book: “Understanding, Leveraging, & Maximizing LinkedIn”

cover of bookLinkedIn has become the elaborate online business card for most corporate knowledge workers I know (lab scientists curiously excepted). As handhelds get held more in more hands, we’ll find ourselves checking LinkedIn profiles of: recruiters, job candidates, hiring managers and their HR reps, clients, salespeople, first dates, and that dubious guy in the next airplane seat; and we’ll be checking from: the backs of cabs, interview waiting areas, restaurant rest rooms, and in line for latte. By sometime in 2011, any corporate knowledge worker missing a LinkedIn profile will be considered missing from reality.

Any software system of medium to high complexity still requires a User’s Manual to get all the benefits. Now, before whinging that manuals are too geeky: simply compare the deep technology behind LinkedIn–including servers, security and encryption, jQuery, etc–to the technology behind your old paper business cards. Without anyone’s quite announcing it, your career competitiveness now depends on runaway technologies that you will not understand, but that nonetheless you are obligated to exploit and control. We’re all geeks now, honey.

So “Where’s the manual for LinkedIn? “Understanding, Leveraging & Maximizing LinkedIn” is a well-regarded contender, as well it should be. Its advice benefited my own profile, and the book is up-to-the-year (2010), important since social media content is bird-cage liner. I’m also wary of book titles containing a trademark symbol–before a year is out copies will pile high in Half-Price Books. We can laugh that books have become nearly phantoms, but careful you don’t laugh too loudly: so have jobs.

The name Windmill Networking™ arises from the author’s embarrassingly inept, inapt metaphor for employees: row upon row of them each flailing in the wind while giving away their energy, left out in the weather, expected to work 24 hours a day without pay, and prevented from fleeing or even leaning on something by anchoring their feet in concrete. While we’ve all had jobs like that, it’s more relevant here that the Windmill Networking™ process amounts to a limited and more pragmatic variant of LION’s (LinkedIn Open Network) bizarre cult of connection communism. The author does advocate Windmill’s “connect first, think later” plan, he does not insist on it, and even gives sound advice on how to tune your LinkedIn habits to your degree of exhibitionism. I like that. The book may well persuade you to try several things your possibly didn’t even know about. It is not an expensive book, and if it gives you one good hint, that might pay for itself in sparing you aggravation, if not actually in a new job.

For me the most useful chapters were on Introductions, Groups, Applications, and Answers. I’m especially intrigued by Answers and may find myself inspired to participate–thanks to this book. There may be a real future in LinkedIn’s Applications, but the few available so far are toys. Of course, they may improve, and it so it’s useful to have them called out. I can disclose that this very blog came to be partly because Amazon’s Book List Application on LinkedIn proved inadequate. This book pointed me in that direction.

The book could be half its current length without loss. But in its favor, the subjects are crisply divided, so I knew at a glance which chapters to skip. If you know what you want from LinkedIn in the first place, your time will be especially well invested.

A LinkedIn manual is truly needed, and you could do far worse than follow this book’s advice.

Three stars.

“The Windmill Networking™ Approach to Understanding, Leveraging, & Maximizing LinkedIn”, Neal Schaffer, 2009, Booksurge [publishers].

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