LinkedIn is a great way to stay in touch with business contacts. The site has changed dramatically in the last couple of years, with an increased effort of creating a community and binding people to the service, by offering improved user experience and access through mobile apps. A couple of new features were introduced, among them the endorsement scheme.
In theory, endorsements are a great thing: they are supposed to reflect a rating of skillsets, what your business contacts think you are good at. It works probably great if you specialize in one area and list up all associated skills.
A history of skills
The problem begins with careers that changed a lot over time. For an example, my education is graphic design. I have worked as a designer, then an art director. I have also worked in journalism and I was a copy writer for a couple of years. I became creative director, then consultant; I was account manager, account director, digital director, general manager, member of the board in corporate management and a business owner. I have worked in marketing, in branding, in strategic planning, in print as well as in the digital field.
In short, my skillset is quite big, but what I am focussing on right now is one thing: product development. I am consulting clients with everything associated to product development, from research to analysis, from concept to strategy, from design to implementation. My focus today does not lie in classic marketing. It lies in the creation of great products.
A lot of what I do involves the experience: it entails everything from the core product value, its main purpose, to the product experience (how it is perceived when applied and used), to the user experience (the interaction between people, products and their surrounding environment). There is a chain that links all these experiences and creates an impression, a brand reputation associated with the respective product or service.
And that is all I am about right now.
The problem with LinkedIn endorsements is, they are pushing my profile in a direction I don’t want. They push it backwards.
Because everything people endorse is what people have experienced while they were working with me – often four, five years back in my career. A former boss of an advertising agency remembers me as a great art director. A previous business partner may remember me for writing scripts for corporate product videos. So far so good, but in accumulation this is more a reflection of the history of my career, than my actual goals today.
Endorsements in LinkedIn, as they work today, put a strong emphasis on career history and too little emphasis on my interests, my current work, the direction of my career.
No way out
This would be alright if one had the choice to control these endorsement keywords. But you don’t. There are only two options: accept everything or delete the respective keywords. And that poses a problem. Because “information architecture”, for an example, plays a small role in my current work and it is not what I offer as a service. I work with information architects and designers when it comes to that part.
Until recently, I was able to reject individual endorsements. Today I tried that again, but LinkedIn wouldn’t let me. I could only see the result and was promptly asked (pushed, rather) to endorse my connections. Even more, LinkedIn makes suggestions based on current endorsements of those connections. So people who are facing the same issue like me will be pushed even more into the wrong area.
Today, new people looking at my LinkedIn profile will see “information architecture” as an accumulation of endorsements. A majority of people seem to think I am good at designing wireframes, regardless of my current career level.
So is this really helping my business, is it hurting a lot, or is it irrelevant? If anything, it is not irrelevant at all. I can feel the gravity of this in the assignments I’m offered. My LinkedIn profile kind of overrides my actual offerings I present on my website. It is a psychological effect: if so many think I am offering information architecture, it cannot be wrong, can it?
But it is misleading. And right now, the only other option I have is deleting “information architecture” as a tag. I cannot reduce it, shift its order, lower its relevance – LinkedIn has given that whole lot of power only to my contacts, but none to myself.
If LinkedIn asked me to consult their user experience, I would say: fix this as soon as possible, please. Because it simply doesn’t work.