Ed. note: If you have a question for our career advice brain trust, ending it with compliments is definitely the way to get it answered quicker and with much less snark than usual. Just a tip.
I’m a recent college grad, just started at the Big-4, with prior work experience at some other companies, and a few people now have recommended that I start using LinkedIn as a means of keeping in touch with people. So far I’ve just been nodding my head and thinking to myself that I’ll get around to it some day, but in all honestly, I’m really not sure what LinkedIn is or why it matters. It seems like a way of making all my work stuff public for someone to scrutinize before I start on their job (or eventually when apply to their company) and I don’t see why that’s the greatest idea ever. I feel like Facebook can lead to some awkward quasi-friendship and feel like LinkedIn is a similar tool. I understand that there is a difference between just networking and asking for “recommendation” on the site, but other than that, I’m pretty much clueless. One other concern is that while it’s not my aim right now, I feel like creating a LinkedIn account is like making a sign saying that I’m ultimately looking to jump ship. Perhaps you or some readers could provide additional insight?
-Prefer to be Anonymous (get it, that’s why I don’t see what’s so great about LinkedIn).
P.S. You don’t have to tell Caleb, but I was talking to some co-workers and we definitely agree that GC is better when you’re in charge, thanks for the great work!
Oh come on, PtbA, you didn’t think I’d broadcast that all over the place? Thanks for the kind words, glad I’m not scaring you kids away this week. Let’s hope Caleb is still obsessively reading the site while sequestered in an unnamed third world country and sees this, even if it only confirms what he already knows.
Anyway, LinkedIn. Let me confess that even though my career specialization is online brand management and social media, even I was a bit sketched out by LinkedIn at the get go. I am a proponent of Internet privacy, at least as far as one is able to keep their details private while also maintaining their online presence. But when I first signed up for LinkedIn years ago, I was mortified by the sheer amount of information they wanted from me. Sure everyone knew where I worked anyway but why was it anyone’s business on LinkedIn?
Let me disclaim this next part by saying I absolutely love my job. If a competing online media outlet tried to poach me tomorrow, I’d kindly tell them to stick it up their www.ass.com. But for you as a public accounting grunt, having a solid presence on LinkedIn will pretty much guarantee that you are out there in front of firms both big and small looking for talent.
Having a fully developed LinkedIn profile does not make you appear ready to jump, it simply means you are in charge of your online identity. You might be happy with your firm now but you never know if that will change, and it can be handy to have connections at other firms just sort of lurking around.
While LinkedIn is a good tool for keeping connected with professionals (especially if you, like me, use Facebook to post pictures of your cats, you drinking or your cats drinking, which can be viewed as unprofessional in many circles), there is nothing that says you absolutely must have a profile. The benefit to having one is that when people Google you (and they will), your LinkedIn profile is one of the first results and you control the information shared. Because LinkedIn does not have the same “wall-to-wall” features as Facebook, it is a slightly more professional way to connect with people who you might not necessarily want to check in with all the time but still want to keep in your social circle should you need them later.
It isn’t that much of a pain to pound out a few paragraphs about your work experience and skills, and is actually a good exercise in professional development. Many of us don’t even realize what it is we do and what we’re good at until we are forced to analyze that, be it for a resume or for a LinkedIn profile. I actually found that part fun when I was putting my profile together but I’m kind of a sick puppy that way.
Since you’re new to this whole public accounting game, you might not realize how important playing the game is to your career, but if you do get that, think of LinkedIn as just another part of that game. Do you have to do it? Absolutely not. Should you? Probably. Can I give you a good reason why? Not really.
Just set aside an hour or so, fill in some of your info and skills and call it a day. Who knows, you might enjoy it.