I joined LinkedIn just around the time I was getting ready to graduate from college in late 2010 at the suggestion of my father (who still isn’t on Facebook). Many classmates were also signing up, and as my connections grew I often heard the question “but what is it good for?”. Who were we supposed to connect with – other students? The same ones IN the Facebook photos we’re supposed to hide from employers?
A year later, I still hear this question from recent grads. And while I can explain how it’s good for researching companies and presenting a more refined profile to HR folk or keeping tabs on professional contacts I have to admit they have a point. If you didn’t already have a network of working adult-people, LinkedIn is not much of a step up on the competition.
With the emergence of groups it has thankfully become easier to expand one’s network beyond those in your age range. The problem is, these are more or less doomed to remain virtual relationships. At least my classmates, who will all be rich and famous in ten years (this delusion is an entry requirement for Emerson. I mean that with the most love possible), have some real-life connection to me. If I maintain these relationships (OFFLINE) maybe one day LinkedIn can help us organize an opportunity. This happened recently – a recent alumna posted a gig to the Emerson group and I had a phone interview today. It happened on LinkedIn because that has become the accepted social network for professional interactions. But I’ve also responded to opportunities from older alumni who I’ve never met, and some have fallen through. At the end of the day, it’s all about face-to-face (may have stolen that from Meetup. Sorry).
So yes, LinkedIn can give you some leverage. But networking events, freelancing gigs and film sets will always provide a more lasting impression. Even Twitter is better for making progress with new contacts – as soon as I connect with a fellow chatter on LinkedIn, the conversation almost always dies.
At this point in my career, LinkedIn is a fantastic tool for researching opportunities and making myself available to potential employers. Hopefully, I’ll be able to move some LinkedIn connections to real-life meetings. And who knows, maybe in the next five years I’ll be in the position to leverage my connections to help a fellow alum get his or her start. But it’s definitely a ball that will take quite some time to get rolling.