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