Book review: Graduate to LinkedIn: Jump-start your career network now

I realize it may seem anachronistic to be researching LinkedIn through books (and not even e-books, but the old fashioned paper-based kind). However, while it’s entirely possible that the same information may be available through blog posts and other modern sources, if it’s packaged nicely for me and waiting at the local public library, why not give it a try?

Today I’ll be discussing Graduate to LinkedIn: Jump-start your career network now by John Fowler and Melissa Giovagnoli Wilson.

As the title suggests, this book is aimed at university students. The main point is that it’s tough to find a job these days, so it’s important to build business relationships while still in school. In order to do so, you need to take what the authors call the “Networlding approach.” Networlding is a buzz word developed by the second author in a previous book, and what it boils down to is networking in such a way that you form strong, mutually supportive relationships with the people in your network. Personally, I think Networlding is the same as effective networking, but the authors insist that Networlding leads to both internal and external fulfillment, and I have never felt quite that way about my own experiences with networking.

The book was published in 2010, so I was concerned that it would seem a bit dated (if that sounds unfair, consider that LinkedIn has been around for less than 10 years, and it has already been two and a half years since the beginning of 2010). Fortunately, I found this was not the case, with the minor exception of a few features that have changed names. I did find an unusually high number of typos, though, and upon further investigation discovered that the book is not printed by a major publisher, but instead by a small press operated by the second author.

The authors’ style is quite readable, if you’re not distracted by the typos, and they do a good job of balancing explanations of LinkedIn’s specific features with higher level discussions of the philosophy behind the site. The bite sized real life success stories that are mixed in every now and then are effective as concrete examples of the potential of LinkedIn. I especially appreciated the time the authors took to explain some concepts and best practices that many would consider beyond the scope of this type of publication; for example, they go into a fair amount of detail when discussing informational interviews, from how to request one to what topics to bring up at the interview. Although there are many examples in the main text of how to phrase your communications, the appendix helpfully provides samples of the following:

  • Inviting someone to connect
  • Requesting an introduction (including messages for both the person to whom you’re being introduced, and the person giving the introduction)
  • Requesting a recommendation
  • Writing a recommendation
  • Requesting an informational interview

Less helpful is the second part of the appendix, “other Networlding tools for your career success,” where the second author shamelessly promotes three of her previous books (Amazon.com and Publishers Weekly reviews and all).

Final verdict? I would definitely recommend it for business students, who are the book’s target audience. Some of the examples don’t apply to people outside of the business world, but many of them are reasonably universal. At 161 pages for the main text, it’s a quick read, and I can think of many less productive uses of your time, so give it a shot if you’re interested. I can’t help but end by pointing out that while the authors state they are giving half of the proceeds from the book to “initiatives that help 12-29 year olds improve their chances of success in the world,” they don’t specify which initiatives will receive the money, and the first author (who is presumably quite concerned with his own chances of success) happens to have been under 30 at the time of publication. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and call it a coincidence.

Comments?

Book review: The power in a link: open doors, close deals, and change the way you do business using LinkedIn

I love LinkedIn. Some see it as just a social network for businesspeople (or, as the author of the book I’m about to discuss puts it, “Facebook in a suit”), but it is a powerful tool for anyone who takes their career seriously. When I was working as a librarian at McGill I was invited to give a workshop to business students on how to make the most out of this tool (and invited to repeat my presentation for a different group the following year), and I believe I gave these students tips that will make a significant contribution to their career development. Unfortunately, many librarians not only do not consider themselves businesspeople but actually avoid resources that appear to be business-oriented. Dismissing this tool is a serious missed opportunity, so I’m putting together a LinkedIn workshop for librarians and other information professionals. In my research for this workshop, I came across the following book:

The power in a link : open doors, close deals, and change the way you do business using LinkedIn by David Gowel

What caught my attention about this book is that, unlike most of the LinkedIn books that have been published, it does not take a primarily “how to” approach. Rather than starting with tips for building a strong profile and then moving through the features of the site, Gowel opens with a discussion of social capital and touches on the philosophy behind LinkedIn. And even when he covers the more technical aspects he takes a storytelling approach, drawing from his own experience, instead of relying on screenshots of the site (though there are a few of those as well).

