In the January 21, 2020 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter a reader wants to be an expert.


expertIn your previous postings, you suggest that LinkedIn is a poor medium for applying to companies. (See LinkedIn Payola: Selling out employers and job hunters.) At the same time, building one’s reputation as an expert in their profession is a big competitive advantage while finding a professional home.

Is LinkedIn an appropriate and productive medium to build one’s professional “brand” by publishing articles and making intelligent comments? Or do you recommend other media for this purpose?

By the way, after reading your articles, I will never search for work like one of the “herd” again. The headhunter tactics that you talk about are very similar to what a consultative seller does: Ask a bunch of questions to key stakeholders, observe, design a solution, and present why it is the right solution for them. Thank you.

Nick’s Reply

What I teach about job hunting is very similar to how good consultants sell their services – it’s all about the client, not me. If I don’t have a dead-on relevant solution for the employer, I have no business in the job interview.

A job seeker, like a consultant looking for a new client, needs to walk into the employer’s office with a proposal that focuses on the problems and challenges that particular manager is facing. Job interviews fail when applicants talk primarily about themselves and about their history. What gets you hired is proof that you understand the employer — and that you have a plan to help the business. (See Stand Out: How to be the profitable hire.) My compliments on how you interview and thank you for your kind words.

Now let’s get on to your question.

Does LinkedIn make you an expert?

I think the value of publishing on LinkedIn is at best questionable. It doesn’t make you an expert to publish on a website that doesn’t seem to edit or vet user-created content. You might agree with me that there’s plenty of tripe on LinkedIn, then argue that “there’s good stuff if you look for it.” We could say the same about any dumpster, but that doesn’t make it Trader Joe’s.

LinkedIn stopped pretending long ago that it cultivates high quality relationships or selective “professional networks.” (See LinkedIn: Just another job board.) I believe the same is true of user-created content on LinkedIn.

Expert publication or fish wrap?

I’ve read some good articles on LinkedIn, but most are fluff and PR. The entire purpose of LinkedIn’s publishing platform seems to be building its page count and page views by driving comments – not to create an expert arena. It’s what we used to call a fish wrap — a free “newspaper” loaded with paid advertising that includes a few articles to appear legitimate.

There’s nothing wrong with a fish wrap if you’re, say, looking for a used car or if you want to advertise your furniture store. But in that regard, LinkedIn is lower than a fish wrap because, for people like you and me, it’s free advertising.

You post your resume on LinkedIn as a profile, and I use LinkedIn as a way to promote Ask The Headhunter, because it’s free. Every week I post a short announcement about my newest weekly column on LinkedIn, just as I do on Twitter and Facebook — purely to let people know about it. It drives traffic to Why don’t I just post the entire weekly Ask The Headhunter column on LinkedIn? Because LinkedIn doesn’t pay me for it. That’s why LinkedIn isn’t a real publisher. I don’t want my expert content on a site that doesn’t value expert content enough to pay for it.

Experts are in expert communities

When you post your profile on LinkedIn, you’re doing the same thing — taking advantage of the exposure. But if you want to engage in really useful dialogue with people in your professional community, you must go where they hang out. That’s where you need to be seen.

If I’m looking for a good job candidate for a client company, I’m not going to search LinkedIn articles. There are better places to do that, where real experts hang out — expert communities.

I think it’s critical to establish a strong reputation for expertise where the professional community that you want to work with congregates; where your peers (and the peers you want to join) talk shop.

I like vertical publications more than general platforms. It’s harder to get an article published in such professional hubs. Even if they don’t  pay you for your content, they have a strong vetting process – and that’s good. It keeps the standard high, and it earns you a meaningful reputation if you’re the writer.

Expert content

You don’t have to write articles to build a reputation in your professional community. You might volunteer to speak at a professional or industry event, or participate in a panel discussion. Even if you only help organize such an event, you’ll rub elbows with real experts who can help you on your next steps toward a strong reputation of your own.

You can also demonstrate expertise by regularly posting thoughtful comments on the right professional forums. That’s how you become a go-to expert that others rely on. I know recruiters who lurk on highly specialized technical and scientific discussion communities online. That’s where they find opinion makers discussing the ins and outs of their work — then they recruit them or get referrals from them.

