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Career Strategies for Librarians
LinkedIn: Everything I Ever Wanted to Tell You, But Was Too Shy/Modest/Embarrassed to Say…
by G. Kim Dority

Pop quiz: would you rather tell complete strangers how wonderful you are, or, oh, I don’t know, perhaps
walk barefoot on a bed of hot coals while reciting Ranganathan’s Five Laws? Yep, me too – those hot
coals win out every time!

I admit it, I fit the classic librarian’s Myers-Briggs profile – introvert all the way, known for hiding out and
avoiding human contact for days (okay, weeks if I can get away with it).  

So when a career-savvy friend suggested I get a profile up on LinkedIn so he could connect with me, my
first instinct was to create just enough of a profile (read: name, title, and e-mail address) so that I could
get back to working on client projects. I mean, I already have a pretty big group of “connections” (i.e.,
colleagues I love hanging out with and staying in touch with) and I have a tough enough time keeping up
with them as it is. Why would I want three million more, which I figured was the selling point of a tool like
LinkedIn?

Then I took another look, and realized that the real benefit of social networking sites for many of us may
be their value as personal branding resources.

What, I Have a Brand????

Personal branding is one of the most important aspects of building a resilient career. Contrary to what
many of us associate with the concept of branding – e.g., that it’s inauthentic, artificial, self-promoting,
etc. – intelligent personal branding is all about showcasing your authentic self in a way that lets others
understand your value. Think of branding as simply taking the initiative to shape others’ perceptions of
your skills and abilities before they form opinions based on faulty assumptions – assumptions that may
very well limit your ability to contribute. It’s a way to showcase your strengths in the areas that matter to
you.

Although creating a personal/professional brand is critical to building an enduring career, drawing
attention to ourselves and – heaven forbid – talking about how valuable we are can be pretty challenging
for those of us have been taught not to brag. Like many of my friends and colleagues, I often find it
difficult to broadcast my skills, value, and availability in such a way that doesn’t leave me feeling or
looking like an idiot. Generally, my “elevator speech” consists of “which floor do you want?”

Enter social networking tools. In fact, resources like LinkedIn offer an invaluable opportunity for those of
us likely to be hiding our light under a bushel, if not in a cave. (And in the LIS profession, that’s generally
a whole bunch of us.)   

Going Public: Showcasing Your Professional Value

With LinkedIn, in addition to the standard information about your current job, you’re able to not only create
a showcase for past projects and engagements, but also provide a summary of your most outstanding
career highlights, areas of expertise, and specialties, all without worrying about exceeding the standard
single/double page resume restriction. In the “Experience” section, you can post information about
previous jobs and/or projects, and can then expand and enhance that information via
“recommendations,” or statements about the amazing wonderfulness of your work, from colleagues,
bosses, clients, etc., should they choose to post (and if they are also members of LinkedIn).

Under the “Additional Information” section, you can list your websites, interests (including a couple of
your personal passions/commitments may help “round you out” to potential employers or clients),
groups and associations, and honors and awards. Here would be the place to note the special interest
groups you belong to, that “innovative librarian of the year” award, and your interest in social
entrepreneurship. The goal here should be to give someone (such as a potential employer) a deeper
understanding not only of what you can contribute, but who you are and what’s important to you.

A last section, “Contact Settings,” allows you to stipulate under what circumstance you’d like to be
contacted. For example, my contact-settings statement reads: “Available for information-based projects,
including print and online content development, information strategy, and online/adult learner support.
Also available for workshops and presentations related to LIS career development. Please indicate
nature of project, timeline if known, and location.” In addition, you’re asked to specify what categories of
contact you might consider; among the options here are career opportunities, consulting offers, new
ventures, job inquiries, expertise requests, business deals, personal reference requests, and requests
to reconnect (think school chums, lost relatives, former co-workers, etc.).

There are many strategic ways to use social network tools like LinkedIn, only a few of which I’ve touched
on here. But I’d recommend considering a social networking site on the personal branding issue alone
– given the increasingly unpredictable nature of the LIS professional paths, whether traditional,
nontraditional, or independent, it just makes sense to take advantage of every resource available to
position ourselves for as many opportunities as possible.  

Resources

Below are some useful articles (plus a couple of books) to help you start using LinkedIn and similar
types of tools as a strategic resource for building your career or your independent information
professional business.  

Carfi, Christopher. “Social Networking For Businesses & Associations: Executive Briefing,” Cerado,
September 30, 2006; accessed April 2, 2007.

