Linkedin – professionalism – or keeping up appearances?

I reckon people who say that Facebook is for friends and Linkedin is for business are missing out on the wider changes in attitude to work and business that the social web is enabling.

The web is all about people. It’s about connections, relationships and energy. So is doing business.

Energy and connections are what help you do your work. Facebook, for all its faults, is good at increasing both. Linkedin in, in contrast, is full of people in suits being “professional”.

The full impact of the social web will only be apparent when being “professional” – in the sense of restrained, impersonal, guarded and “businesslike” as distinct from being bloody good at your job – is finally seen as unproductive, dysfunctional, often bullying in intent, and a waste of time and energy.

14 thoughts on “Linkedin – professionalism – or keeping up appearances?”

  1. I agree with Stafford Beer, who stated that the purpose of a system is what it does. Ergo, I believe that the purpose of a social network is what it does. However, I also recognise that the principles of self-organisation and the emergent properties of dynamic systems will always include attempts by some actors to subvert the system to their own purpose. The system [or the social network] will determine their success, or failure.

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  2. I like the sentiment Euan, my problem is that I really cannot abide Facebook. Perhaps the answer in my case is to be a bit more ‘unprofessional’ on LinkedIn. I have been trying by replacing my stuffy old wooden profile with something that hopefully has a bit more personality in it. 😉

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    1. Go for it. I am no fan of Facebook but find it useful to spend time where the energy is. Linkedin has that potential but I guess it is as realistic as expecting meetings to be fun and productive! 😉

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  3. I’d also say that the best partnerships will come from those who understand that seeing the human in those they work with is no bad thing. Currently I think it arouses suspicion for many.

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  4. Hear hear! I’ve been saying this for years! If we try to build artificial walls in our minds between "professional" and "personal" we risk losing so much. Innovation is all about bringing in ideas from other disciplines – we all have ideas that we can use in other contexts.

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  5. I am one of those people who make that distinction, and I’m not sure that I agree with you on this. The idea that we are just one person is a recipe for madness and career suicide – we have to adopt multiple personae in our lives: customer, supplier, boss, worker, spouse, parent…. – and that whilst I don’t think it’s ever good when they are totally disconnected (and I’m always wary of people who show nothing of their not-work lives "in the office"), balancing those personae with the total exposure that the web gives is an important and tricky new skill we do need to learn. If I talked to prospective clients in the same way that I speak to my youngest when I’m changing his nappy my business prospects are going to be very limited, by way of an extreme example.

    I have the LinkedIn/work/Facebook/not-work distinction because it helps me to make sense of some of those balances in personae, and also because if I spent my time talking about this kind of stuff on Facebook it’d bore the living crap out of many of my mates (as opposed to, obviously, the endless talk about what my kids are up to which they all find thrilling ;o)).

    Total transparency everywhere is not a great thing. I’ve known a few folk that preached that in the past in the "real" rather than virtual world, and the trail of human destruction that followed them was often horrific. But all of that’s not the same as being a buttoned-down arsehole on LinkedIn and party animal on Facebook either…

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    1. I am not advocating radical transparency, in fact I am gestating a blog post on that very topic as we speak. I don’t write everything everywhere and I do distinguish between the various social networks i am on to some degree. I don’t disagree about the fact that we adopt multiple personae – maybe less convinced that it is a good thing.

      My post was more about what in the past I have called "the price of pomposity", using professionalism like armour and occasionally aggressively. Much of Linkedin feels disingenuous, inauthentic and insincere which is a shame as it could be so much more useful if there was more oomph in it!

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      1. On the personae point, maybe thinking about it as appropriately addressing one’s audiences, rather than putting on an act helps?

        On the latter point, it’s "CV spin" to some extent – and can be applied to everything in the world of "traditional" CVs, recruitment and job hunting (which let’s be blunt is LinkedIn’s big market). You know the kind of thing – "I’m a result-orientated, self-motivated deliverer of high quality blah blah blah."

        But maybe that’s a general businessballs issue? Three weeks out of my most recent corporate adventure and I’m delighted that I have neither heard nor used a three-letter abbreviation or the words "reimagined", "synergy" or "will you please just speak plain English for once in your life!" It’s only a matter of time, mind…

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  6. I like Colin B’s point, that it is not useful to define the ‘purpose’ of a system teleologically: it is what it does, and it has emergent properties. If Facebook had a preponderance of people who behaved like suits, it would be more suit-ish. However, the way a system is designed, the things that it makes easier and the things it makes difficult — what Don Norman would call ‘affordances’ — are also part of the equation. A threaded discussion on Facebook is impossible, but can be hosted on LinkedIn. Sharing photos of your daughter’s first day at school: much easier on Facebook. So the affordances of the ecosystem shape the behaviours and postures of those who act within it.

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    1. I agree and in fact was referring to the way the two ecosystems have evolved rather than to anything inherent in their respective technologies. However given ideology of algorithms there is no such thing as a neutral system. The knack is getting the right combination of people, behaviours and technology – much of which is out of your control!

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  7. Maybe my thoughts are better expressed in this quote:

    "The successful person in the art of living makes little distinction between their work and their play… they simply pursue their vision of excellence in whatever they do, leaving others to decide whether they are working or playing. To them, they are always doing both."

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