No one develops an expert reputation overnight. It takes time and very dedicated effort. Real expertise is earned while one is vetted by other experts in their field — and LinkedIn is hardly an expert community! So, no, I don’t think that writing articles on LinkedIn will make you look like an expert. It will make more money for LinkedIn.

Expert status requires a long-term investment

What people find hard to accept is that you can’t just submit or post something now and then and expect results. You must participate long-term and be an active member of a professional community. There is no easy way to a great reputation. It grows from posting good stuff and from being a “regular.” (For some tips about building a solid reputation, see Branding yourself suggests you’re clueless.)

I think LinkedIn has become just another Internet fish wrap. At best, it’s a souped-up telephone directory — everyone is in it. If it’s an expert reputation you want, find niche sites where others in your field gather. Publish there. That’s my advice.

What’s your expert community site or publication?

I didn’t suggest any specific expert websites (or print publications) that are good places to publish because there are so many. Almost every area of work has such professional community hubs. This is where up and coming experts breed!

So here’s my request to Ask The Headhunter readers:

What’s your field of work, and what’s the best niche publication or online community for it? Where do you hang out for expert discussion? Please share your list of expert content outlets!

How do you promote your expertise? Do you find LinkedIn to be a credible “expert forum?” What online venues do you use to demonstrate your acumen?

: :

  1. I’ve known people who swear by LinkedIn, then again, I’ve known people who swear by For me personally, and I’d wager many others, these types of approaches are time wasters and ineffective.

  2. I stopped using LI for anything other than what Nick does – to drive eyeballs to my website – and I do that when I publish a blog post.
    Also, I’m mystified as to why everyone Is an “expert”. The word is practically meaningless now, it’s so overused. I’ve been in the same industry for 30 years but I would never call myself an “expert” (But I am highly competent) If everyone’s an expert, no one is…

    • @Marci: Quite a few years ago I realized LinkedIn was a sham. When Linked went from “professional network” to job board, at first it hired the best, smartest consultative sales team it could find, from some of the best tech companies, and paid them hefty salaries. Quickly, however, it dumped them and hired a boiler-room of high-pressure, commissioned salespeople to sell job postings to employers. That’s when I noticed Linked no longer recommended “linking” only to people you know and started soliciting meaningless “endorsements.”

      Like you, I realized “connections” were totally devalued. It was a free-for-all. Linked wanted any and all connections and more visits and page views. So I decided to play its game and had a little fun at the same time. Here’s my 2013 announcement about it:

    • When I first joined LI, it seemed like it could be a useful site (remember LI-exclusive job listings?) but in recent years it’s been more of a time sink than useful.

      I find, though, that the vast majority of people who claim to have found me via LI — and then ask for my resume — have failed to even look at my LI profile and have /never/ visited the web site I have listed where they could have obtained answers to the most common questions they tend to ask /and/ found my downloadable resume.

      I agree about the overuse of “expert”. I’m ver-r-ry particular about what I might consider as a topic where I might be anything /close/ to an “expert” yet I have recruiters call me looking for people to fill roles that require expert-level experience in a dozen different areas. Even considering topics where I might have over a decade of experience, there’s /always/ something more to learn.

  3. My expert community is probably the Nonprofit Happy Hour Facebook group. There’s also a (better) facebook group I’m part of that is focused on radical HR and operations folks – very lefty and progressive, and those are usually the folks I go to when I need to bounce ideas around. For HR, there’s a couple Slack and Google Groups that are pretty good.

    • Thanks, No Longer Esq :-)

      Can you name the Slack and Google groups, and the radical HR FB group? I’m sure other readers (we’ve got lots from HR) would love to check them out!

      • *stops hiding and raises hand*

        I’m one of the interested HR people!

      • Yes! Let’s see. The Google group is called The Talent Collaborative. It’s nonprofit focused. (!forum/talent-collaborative)

        The radical group is called Rad Ops, on Facebook. It might be invite-only/secret, but if anyone wants me to invite them (and is aligned with the values of the group) send me an email at kim at ranavain dot com and I’ll get an invite.

        On Slack, I’m part of DC Talent Professionals, (that one is for internal talent/HR people only, no consultants or vendors.