A very interesting take on how organizations can use social networking tools to advance their strategic
goals. Good combination of strategy and tactics, of special interest to those looking to expand their value
to (and role within) their organizations. This is a white paper written by one of the social networking
software vendors, Cerado.

Guericke, Konstantin. “Searching for a Job with LinkedIn,” LinkedIn Power Forum blog, cited by Rick
Upton in LinkedIn Notes, posted May 18, 2006; accessed April 1, 2007.

Though not specifically targeting the LIS professional, the techniques and processes described here
can be applied in ways that apply both within and outside of LIS-designated environments. Especially
useful at a time when more and more “information-based” jobs aren’t tagged with a “librarian” descriptor.

Kawasaki, Guy. “LinkedIn Profile Extreme Makeover,” How to Change the World blog, posted January 16,
2007; accessed April 1, 2007.

Guy Kawasaki, widely known as Apple’s marketing “evangelist” and now a technology, new media, and
marketing thought leader, demonstrates how his formerly uninspired LinkedIn profile became a
supercharged, high-impact “business card on steroids.” Personal branding at its best.

Kawasaki, Guy. “Ten Ways to Use LinkedIn,” How to Change the World blog, posted January 4, 2007;
accessed April 6, 2007.

From Kawasaki’s highly regarded blog, this posting offers ten strategic uses that apply to individuals,
organizations, or both. Examples: increase your visibility, enhance your search engine results, increase
the relevancy of your job search, and gauge the health of a company (and/or industry).

Kho, Nancy Davis. “Networking Opportunities: Social Networking for Business,” EContent, vol. 30, no. 4,
May 2007, p. 24-29.

Think knowledge management, locating expertise within an organization, culture integration among
merged companies, and other strategic approaches. Kho does an excellent job of describing how the
tools are being used to advance corporate strategy, as well as identifying some possible future
scenarios.

Roffer, Robin Fisher. Make a Name for Yourself: Eight Steps Every Woman Needs to Create a Personal
Brand Strategy for Success. Broadway, 2002. 224p. ISBN 0767904923.

Roffer describes herself as a “brand strategist,” and although some of her strategies seem a bit, shall
we say, out there for most of us, her underlying concepts make good sense: the world has a way of
perceiving us, whether we shape those perceptions or by default let someone else do it for us. Her eight
steps apply equally well to men and women, whether in traditional, nontraditional, or independent career
paths.

Ryan, Liz. “Build Your Business with Liz Ryan’s Ten LinkedIn Tips,” LinkedIn Notes blog, posted
November 8, 2005; accessed April 5, 2007.  

Liz Ryan’s business has been built around connecting people, and she is rapidly becoming a guru on
how to use social networking software to advance careers, communities, and organizations. This is a
very practical list of tactics, such as “when you have significant news in your business – for instance, a
big product launch or a joint venture – use LinkedIn to notify your contacts by way of a profile update.”
This same tactic applies to your career – notify your friends and colleagues when you have significant
news in your work life, for example, a promotion, a new job, or a recently-published article.

Ryan, Liz.  Happy about Online Networking: The Virtual-ly Simple Way to Build Professional
Relationships, 2006. 126p. ISBN 1600050158.

Think “LinkedIn for Dummies,” only the HappyAbout guys got there first. The aforementioned Liz Ryan
provides very clear, step-by-step guidance on how to use social-networking sites and other online
communities to create a rich network of colleagues and business/career connections.

Uzzi, Brian and Shannon Dunlap. “How to Build Your Network,” Harvard Business Review, December
2005; accessed April 5, 2007 at:  .

If you want to delve more into social networking software from a strategic perspective, this is a
fascinating exploration of how information – and connections – flow based on the nature of those
connections (for example, the authors call Paul Revere an “information broker”).  The authors note,
“networks deliver three unique advantages: private information, access to diverse skill sets, and power.”
And from a career development perspective, they also often deliver job opportunities, knowledge shared
among colleagues, and a highly effective way to showcase your professional persona.

About the Author:

Kim Dority is the president of Dority & Associates, Inc., an information strategy and projects company. In
addition, she teaches a course for the University of Denver LIS program on alternative LIS career paths,
and recently published Rethinking Information Work: A Career Guide for Librarians and Other
Information Professionals (Libraries Unlimited, 2006; www.rethinkinginformationwork.com).

Article published June 2007

Disclaimer: The ideas expressed in LIScareer articles are those of their respective authors and do not
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