As of late, I’ve been receiving numerous ‘endorsements’ from folks I’m linked to on LinkedIn.
Now ordinarily, I’d be flattered to be recognized by my professional colleagues for my undeniable talent and skills.
One of the inherent values of LinkedIn has always been the ability to be objectively assessed, not by what you say you’ve done, but by your affiliation to other people.
The assumption being, of course, that your connection to other professionals is a form of vouching.
But LinkedIn also provides a more direct method of vouching: recommendations.
Do an exceptional job, and you’ll often receive a written recommendation that serves as a testimony to just how nice you are at this thing or that.
Not to brag (I lie) but I’ve chalked up a couple of recommendations in my day.
Once upon a time, a recommendation was all you could do in LinkedIn to acknowledge someone’s exceptional work or service.
Today, however, LinkedIn offers ‘endorsements.’
What’s an endorsement?
Simple answer: an endorsement is crap.
Hot, steaming, meaningless crap.
Why, you ask?
That’s also simple: because you can receive an endorsement from someone who knows nothing about your skills and expertise or what it is you do or that they’re endorsing you for.
Case in point: I have a colleague with whom I worked with years ago in a project management capacity. I was producing a series of music workshops with international performance artists and musicians, and he was among the US artists I brought in.
Despite the fact that he knows nothing of the mobile Stephen, recently he’s been endorsing me for mobile, mobile marketing, apps, iOS, Android, etc.
And it’s not to say that I’m not the Don Dada in all of these areas, but how would he know?
We’ve never worked on a project where he had first hand experience of my mobile prowess.
Sure, he could be following my professional development, or reading my blog and gleaning that I’m a mobile Jedi master, but his knowledge is indirect at best.
And more importantly, its not based in fact.
Mind you, he’s not the only one engaging in this behavior.
I’m sure we’ve all received these email notifications from LinkedIn, advising that we’ve been endorsed for one thing or another by one of our colleagues.
At first, I’m sure you were excited, like me.
But as you looked into these endorsements, and were prompted to endorse folks back, you realized that endorsements weren’t all they appeared to be.
It’s a carefully introduced scam, dressed up as a legitimate form of vouching.
All it takes is a click and viola! You’ve endorsed someone.
No muss, no fuss.
And now your colleague has been endorsed in turn.
Where’s the value in that?
There’s no context to an endorsement.
Nothing to put anyone who comes across your profile on notice of just how awesome you are.
Sure, a whole bunch of thumbnail images of colleagues endorsing you for one skill or another looks impressive.
But does the absence of these boxes mean you’re not skilled in an area of your professed expertise?
And what’s the value of an endorsement really?
Unlike a recommendation, which requires that the author have a basis of knowledge before penning a recommendation, an endorsement has no such prerequisite.
Something that’s as simple as checking a box next to someone’s picture can’t be anywhere nearly as valuable as a penned (or typed) recommendation.
In this age of snack food style instant gratification metrics – likes, followers, fans – it’s no wonder that LinkedIn has added (rather meaningless) endorsements.
And while there are probably many profiles on LinkedIn who are legitimately as adept at the skills and expertise that the number of related endorsements seem to suggest, I’m sure that there are many more whose endorsements grow from popularity, reciprocity and boredom.
So if you know someone and think they do great work, take the time to write a recommendation.