  4. I agree. Having a basic presence on LinkedIn is about as far as I bother taking it. In fact, I would strongly caution against having any content that solely exists on LI as it can vanish in to thin air without warning. A few weeks ago I had to go on their user forum because I was experiencing some weird buggy behavior on a company page I co-manage. While I was there I saw a lot of posts from people who were complaining that pieces they had published on LI were wholesale disappearing from their portfolios without explanation.

    • @Em: There’s also been controversy about who owns rights to the articles a user posts on LinkedIn. Worst case, Linked is censoring. Best case (?), Linked is trying to enforce copyrights. Several years ago, a big-name outplacement firm lifted one of my articles (from this website) and re-published it under its own name behind a LinkedIn members-only group. I’d never have known, but one of my readers (a client of the firm) told me about it. This cost that firm quite a bit of money and loads of embarrassment — and it reportedly cost the culprit his job.

      When anybody can post anything with no one being “responsible,” the question of expertise becomes a joke. Don’t be a joke. Publish in legit venues that are relevant and respected by your professional community. Keep control of your rights.

      “User generated content” is one thing. Expert content is quite another. “User generated content” has become the no-cost strategy of many businesses and publishers that don’t want to pay for professional quality writing and editing. Some readers and subscribers pay the price when they realize what they’re getting — and others pay much more because they DON’T realize what they’re getting.

      • It would be great if they were imposing some copyright standards however I suspect it’s more a problem of spaghetti code on their back end. At least for my specific problem, which is also related to stuff disappearing. I checked in to the forum again today and there’s about 80 additional users complaining of roughly the same issue as mine and a few moderator messages sprinkled in asking for continued patience. Meanwhile the support tech who I briefed (I even gave her permission to try and replicate the issue with my account) was flummoxed and escalated it to research and development and told me to be patient in hearing back on a fix.

        FWIW they also go by the honor system in ensuring companies aren’t discriminating against protected classes in their ads. I’ve worked with their campaign platform and they have you check a box that is the official acknowledgement that you won’t use the demographic targeting tools to exclude people from your job advertisements.

    • Anybody who publishes anything on LinkedIn should be advised to copy it by signing in, clicking on the down arrow under the little picture of themselves at the right side of the black horizontal bar near the top of the home page. Then click “Settings and Privacy” under the Account section. Then click on the Privacy tab and “Manage your data and activity” and choose the appropriate option.

      • Whoops! My previous post should have referenced the “Getting a copy of your data link” as the final destination under the Privacy tab.

  5. Provocative and thoughtful comments from Nick – as always!

    Nick, your reaction to the reader’s question highlights a great point – while in 2020 most people have accepted the need to “virtually” project themselves online through a professional profile of some sort, including by posting articles, we should still carefully select that virtual professional home, so to speak.

    LinkedIn is certainly big and well-trafficked, but that alone shouldn’t sway anyone. Better do your homework and then decide where to concentrate your virtual efforts.

    For my specific niche, Vital Speeches of the Day ( is the key professional community. VSOTD is 100% focused on matters of specific interest to people active in the executive communications space.

    • @Neil: Thanks for suggesting a site you like!

  6. “You might agree with me that there’s plenty of tripe on LinkedIn, then argue that “there’s good stuff if you look for it.” We could say the same about any dumpster, but that doesn’t make it Trader Joe’s.”

    … another Ask the Headhunter classic quote. ;-)

    LinkedIn long ago stopped being a serious medium for professional exchanges. Now, it’s just click bait. I have a profile because it’s expected, but LinkedIn is an embarrassment.

  7. The person asking the question states that, “building one’s reputation as an expert in their profession is a big advantage while finding a professional home.” This is absolutely false. As a business owner and former print journalist, dealing with so-called experts led to the conclusion that experts are merely fools waiting to be exposed. Experience has proven this to be the case. Experts thump their chests with their accomplishments (no matter how small) as pride and convincing the “little people” they are elite. Most experts begin in the world of academia where theory abounds but reality and passing the litmus test doesn’t cut it in the marketplace.
    It’s far more impressive to prove to some one how competent you are, experienced and capable of adapting to a given situation that requires critical thinking. Whenever someone attempted to impress me as an expert, I always asked hard driving questions that revealed their inadequacies. As such it was a pleasure to show them the door. As a journalist whenever I interviewed an “expert” the result was embarrassment to them and they ended up with egg on their pathetic face.
    If this person is focused on showing he is an expert, he needs to be aware there’s somebody out their competing for the same position that will reveal his shortcomings.
    It’s better to prove and impress by your works than by your words.

