Ruth E. Walker. I’m on LinkedIn which, in short, is a business-oriented networking site, a bit like Facebook for professionals. You post your resume, awards and announcements. And people you are connected with (think “friends”) can endorse you on a wide range of skills and expertise. A while ago, I got endorsed for: creative writing, proofreading, writing, blogging and editing.
Yes. I do all those things. And I think that I do them pretty well. So what is the problem with being endorsed for them?
I don’t know the writer who endorsed me. I’ve never done any work for him. Not one edit. Not one single instance of proofreading. He’s not been to any workshop I’ve offered. Nor is he a member of any writing organization to which I belong.
So, I have to ask. What value are all those endorsements on my LinkedIn site if random new connections can merrily come along and endorse me? And even more important, what do I think about a total stranger giving me his unwarranted endorsements? I was not impressed. Not one bit.
Stop looking a gift horse in the mouth, you say? I say, that’s a real cliché. That’s the editor in me. Avoid cliché like the plague. And avoid giving electronic high-fives if you have no idea if the high-fives are warranted.
On the other hand, if I have endorsements from professional writers and editors, that sends a strong message to anyone visiting my LinkedIn site. And fortunately, I do have those great endorsements.
Stop looking at social media as a true representation of who you are, you say? I say, I have standards. That’s the professional writer in me. By its fluid and ever-evolving nature, social media is not meant to be “the complete me.” It’s more like a snapshot here and a glimpse of something interesting over there.
I don’t believe everything I read in social media. I bet you don’t either. But I can confirm that when I am posting things on social media, I don’t make things up unless I’m writing fiction.
LinkedIn is a networking vehicle and sometimes people find interesting ways to connect, you say? I say there are other ways to network in the industry that don’t involve making things up. If you want to connect with other writers, don’t post things on their site hoping they’ll notice. Join a writer’s group. Take workshops in the field. Read Heather O’Connor’s post on How to attend a book convention. Other than a workshop with a creative writing exercise or two, none of these options involve making things up. Nor should it.
The thing about being professional is that it is more than just saying “I’m a professional.” It shows in your behaviour. It is modelled for others through your choices. And it invites others to be professional with you.
I was professional in how I followed up with the stranger who endorsed me on LinkedIn. I sent him a private message, thanking him for his positive reinforcement but asking how he knew me and my skills. It turns out I was right. He didn’t know me.
We had a brief exchange where I suggested he should only endorse people with whom he was familiar. He appreciated my comments and I felt better when I understood why he made the mistake in the first place. He was new to writing and new to LinkedIn and wasn’t yet familiar with the process. He thought this was a good way to network with other writers.
Look, I’m not saying don’t get out there and use social media to make connections. Quite the opposite — I’ve made some worthwhile and amazing connections via social media. But I am suggesting that you need to think about the impression you are leaving when you do so. Don’t let the computer screen change you into someone you wouldn’t want to associate with. Be yourself but be professional.