Sunday, June 12, 2016

A new chapter in my like/hate relationship with LinkedIn.

LinkedIn has quietly initiated a service with which members selling skills can be matched up with members who want to buy those skills. It’s an ideal arrangement. Not an unusual idea, of course; there are myriad online job-matching outfits. The difference would be, or that’s the hope, that buyers on LinkedIn would be a cut above the bottom-feeders you find on many of the other services. At least until they invaded the system, the penny-a-word, $5-per-article, plagiarism-obsessed, work-for-hire blatherers might be missing. I registered immediately I heard about it.

In the registration instructions LinkedIn puts heavy emphasis on recommendations from clients and others you've worked with. I hadn’t done anything about that on my home page, but certainly I could manage a few. I wrote to three people I had worked with in the past asking if they wouldn’t mind putting up a short paean to my writing prowess which, since it was my writing we were writing about, I would write for them. Then I went about registering.

The problem -- and you just knew that with LinkedIn  there would be one -- is that LinkedIn has made recommendations the coin of the realm. There are, if I’m reading the numbers correctly, an astounding 282 pages of names at this writing,   13 names to a page, in just the “Copywriter” category. A little discouraging, but you knew the competition would be fierce; nothing new there.

The kicker, however, is that LinkedIn has ranked people according to number of recommendations, and presents them that way. The runner-up at this writing has 125, just behind the leader with well into the 200s. The name of someone with a modest 20 or so wouldn’t begin to show up until ten pages in. My three would have put me in the 130s-140s. At the rate people are joining someone who hasn’t yet started to amass his or her recommendations would find himself or herself somewhere close to page 300.

My first reaction is that I don’t think I know 200 people altogether, much less 200 who can vouch for my writing. Second, since listing doesn’t seem to follow any other criteria -- not experience, not location, not specialties or languages or even alphabetization -- what's the likelihood that anyone in the vast middle of the list will be found? Third, recommendations can be manufactured; enough said. Fourth, with that kind of competition, the logical next step will probably be to make it a two-tier system, as LinkedIn already does with its regular membership: you can hang around for free, but if you want the good stuff, there’ll be a charge.

One more mirage in the job-hunting desert.