The book is divided into 3 parts:

  • Part 1: Why Wake Up?
    • The first part focuses on what makes LinkedIn such a revolutionary tool (with a healthy serving of hyperbole). The title of the section makes reference to the author’s belief that people are seriously missing out by not joining the party and that these people need to wake up to a new way to do business before their competitors do.
  • Part 2: From Army Ranger to LinkedIn Jedi
    • The second part tells the story of how the author used LinkedIn to kickstart his new career after leaving the military (though he makes liberal use of personal stories throughout the book).
  • Part 3: Getting Technical
    • The third part covers specific tips for making the most of the site, with a chapter on each aspect of the author’s “4P” approach:
      • Privacy and security protection
      • Profile improvement
      • Proper network growth
      • Proactive business tool usage

From the start it’s clear that Gowel thinks quite highly of himself, and while I certainly appreciate the value of confidence (read my post on calling yourself an expert if you haven’t already), his cocky attitude left a sour taste in my mouth early on. Throughout the book he quotes the glowing things others have said about him, and he makes reference no fewer than ten times (I counted) to the fact that a journalist once called him a “LinkedIn Jedi.”

Once I came to terms with the author’s self congratulatory style, I found that he is actually a good storyteller, and the stories make for an engaging read. I can imagine that someone who had been on the fence about LinkedIn might be brought over to Gowel’s point of view by reading Part 1.

Unfortunately, Part 2 covers little new territory, instead allowing the author five chapters of text to tell stories that exemplify the ideas he outlined in Part 1 (which were already sufficiently illustrated with stories, thanks very much). To be fair, there are some suggestions for readers here, such as tips for job seekers, but these are mainly common sense bullet points.

Part 3 contains tips that people may find useful. I found one (but only one) nugget that I had not considered before and immediately put into use in my own profile: when listing the URL of your blog or other website, always choose “Other” from the dropdown menu because this will allow you to customize the text that appears. The chapter about building your network is worth reading (for those who are not already LinkedIn Jedis), and the section on performing company research is interesting but brief.

So, would I recommend this book? That’s a difficult question. Gowel clearly knows a lot about LinkedIn (his career revolves around teaching others to use it), and I like his storytelling style (up to a certain point) and his approach of considering why and not just how to use the tool. On the other hand, he spends a significant amount of the book patting himself on the back and complimenting the people who have said nice things about him. I think the book would be most valuable to someone who isn’t quite convinced that LinkedIn is for them – but of course, this type of person probably wouldn’t be motivated to pick up the book in the first place. For anyone already on board, the third part would be useful, but be aware this section is only 60 pages long. So here’s my advice. Pick up a copy at the library and do the following:

  1. Read the preface and introduction
  2. Start reading Part 1, and stop when you’re convinced that putting some time and effort into LinkedIn is a good idea
  3. Skip Part 2 altogether (or, if you must, read the summary at the end of each chapter)
  4. Read Part 3

Have you read this book? Is there another source of LinkedIn tips you would recommend? Let me know in the comments.

Top technology for students and new librarians to become familiar with

I recently attended the Ontario Library Association Super Conference, where I chatted with a ton of interesting people, including a group of student volunteers. One of these students later emailed me with a question I hadn’t put much thought into before: what types of technology should students (and new librarians) become familiar with? After sending her a list of suggestions, I decided I should share my thoughts on here as well. All the tools I’m mentioning are free (with a couple of exceptions I’ll point out) and easy to learn.

At the conference, I attended a session called Productivity in the Cloud: Evernote, Dropbox, & More, presented by Amanda Etches-Johnson, Charlotte Innerd, and David Fiander. These speakers covered a number of the things I would suggest people test out, including:

