There has been a lot of talk recently about the value of LinkedIn endorsements of skills. People criticize them for being too easy to get, a sort of what the “Like” is for Facebook, and as unrepresentative of your true skills because of that.
There is of course sense in such a point of criticism — people do tend to overpopulate their skill lists (often unconvincingly) and many people use the endorse function rather mindlessly, the way they “like” a kitty picture on Facebook. The argument goes “just because John endorsed you for castell-building, it doesn’t mean you have any idea about it”.
While this is true, I think focussing too much on the individual endorsement is what makes people misunderstand the way LinkedIn endorsements work. They make much more sense when you focus on the big picture.
Endorsements present the skills people associate with YOU
People are much more likely to endorse you for the first thing that come to their mind when they think of you. It is the multitude then and not the individual click that makes the endorsement work — by creating a “cloud of tags” that people associate with you.
In the previous example, you may have some LinkedIn contacts keen on killing time by tapping buttons on the networks who might indeed give you credit for being a great casteller… and for anything else you put up as a skill. But it is much more likely that neither of your professional contacts has seen you building a human tower, so most people won’t really consider it.
Same with skills that actually make sense.
But what if you are so good with your spreadsheet software that you occasionally tend to post on social media your examples of creating art with it? How many people will then be likely to endorse you for Excel — many is my guess.
Making endorsements work takes some effort
OK, now comes the hard part. Coming up with a list of skills that actually speak well to your brand image (yes, there is such a thing) is as hard as any other career-related task.
Of course, you can come up with a laundry list of every skill you think you have claim to, but you would do much better if you think not just about what you (think) can do, but also how you want to present your brand.
Another thing to focus on is presenting a very clear list of your skills, i.e. avoid confusing your connections. To use my own profile as an example — my top skill at the moment, endorsed by 40 people is “Strategy”. However, this can mean different things to different people — setting corporate goals and ways to attain them to my MBA peers; social media strategy to the people who know me for my personal blog, my wine blog, and my social media channels; or just “this guy is pretty smart” (no claim to the last on my part).
“Social Media”, “Blogging”, and “Digital Marketing” are skills that are much more important to my brand and I probably have a good shot at being endorsed for them, but the fact that I have the one-size-fits-all “Strategy” on my profile actually overshadows them all.
The moral of this story is that it takes some strategic thinking (pun intended) to figure out the best way to present your skills in a way that will make difference to someone looking at your profile.
This story first appeared on medium.com