    • @No Expert: Good points. Expertise is relative. Show me how you can do the job I need done and how that will affect my bottom line positively, and now you’re my expert. You’re hired.

      (We really do put too much stock in “experts,” just as we do in “heroes.” There are actually very few of both, and we actually need either very rarely. Somebody who will just do their job is almost always sufficient!)

  8. I have had good experiences publishing on LinkedIn. First, write something of interest that is thoughtful and worthwhile. If (and only if) you can do that, publish it. Then reach out to friends and colleagues and ask them to consider looking for it and acknowledging it with a like or comment.

    Every time someone acknowledges or even reads what you wrote, then your piece can get placed into the feeds of their connections. This is a fantastic and free way to raise your own profile. It is probably even best for those of us that are self-employed but it also helps people who may be looking for salaried work soon.

    Who cares who “owns” it? If I thought of it, I have every right to write it again somewhere else, using slightly different language. If anyone plagiarizes me, that is illegal and can obviously happen from any source.

    • Very sorry to say that persuading friends and colleagues to ‘like’ a piece doesn’t make someone an expert. Too often ‘likes’ are given because it’s your friend or you’re hoping to get something in return.

      As for raising one’s profile, I can’t tell you how much fluff I’ve dismissed that has no value other than likes. In extreme cases I’ve had to un-follow people.

    • @Mark: I’m with Steven. How do your friends’ “likes” confer expertise? And who goes to LinkedIn for expert information? As for getting into feeds from LinkedIn, who opens all those feeds when we know they’re doing little more than building Linked’s traffic? Is that how anyone hires?

      • Clearly friends’ likes do not confer expertise. They do, however, generate more exposure, which was my only point. I never used the words ‘expert’ or ‘expertise.’

        Expertise won’t be unanimously agreed upon but in my fields of marketing research and healthcare consulting I do hope that I have something to offer and this helps me get my ideas out quickly. Readers can still evaluate expertise by content rather than source. People who recognize my name or think the title is interesting may open the links, and I have evidence that they sometimes do.

        I hope no one hires that way, but when building a one-person business, I have actually used my articles to (as I learned from you) give examples of how I do a consulting job. Yes, this stuff helps! Cordially -Mark

        • Mark,

          In all the years I’ve been on LinkedIn (certainly more than 10), I have yet to find a single published item truly useful. The only possible exception was a PDF version of a motivational needs questionnaire document plagiarized (without attribution) from the Kentucky 4-H Foundation that was assigned for a college credit course assignment (I added the proper author credits in my paper). I eventually retrieved a legitimate clean copy of the document closer to the source, so even that was a temporary exception.

          I think you’ve been hanging out on Facebook too long. Just because anyone clicks on links within a document doesn’t mean anything. I’ve known people who mindlessly click on links within documents or web sites who just have nothing better to do. These are the same people who always got their workstations infected with macroviruses because they’d click on anything they saw. If you think that could have been the result of your marketing genius, think again.

      • Even the special interest groups within LI have morphed from places where birds of a feather could discuss work-related problems, technical issues, etc into what are nowadays nothing but topic-specific job boards. At one time, those pages were a place where you /could/ develop a reputation in your field and, perhaps, get referred to — or contacted by — hiring managers as someone who knows their stuff. I rarely even look at those pages any more after seeing someone publish a decent article on one of the interest group pages only to be admonished by the page owner that the page is only for job ads now. One less reason to spend much time on LI.

  9. I’ve engaged in some interesting discussions on LinkedIn and sometimes received requests to connect as a result (including from some top people from leading companies in the industry). Nothing’s come of those connections, but simply being connected has benefits in terms of what content comes into your feed, as well as making you visible to more people.

    I’m active in the rail, intermodal, and container shipping industries, and the leading industry publications are active on LinkedIn. They post links to their content and facilitate discussions and debate. What’s interesting is that people don’t post comments on their websites; and discussion that takes place is on LI. In the case of the JOC (Journal of Commerce), that’s partly because it’s very expensive to subscribe and you can get free access to only 5 articles per month. There’s a new guy in town called Freightwaves, but even though they are free nobody comments there. One rail industry veteran who is a Contributing Editor of Railway Age and also writes for Freightwaves is very active posting to LI and trying to stimulate substantive discussion.

