With Su Butcher (@Su_Butcher) coming to Glasgow this Autumn to give workshops on LinkedIn, I caught up with her to ask her a few questions and get my head around LinkedIn : So Su, you started Just Practicing last year with the intention of helping architects and members of the construction industry. When did you get connected with LinkedIn, was it before Just Practising came in to being?
I started my consultancy last year, it’s named Just Practising after my blog which is three and a half years old. But I’ve been using LinkedIn for about eight years.
Wow! Eight years, I hadn’t even realised it had been around for that amount of time. Did you meet any contacts through LinkedIn that inspired the Just Practising log? Was it through networking with people on LinkedIn that you realised people needed some direction?
Yes. LinkedIn was founded in 2003, and the UK is its second biggest country. Interestingly most of the people in construction who have been influential to my blog, I met on Twitter first, and after that became connected on LinkedIn having met ‘in the flesh’. Paul Wilkinson (@EEPaul) for example, he thought up the name ‘Just Practising’ during a conversation half a dozen of us were having on twitter - what should I call a blog about architects?
LinkedIn is special because it was always about your ‘real life’ network, not a virtual one. Which is what makes it so much more useful for those who work with people in other organisations ‘in the real world’. LinkedIn is a way of helping those contacts more effectively, and helping them help you.
So the contacts you have on LinkedIn, have you met most of them ‘in the flesh’?
A large proportion yes, but not all. A sizeable chunk of my connections are overseas, particularly in the US, and I haven’t been out there for fifteen years! The advantage of LinkedIn is that people can do a great deal of checking up on you before they get in touch, so they ‘self select’. Most of the people I know are really useful people…whether I’ve met them or not!
Ah I see. It sounds like a bit of a background check, or an informal reference checking system! Do you feel then that members of LinkedIn aren’t using their contacts as effectively as they should, or that more inactive members need to know how to get more involved - what is it that has inspired you to give a series of LinkedIn seminars?
That’s one of the reasons - people checking up on you, a great reason to have a good LinkedIn profile.
I started with LinkedIn as my first training platform because :
1. So many construction people are already on it - at the moment over 350,000 in the UK alone.
2. Most of those people have no idea what they can do with it - you can use LinkedIn to save so much time if your role involves having any sort of interaction with people you don’t know well, and particularly if you have to network to generate business (as we in the construction industry do all the time.)
3. I’d heard some rather scary stories about people being caught out by LinkedIn. For example, people who were checked out for a job and their profile didn’t look very professional; or a construction tender where the team were looked up by the tendering body and found that the team leader’s profile in the tender was ‘somewhat different’ from the one on LinkedIn. These stories show how important it is to use social tools, and use them properly.
So the training workshops I’ve been giving in London, Manchester, Leeds so far are based around three things :
1. How to use LinkedIn as your ‘Public Home Online’ - it is so well indexed by google that if you do it right, people searching for you on google will find your LinkedIn profile, so you can make it the place from where people find everything else, from your phone number to your website.
2. Whom to connect to, why and how. Many people using LinkedIn don’t connect to the people they know, so they miss out on the real value of the tool, that is to make your network visible so you can use it, and so people can find you and see how credible you are.
3. and…what to do next!
As you know yourself Kirsty, social tools work best when you have an objective and work towards it. But who has a LinkedIn strategy? Very few people. Those who do whom I know have done very well out of it. So I help people start thinking about what their strategy might be and how they can use their network proactively to achieve it.
I certainly don’t know much about it myself and don’t know where I’d start to figure it out. These seminars seems pretty vital especially in this climate where jobs are scarce and it’s down to whether you make that good first impression or not.
Have you considered it would be something worth being taught to undergraduates on university courses? I know many people my age who are either studying and thinking ahead, recently graduated and looking to the future or have been working and don’t quite know how to get the most from their existing LinkedIn accounts. If this is the way forward in employment, it would seem like a good idea to introduce it as early in a career path as possible so that individuals are thinking about it as they grow professionally.
That’s a very good idea Kirsty, no I hadn’t thought about that, but there is certainly a need for it amongst graduates and postgraduates. LinkedIn is a very good platform for larger organisations too - it is often the only social network their firewalls allow!
One of the problems enthusiasts have found with LinkedIn in the past was that people thought that if you have a LinkedIn profile you must be ‘looking for a job’ as there was thought to be ‘no other reason’ for having one. But I think this is changing as the size of the network grows and people realise what can be done with it.
Having a good LinkedIn network is in my opinion a very good reason for employing someone. One of my contacts in the US had a client who employed a young person with a very good localised LinkedIn network. They found out only after employing her that she was very well connected to one of their major prospects in their city…just think of the opportunities that are being missed.
Six degrees of separation!
So would you encourage employees of larger companies to take part in the workshops? And in particular long serving employees or partners/directors of companies? I’m assuming they may think they have no need for it if they’ve been with the company so long.
Yes I definitely think it is very important for employees of larger companies to use LinkedIn, and their well established seniors too. One of the things that older senior people are going to find is that many of the conversations and introductions they had on the golf course will be in part happening online, particularly on LinkedIn. And as they probably have a good network, many of whom will be on LinkedIn, joining isn’t too onerous. All this ‘it’s just for youngsters’ rubbish is just that, as far as I’m concerned. After all, the average age of a LinkedIn user is 43 - that’s the average!
The LinkedIn workshops then, what format do they take, and how interactive are they?
The workshops are workbook based - each participant gets a workbook with the notes and illustrations from the workshop in it. They write in it during the event, and take it away with them afterwards as an aide-memoire.
Interactivity is very important - we do discussions in pairs and in the whole group, brainstorming sessions and individual work, demonstrations and Q&A.
In my experience learning how to do something takes a bit of time, so we make the session as varied as possible and give everyone plenty to work with - at the back of the workbook is a checklist you can work through after the event to get things going.
I also invite every participant to my closed LinkedIn group where people who have done the workshop can support each other and ask more questions. The group shares things they find useful with each other, and ask each other (and me) if they get stuck. It is proving very useful.
The closed LinkedIn group sounds like a great support system after the event, everyone always wants to ask questions that they hadn’t thought of at the time, and the network of previous workshop attendees sharing their knowledge will also be extremely beneficial.
Yes it seems to work really well. I’m also thinking of doing webinars and recording them and making them available to the group afterwards so people can ‘watch them back’.
We run through a lot of stuff about settings in the workshops - LinkedIn settings are quite complex, but are very important to get right.
Thanks very much Su for taking the time to talk to me. I think it gives a deeper understanding of what the LinkedIn seminar will include and what to expect from the workshops.
The workshop will take place in Glasgow between late August (20th) and mid September (7th). Places will be limited so please get in touch if interested via the entry form below and we’ll send you further details. Both Su and I hope to see you there!