  • Doodle: This is an easy-to-use tool for scheduling meetings. I’ve used it numerous times in my professional work, usually for arranging committee meetings.
  • Skype: Great for conference calls (especially if you want to avoid paying for long distance). I’ve used this at work as well.
  • PBworks: I would definitely recommend that everyone learn how to create and edit a wiki, and PBworks is an excellent free tool. I’ve used it at work for sharing information with colleagues. A good real life example is the Library Day in the Life Project wiki.
  • Dropbox: I love being able to sync my folder and access files from my home computer, work computer, and iPad, plus anywhere with an internet connection through the web interface. Amanda says she even used the sharing function to collaborate with her co-author and editor when writing a book. I use it to keep track of my professional development and job applications.
  • Evernote: I’ve only been using Evernote for a little while now, but I can’t remember how I ever organized my life without it. It’s especially useful if you have a smartphone or tablet, but I think it’s still valuable even if you’re just using the desktop version. David says he has used it for house hunting (to keep track of realtor websites, info from his lawyer, photos of the houses, etc.) and at the bookstore when he sees a book he wants to remember to borrow from the library (he just takes a photo of the cover, and then can search by title or author later). The search function is excellent, even for text from images.
  • Google Docs: As Charlotte points out, Google Docs is all about sharing, even more so than Dropbox. If you want to be wowed, I would suggest you try the following: create a document, share it with someone, and then have that person start editing it on another computer, and you’ll be able to watch them make edits in real time. If you’ve ever collaborated with someone and ended up with a folder full of different versions of the same document (and perhaps even lost track of which is the newest version), you will love Google Docs.

Here are a few more suggestions I came up with:

  • Blogs: At the very least, you should be reading blogs on a regular basis (but I suppose I’m preaching to the choir by saying this on my blog). And if you’re reading blogs on a regular basis, you should set up an RSS feed reader – I love Google Reader, but there are plenty of good options available, either web-based or desktop-based. I’ve mentioned this many times before, but I would encourage all students (and professionals) to go one step further and start their own blog – it’s easy to do with a platform like WordPress or Blogger. Here’s an article I wrote as a student, explaining why students should blog: Why You Should Blog.
  • LinkedIn: As a future or current professional, you absolutely must have a profile on LinkedIn. When potential employers Google your name, you want them to find this and not your embarrassing Facebook photos. It also helps you keep in touch with classmates, colleagues, and people you’ll meet at conferences.
  • Twitter: Not as essential as LinkedIn, but you’ll probably want to get in on the conversation, or at the very least give it a try so you know what it means to “tweet.”
  • Social bookmarking: If you’re still saving all of your bookmarks in your browser, you should really consider a web-based option. The most popular site used to be Delicious, but they made some changes I didn’t like, so I’ve moved to Diigo. Once you’ve set up an account, try installing an extension for your browser to make it even easier to save sites for later.
  • Presentation software: The standard is PowerPoint (not free, but probably available at your school or work), so you’ll need to know how to use it well, especially when you’re collaborating. You don’t need to know about all the advanced functions, but you should be able to quickly create a simple, attractive presentation. In a pinch, you can open PowerPoint slides in OpenOffice.org (which is free), but a lot of the formatting will be lost, so I don’t recommend it as a long-term solution. A much more attractive free option is Prezi, which allows you to easily create visually interesting presentations. Edit: @adr points out that “Prezi is not indexable, not searchable, not plain text, and makes people seasick.” However, I like the fact that presentations are posted publicly online by default (even if they’re not indexable). Whether they make people seasick depends on how you create your transitions.
  • Citation management software: You should learn at least one of these programs. If your school or library gives you access to RefWorks or EndNote, go ahead and start there, but you should also check out Zotero, which is free, open source, and easy to learn. Make sure you learn how to get citations into your library, and then how to use the word processor plugin to automatically format a paper. Another popular free option is Mendeley, which has an integrated social network for researchers.
  • Screencasting software: This isn’t essential, but it’s sort of fun. Check to see whether your school or library gives you access to Camtasia or Adobe Captivate – if not, try Jing, which is a free alternative.

What else would you add to this list? Leave more suggestions in the comments.

Things are looking good for Web 2.You

Registration for Web 2.You is now closed, and the response has been great! 56 people are registered (not including speakers and volunteers), which is perfect because we were planning to cap it at 60 – in other words, we’ve filled the room without having to turn anyone away. Amanda and I have been working hard, but it looks like it’s all going to pay off.

I’m super excited to meet Michael Stephens, and I’m also looking forward to hearing Stephen Abram and Amy Buckland, who I know from experience are both fantastic speakers. The three McGill student presentations look promising as well, two of which will broaden our LIS scope by touching on the use of Web 2.0 in knowledge management.

To everyone who’s registered – see you on Friday!

2nd Annual Web 2.You Conference – February 13, 2009

Attention all library folk who will be in the Montreal area (or able to get here) next month: McGill’s School of Information Studies (SIS) will be hosting the 2nd Annual Web 2.You Conference on February 13, 2009. I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to organize the follow-up to the event that first inspired me to start blogging. This full-day event will feature presentations about Web 2.0 in libraries and the LIS field from a few of my favourite people:

Michael Stephens

The Hyperlinked Library

Assistant Professor, Graduate School of Library and Information Science, Dominican University, River Forest, Illinois

http://tametheweb.com/

Stephen Abram

Shift Happens 2.0: What on earth is happening and how will it affect libraryland?

Vice President of Innovation, SirsiDynix, Toronto, Ontario

http://stephenslighthouse.sirsidynix.com/

Amy Buckland

Joining the discussion: Using social networks for professional development (or developing into a professional)

Liaison Librarian, Howard Ross Library of Management, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec

http://informingthoughts.com

There will also be presentations from some of the best and brightest students SIS has to offer.

I would absolutely love to meet some ILSS readers, so be sure to drop me a line if you’re able to come. I’ve put a lot of work into organizing this event (along with my co-organizer, Amanda Halfpenny), and it’s shaping up to be a great day.

Registration is very affordable and now open – for more info, check out the Web 2.You wiki.

See you there!

FriendFeed

Do you have trouble keeping up with all the online content produced by your friends and the people you admire? Many people who interest me post to blogs, Flickr, Google Reader, Twitter, and more, and it can be a pain having to visit an assortment of different sites to see all of their updates. I’d been hearing about FriendFeed for a while, so last month I went ahead and created an account. FriendFeed publishes all of your friends’ updates in one convenient location and makes it easy for your friends to do the same with your content.

What I like about FriendFeed:

  • It’s easier than having to run around to different sites – sort of like using an RSS feed reader instead of visiting all your favourite blogs individually
  • It allows you to comment on all types of items and even gives you the option of quickly indicating which posts you like (you can also see which other users have “liked” the same item)
  • If you’re interested to see what a particular person has been up to lately, you can easily see all of their updates

What I don’t like about FriendFeed:

  • It can be a bit overwhelming – especially because, by default, FriendFeed includes updates from friends of friends. Even after whittling down the number of types of posts that appear, it’s still a lot, and this is especially worrying considering the following point:
  • Not many of the people I follow use it. Naturally, this is always the case with new technology (would you have bought a telephone in the days when most of your contacts didn’t yet own one?), but it means that I have to continue monitoring the individual sites to catch updates from my FriendFeedless friends.

Overall, I definitely think it’s worth a try, and if you go for it, don’t forget to add me.

ILSS Book Club: Library 2.0 and Beyond

I spent the weekend at my parents’ house in Toronto to see my brother, who’s visiting from Vancouver. The train ride from Ottawa takes about four and a half hours, which was plenty of time to make my way through the short but sweet Library 2.0 and Beyond: Innovative Technologies and Tomorrow’s User, edited by Nancy Courtney.

This collection of articles revolves around the ideas of (surprise, surprise) Library 2.0. For those who don’t know and can’t wait to open the book for a more detailed explanation, Library 2.0 is essentially the application of Web 2.0 tools (and more importantly, Web 2.0 concepts) in libraries as a way to become more responsive to the needs of the user community. For those unfamiliar with Web 2.0, I’ll direct you to Wikipedia, but here’s a hint: leave a comment on this blog post, and you’re participating in it!

One major strength of the book is that each article tackles a certain tool by first explaining how it is typically used on the web and then providing specific details of how it could be used in a library setting. As such, it will satisfy readers with a general interest in the future directions of libraries as well as librarians looking for advice they can put to use immediately.

Highlights for me include Looking Toward Catalog 2.0 by Michael Casey, which discusses improving library catalogue interfaces by taking advice from Google and Amazon.com; The Wonderful World of Wikis: Applications for Libraries by Chad F. Boeninger, which covers the use of wikis for internal communication, institutional collaboration, and research guides, as well as suggesting best practices for library wikis; and Folksonomies and User-Based Tagging by Ellyssa Kroski, which weighs the pros and cons of user-based categorization and offers examples of libraries that have already made use of tagging.

So if you’re interested in where libraries are headed (or at least where they will hopefully be headed soon), I recommend Library 2.0 and Beyond – even if you’re not trying to pass the time on a boring train ride.

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