    But this is all done through people who are directly or indirectly connected, not in groups. I’m a member of numerous transportation and logistics groups, but there’s rarely content posted that justifies discussion. And when there is, little to no dicussion takes place.

    I was wondering why the groups I belong to are relatively small, when so many people are employed in transportation and logistics globally, but I just learned that LI imposes limits on membership for groups. The owner of one such group just mentioned that the groups 100,000 member cap had just been lifted by LI, an encouraged members to promote it so it would grow (now if the content could only improve). Some of the largest groups on LI are HR groups, and I think that’s a sad thing that HR groups are so big, while groups for the people who actually do the work are much smaller.

    • Sorry for all of the typos in my comment above. @Nick, I meant to add that your posts on LI generated very few comments compared to the comments here, which is the opposite of what happens with my industry publications. I think that’s due to the subjects you raise. People (especially men) are rightfully scared xxxx-less to publicly post any comment critical of HR or the state of hiring processes these days.

      I would also like to make a recommendation for your readers. Go to LI and search for Seth Mason, who is starting a non-profit called Organization for Hiring Reform. His efforts should be of much interest to anybody who frequents Ask the Headhunter and deserve support and promotion.

      • Regarding posting things critical of HR: I think it depends on who your connections are, and posting vs commenting, etc. I’ve used stuff like #hiringprocessisbroken and so on, but Lord knows how much traction that’s actually getting. It’s true that sometimes comments critical of HR will get get dogpiled by the rah-rah HR manager types and wannabes, but there are also quite a number of regular folks who see that the emperor has no clothes and aren’t afraid to point it out.

        • @Askeladd: I’ve actually been thinking of writing an article on LI titled “The Empress has no Clothes: Busting HR’s Feminist Myths.”

          • @Bill, go for it, man, and you won’t sugar coat it either. Phooey on the PC naysayers and the butt-hurt (including some on here). My late father, a WWII era man, and a hard working machinist, used to tell me (when I was annoyed by HR, especially HR women, with futile and degrading job hunting and interviews) that HR were “frustrated psychologists”.

  10. I also find myself questioning just what qualifies as an “expert” these days. Coincidentally, the Indeed forum just got “redesigned” where they’ve pretty much replaced what was a functioning forum with a game of “ask the Indeed experts” (the word “expert” appears no less than eight times on the home page) where their so-called experts just post unhelpful nonsense like “have you thought about changing your perspective?” along with the word “solution” at the bottom of their posts which they proceed to checkmark (even threads that haven’t had a recent post for years now have been magically solved by an Indeed expert, lol). Take a look and see if you think this reads like the bio of a true expert in anything (based on the bad grammar and odd punctuation I’ve concluded it’s just another AI bot) —

    • @Sigh: Thanks for that Indeed link to an expert. But there was nowhere to click an endorsement for illiteracy.

      “As a talent acquisition leader within IT, HR, and a few other industries…” [IT and HR are now industries?]

      “Years of acquiring talent for major corporations, has led me to consulting…” [subject-verb agreement, misuse of punctuation?]

      Wonder what she charges to write a “professional resume”!

      Like I said — sites like LinkedIn and Indeed have no (or illiterate) editors. So much for expertise.

  11. As I work on founding a new company, the last thing on my mind at the moment is so-called internet presence. I just asked a friend of mine to partner with me in this venture. Tomorrow night I meet with my mentor (a local group that helps entrepreneurs like myself connected me up with my mentor). I am talking to my partner about other people we want to sign on. I have done initial market research to find a profitable area to concentrate on. Next step? More research! This includes significant library time and also visiting with people in my target industry.

    Notice a pattern? I am meeting with people. I am also employed full-time. It is tough.

    I do not search for contacts on LinkedIn. I am looking up competitors, vendors, and customers. I try to make trade shows (I use vacation time for that – I absolutely do not do this on my current company’s time nor do I use their resources). I also look up professors and university research programs.

    My next challenge is marketing. More people to meet! In the meantime, I am discussing incorporation with my partner.

    To be continued……..(and not at LinkedIn)…..

