Why I Won’t Endorse You on LinkedIn

Oh, goody. My LinkedIn connection, Diana, just endorsed my skills in marketing strategy. Yesterday Sylvie gave me a thumbs-up on my team-building expertise, and last week Martin endorsed me as the corporate communications guru I imagine myself to be. Self-esteem is running high, which means self-doubt can’t be far away.

And here it comes: Diana knows me from soccer and can’t possibly endorse me for anything more than falling over; Sylvie is a freelancer I have worked with for years but who has never watched me build anything more than a pile of sugar packets once at an airport; and Martin serves with me on a volunteer board where whatever skills I may demonstrate, they don’t include corporate communications.

An interesting side-note is that Martin invariably endorses me a day or so after we disagree about something in a board meeting. Is an endorsement the social media equivalent of an apology or an offering?Why I Won't Endorse You on LinkedIn

I am a huge fan of LinkedIn, and not just because I’ve twice been unemployed in the past ten years. I have vigourously defended this platform against my too-cool-for-charcuterie friends and the likes of Jesse Hirsh, who described LinkedIn as a place for “old people who are afraid of Facebook” in this piece for CBC .

Good thing he doesn’t waste his time with 500+ followers and a bunch of endorsements. This profile is surely someone else’s.

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But I’m just not sure I’m liking this endorsement thing. Far from being a place for people afraid of Facebook, I’m worried that LinkedIn is becoming a place run by people who are bored of Facebook. Endorsing the skills of your connections is feeling a lot like the random “Likes” that are the currency of Facebook credibility. But without any context, it looks like what it is: people gaming the platform to drive their own visibility.

Now I just feel cheap and a little bit grubby.

We need some rigour, here folks. Just as I think it’s a terrible idea to befriend anyone on LinkedIn that you haven’t actually met, it’s an equally terrible idea to go around endorsing people whose skills you can’t possibly evaluate. Let me help you. The following must be true before you can click the Endorse button:

  • You must actually know the person you are endorsing (see my previous post is you are unclear about what this means)
  • You must actually know what the skill you are endorsing means. If you have no idea what it looks like when somebody installs a new Large Hedron Collider, then you probably shouldn’t be commenting on how good they are at it.
  • You must actually have seen your LinkedIn buddy do this thing you say they’re good at. “Well she’s really nice and makes the best guacamole” does not translate to “And she’s got outstanding budget planning abilities.” They are not related skills.
  • Let me know if you want the guacamole recipe

So here is what I’m worried will happen if the Facebookification of LinkedIn continues unchecked. I’m worried that unwarranted endorsements are just the beginning of the end. I’m worried that someone is going to start a game called Cubefarm. In Cubefarm my bored friends will start sending me pivot tables and three-hole punches. They will expect me to care that they have successfully offended 80% of their customers or harvested the Q2 crop of trinkets. They will want me to join their Cubefarm. Side note: check out the Cubefarming blog here.

And then it’s a short, slippery slope to the equivalent of the Facebook Poke. Perhaps they’ll call that an “Interrupt”. That’ll be fun.

So let’s all promise that we’ll stop endorsing people just for the hell of it or to make them feel better or to rank a little higher for recruiters. Let’s use LinkedIn for good, not for time-wasting evil. That’s what YouTube is for.

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