedIn Connections. Then I started using LinkedIn Publisher and writing articles about using LinkedIn every week. And I started receiving connection invitations. Lots of them. Even accepting well less than half of them, I was adding fifty connections a week. Last year I realized that my connection network was made up of a lot of people I had connected with but didn’t know aside from reading their profiles. So I started a program of reaching out to my connections, sending individual personalized messages one at a time (I refuse to use that automated mass messaging crap) and inviting them to a 15 minute phone or Skype call to find out more about each other.  Over time I sent these messages to 2000 of my connections and wound up having several hundred conversations.

This is what I learned about job hunting and LinkedIn profiles

A lot of profiles are too thin

There are many LinkedIn profiles with no Summary and with Experience sections that consist solely of the title, company worked for, and years worked there. This didn’t surprise me though I don’t understand why anyone using LinkedIn wouldn’t want to add some detail about what they do in their job (are they ashamed?). But they are certainly not in some tiny minority in not fleshing out their experience sections.

A lot of people have way too many specialties

What I never realized and what did surprise me was the number of people who have profiles that are overrun with specialties.  In these LinkedIn profiles, the writer is paranoid about missing something so they list everything they “specialize” in. You know the ones I am talking about. The person who specializes in twenty different areas. Or thirty. And I am not talking about endorse-able skills, I am talking about discrete specialties in one long list, usually in the summary. They seem to be under the impression that they may lose out if they don’t list everything. Their profile becomes a catch all. And as an old advertising adage goes, “when you emphasize everything, you emphasize nothing.” A LinkedIn profile is a place to talk about what you are uniquely good at doing. And that’s because – whether it’s a new hire or a new supplier – companies want someone who specializes in something they don’t have already.

Here’s an example: you decide to start blogging. One LinkedIn profile says “Specialties: Publishing, Videos, Podcasts, Blogging, Slide decks, Webinars, Livestreaming, E-Books, Testimonials, Case Studies and Semaphore.” Another LinkedIn profile lists their specialty as: “Blogging, Just blogging.” All other things being equal, who would you call first?   

The idea here is that when you list a pile of specialties, people don’t think, “wow, he can do it all”. Instead they think “There isn’t anything special about this guy.”

I was surprised at how many people are quietly looking for better work

The passive job market is huge. There are a lot more people that would jump than you think. They are just waiting for the right offer. LinkedIn has this right. I was shocked (but I still reserve the right to despise the term “dream job”).

Regardless of how fabulous a LinkedIn profile is, it only tells 10% of the story

This was one of the biggest things I found from actually talking to people. When you talk to someone you find out what their real specialties are, and what they are really passionate about. What’s in their LinkedIn Profile is the tip of the iceberg. A lot of profiles list the things someone does on their job. A conversation tells you the things that really matter to that person. What fascinates them. The parts of their jobs that they really look forward to doing.

Someone will be a “content specialist” and on their profile they list all their tools and capabilities. Then when I talk to them they casually mention that what they are really good at and enjoy doing is writing for healthcare providers and medical device companies. They have some relevant background in this area that makes them particularly comfortable with the lingo and the way content needs to be written for that industry. And there was nothing about this on their profile. Not a hint. But after my conversation with them, I now  have a go-to content writer for healthcare and medical that I didn’t have before.   

So here’s your thought for today: if you haven’t talked to one of your connections in months, invite them to have a 15 minute call with you. When you get them on the phone, ask them what’s hot in their specialty area lately and how it is affecting them. Offer to help them. Offer to introduce them to someone in your network. They may not need your help right now. But you will know them better, they will know you better, and they will remember that you offered to help them.

And almost no one on LinkedIn does it.