  12. Nick,

    In the field of (IT) Technology Infrastructure, I can say with 100% certainty that the answer to your question [Where do you hang out for expert discussion? Please share your list of expert content outlets!] is NONE. People with true expertise are not wasting their time sharing it for free.

    In the days before the implosion, some of us would discuss or debate issues in person at industry events. But the takeaways depended on whether or not we knew or could trust the sources.

    But now that the vendor and industry events have been drastically scaled back and largely eliminated, those opportunities are mostly gone. People who entered the business within the past 10 years, are largely inexperienced and have nothing to share. I stopped going to BICSI events (Building Industry Consulting Service International) because every single person I encountered was trying to get free expert advice and just about anything else they could get for free. But unfortunately, the flip side is that they had no intention of reciprocating. That’s the reputation that people with BICSI credentials have earned over the years. You’ll see the same routine in the BICSI discussion forum(s) on LinkedIn. Nothing published there has any meaning or value.

    Back in the day (don’t you hate that expression!), certain people in the telecommunications industry gained some popularity when they attracted crowds at industry events whenever they were telling a story or relating a past industry experience. If that was “expert” advice it was certainly worth what the audience paid for it. They were very good story-tellers, and could attract a crowd easily. That’s why when my clients requested that I use the Newton’s Telecom Dictionary for an assignment I refused to acknowledge it as a credible primary source of information (I’ll save the rest of that story for another day).

    And in the field of (real) Expert (Witnesses), I can say with 100% certainty that the answer to your questions is NONE. Yes, I’m one of those too (but you haven’t seen that in my resume, since you’ve probably already red-flagged it, per previous discussion ;). That’s a very competitive field. Experts regularly battle it out in legal and other venues and it could be career suicide to be showing the world that you might not be 100% certain about a matter on which you may consult or testify in the future. Actually, it could really be disastrous for an expert working a case where the opposing side finds that material and uses it to discredit some of your own testimony if you forgot you posted it.

    In both verbal and published venues, the old saying about better being silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt, is usually a good policy to follow.

    And to answer your question [How do you promote your expertise? Do you find LinkedIn to be a credible “expert forum?” What online venues do you use to demonstrate your acumen?] The only legitimate venue for publishing expert content remains written word. I’ve also published some articles with some expert content, as you certainly have. But the fact remains that no one publishes expert content for free without a good reason.

    LinkedIn is 99% trash. There isn’t a single word written there that could be considered “expert” content. 100% of all published content worthless marketing garbage.

    The 1% I reserve for observing who has the brass ones to try and pass off other people’s work as their own, or to (virtually) shoot off their mouth just so you know they’re there (like a child running into a room full of adults, screaming wildly, then running away).

    BTW, part of that 99% trash is every re-blog and regurgitation of others’ material in the foolish assumption that maybe if they use LinkedIn “notifications” spam to push stuff in my face that maybe it might change my opinions or viewpoints. Wrong. Non-creative spam is still spam. Save your spam for your family. If you’re lucky, they’ll give you quick feedback about how annoying you are. But better hide the 2×4’s first.

    • @Steve: There’s a lot of cynicism in what you wrote, but it’s a compelling opinion nonetheless. Like you, I’m skeptical about sharing expertise for free. But I don’t agree that “People with true expertise are not wasting their time sharing it for free.” Perhaps you’re confusing doing it for free with doing it as an investment in themselves, in their professional community, or as a way to pay it forward. I still like what you wrote.

  13. You become an expert by having your work vetted by acknowledged experts. Once you are accepted, then you get to vet other people. Sure, some of the stuff put out there is good, but the vast majority is crap.
    My wife is a reviewer for a book contest, and our bedroom is filled with books, most self-published, so I have strong evidence for this statement.
    I had no idea that LI even published articles. I’m not going to run out and read them, though.
    So forget LI, but follow Nick’s advice about participating in professional activities. I did, and my last job was a non-resume job since the hiring manager, once he learned I was available, knew me from my technical activities.
    Sorry for the late response – my mailer decided to categorize ATH as spam. You’re in good company – it did the same for my mail from the New Yorker.

    • @Scott: Re your New Yorker categorized as spam. That’s probably because I tainted them. They quoted me in a recent edition. They’re forever marked!

  14. This is an example of what can happen when you have a profile on linkedin, i.e. someone stealing your work history: