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 ( 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.


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.

Fun with Zotero: Scanning barcodes

I’m fascinated by citation management software. At work, I regularly teach students, faculty, and sometimes other librarians how to use EndNote, and I’ve given a couple of sessions on Zotero as well. Sometimes I doubt that the majority of information professionals share my passion, but a quick look at my blog stats tells me that my most popular blog post by far has been the one I wrote comparing EndNote and Zotero, so I must not be alone.

Both EndNote and Zotero have been improved tremendously since I wrote that post three years ago, and I try to keep up with the new features. One feature of Zotero I find particularly useful when dealing with print books is the ability to import an item by ISBN. By clicking the magic wand icon, you can enter the ISBN of a book, either by typing it in or by scanning the barcode, and Zotero will import the metadata from WorldCat. Now, this feature is actually not new, but there’s a new option for anyone who doesn’t have access to a library barcode scanner (or for when you’ve left yours at home). Scanner for Zotero is an Android app that allows you to scan a book’s barcode using the camera on your Android device and then sends the record straight to your Zotero library. The app costs $2 from the Android Market, but if you really don’t want to pay, you can download the code, which has an open source license, and then compile it yourself (personally, I was happy enough to pay the toonie).

Logo for the Scanner for Zotero app

I’ve been using the app for a few weeks now, so I thought I would share my thoughts. In general, I am quite impressed; it’s a simple app without any bells or whistles that only does one thing but does it very well. I hit a small snag when setting it up, but the developer responded promptly to my email and walked me through it (thanks, John!). Scanning a barcode is reasonably quick, though not as fast as the dedicated barcode scanner I have at work, and adding an item to your Zotero library is straightforward (the simple interface does not provide an option for saving an item to a collection within your library, but this hasn’t bothered me). One of the only options available is to choose whether to use WorldCat or Google Books to retrieve the metadata. As one would hope, the records are more or less the same regardless of the source; however, there are some slight differences. What surprised me the most was that there were differences between records imported using the magic wand (which makes use of WorldCat) and ones imported using the app when instructing it to use WorldCat. Here’s what I found when using the three different methods:

Magic wand (WorldCat):

  • Language field blank
  • No page numbers
  • Editors show up in Author field without any indication they are actually editors
  • Only the first author is listed

Scanner for Zotero with WorldCat:

  • Language appears correctly as three letter code: eng, fre, etc.
  • No page numbers
  • Editor shows up in Author field preceded by “Edited by”
  • Multiple authors or editors show up in a single Author field

Scanner for Zotero with Google Books:

  • Language appears correctly as two letter code: en, fr, etc.
  • Number of pages appears correctly
  • Editors show up in Author field without any indication they are actually editors
  • Multiple authors or editors show up in separate Author fields

Both Scanner for Zotero options clearly produce better metadata than the built-in magic wand, but each of the three has its own quirks, presumably due largely to quirks in the structure of WorldCat and Google Books. I would recommend the app to any Zotero user with an Android device. Even if you don’t have a stack of books you’ve been waiting to add to your Zotero library, it’s fun to be able to zap the barcode of anything with an ISBN. Surely if you’ve read all the way to the end of this post, you must agree with my definition of fun.

Happy birthday to the ILSS!

My birthday was a couple of weeks ago, but Feb 18th is my blog’s first anniversary! A year ago I set out on this voyage, not knowing what to expect, and since then I’ve interacted with some great people and learned a lot about libraries and the Web. I promise I won’t get too emotional on you, but I wanted to acknowledge my first year as a blogger and to thank everyone who has supported me along the way!

In other news, I had a lot of fun as the photographer for the McGill CLA Student Chapter Freedom to Read photo shoot today. Here I am, posing with a fantastic novel – A Clockwork Orange:

Posing for the SIS Freedom to Read photo shoot

Posing for the SIS Freedom to Read photo shoot

Freedom to Read Week is coming up

Freedom to Read Week doesn’t actually start until a week from now, but we’re celebrating a week early at SIS because the 22nd to 28th is our spring break. (You may recall I posted about Freedom to Read last year too) The CLA McGill Student Chapter is raising awareness by having a challenged books photo shoot (an idea we borrowed from the Freedom of Expression Committee). Anyone who comes to the SIS student lounge at lunch on Tuesday or Wednesday will have the opportunity to have their photo taken while reading a frequently challenged book, and everyone who participates will be entered in a draw to win a gift certificate for Chapters. Hopefully the winner will use it to buy a challenged book!  Brittany Trafford, our CLA Student Chapter secretary, has already taken a stack of appropriate books out of the library, so there will be plenty to choose from.

How is Freedom to Read being promoted at other schools and libraries? Leave a comment to let everyone know.

Freedom to Read Week 2009

CLA President Ken Roberts visits McGill

Today Ken Roberts, President of the Canadian Library Association, visited us at SIS, first with a talk at lunchtime, and later for an informal cocktail reception. He is a major advocate of the Sony Reader, and he passed one around so we could all give it a try; I’ve read many reviews of this nifty device, but it was great to finally meet one in the flesh. Here’s why Ken thinks these e-book readers could benefit the library community:

  • committees could use them to share text documents and save paper
  • textbooks could be sold electronically, benefitting students by eliminating the need to carry about numerous heavy volumes, and benefitting publishers by saving money typically lost on small print runs (this is part of the reason that textbooks can be so expensive – publishers are trying to make up their losses from publishing so few of each title)
  • authors who are not well known become available to everyone, even if most physical bookstores would not carry them
  • libraries could buy the readers in bulk and sell them to users at a discounted price – this could be a viable alternative to lending the devices

However, as is often the case when new technology changes traditional business models, the e-book phenomenon does not benefit everyone. Canadian distributors and booksellers lose out when Canadians buy their books directly from the websites of American publishers. Ken is concerned about this situation, which is why he joined a task force to tackle exactly this problem.

I asked Ken whether he preferred the Sony Reader to the Amazon Kindle (which has generated an even greater buzz in the past year and a bit). His reply was that besides the obvious problem of the Kindle not being available in Canada, it also uses proprietary filetypes and forces users to purchase their e-books from Amazon. As a librarian, he said, he prefers the non-proprietary option.

The book isn’t dead after all

Good news for everyone who loves books or loves it when other people love books: a recent study found that only 9% of Americans read no books in a typical year, while 37% read more than ten books (via LISNews):

There are certain groups who are more likely to read more than ten books in an average year. Looking at the generations, almost half (47%) of Matures (those aged 63 and older) say they read more than ten books compared to just one-third (33%) of Baby Boomers (those aged 44-62). Women are also more likely to read more than men 44 percent of women read more than ten books a year compared to three in ten (29%) men. Candidates may not want to try books to reach their partisans, but they may be a good way to reach out to Independents. Just one-third of Republicans (33%) and Democrats (35%) say they read more than ten books in a year compared to 44 percent of Independents.