How I use LinkedIn
If you find someone in my LinkedIn connections and you're curious if you should try to hire them, chances are you should. They might be a rotten S.O.B., but they probably know what they are doing.
To Make a Short Story Long
The job I have today came from LinkedIn. That is a first for me. I get monthly requests from recruiters, but usually I decline their offers. I'm the kind of person who wants to make my job work and not go looking around for what's better. Regardless, I think it's a good service and I maintain my contacts on a regular basis. I get a lot of requests from colleagues I've never worked alongside and people I've never met. I decline those invitations.
Aside from a dozen or so recruiters, I have close personal knowledge of all my LinkedIn connections. A few were classmates and a couple are family members, but nearly all were either co-workers or people I worked with in open-source. This doesn't mean I'm friends with all my connections–one of my connections was a nasty office-politicker. Another worked in a department that made my job a lot harder than I wanted it to be. I wouldn't want to work with either again, but they did their job well and that is matters the most on LinkedIn.
It's not Facebook. It's not about being popular. It's a professional network and a reflection of the way you work. At least that's how I choose to treat it.
Wait a minute, you have David Pogue in your connections…
In 1998 I helped David write one of his first technical books. This was when he was an occasional columnist for the NY Times and a conductor in New England. Even though we never met face-to-face, we collaborated on the phone and through the mail. I delivered my work, he wrote me a check, and the book went on to be one of his first of many successes at O'Reilly. I would gladly work with him again.
Brother, Can You Spare an Endorsement?
I generally avoid recommendations on LinkedIn–being a connection is an implicit endorsement. I don't think there's anything special about being connected to me–I'm just a person who does a job and tries to do it well. I'm being honest in explaining my methods in an effort to be transparent.
I said I generally avoid recommendations, but I do write them. After the last round of layoffs at Motorola, I felt compelled to write recommendations for my co-workers and those that reported to me. We had a lot of smart people and the way the division was shut down was disheartening. I hoped my words would help someone avoid the stigma of being the person laid off, because we were all laid off. It wasn't the bottom 5% getting trimmed, it was 95% of the division. I did the same for my team in Brazil even though they were contractors. Despite the miles, I felt closer to most of them than the people I see on a regular basis. They did such an incredible job for nearly 5 years–I felt they deserved to be recognized for their great work. I forced myself to think of each of them and write my true feelings, fighting back tears at times.
As for myself, I've never requested a recommendation. If someone has written something about me, it was unsolicited, although appreciated.
I'm not disparaging someone who builds a huge network with lots of contacts or even those whom solicit recommendations. I'm just saying that isn't the way I use the service. If you come here from LinkedIn and you've read all this, I hope it helped you make a decision. If you're still not sure about one of my connections, feel free to send an email through LinkedIn and I'll tell you what I think.