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.