VSJ – April 2009 – Work in Progress

Andrew McKay, MIAP recently offered to set up the IAP’s Official Group on LinkedIn, an offer the Council was happy to accept. Here, he talks about LinkedIn in general, LinkedIn Groups and a little about himself.

The birth of the Internet has taken place within the lifetime of many of the readers of this article. And a fairly recent development of this global resource has been the adoption of social networking sites by  millions of people around the world. LinkedIn can be considered to be a little different from many personal networking sites because it targets users in their professional rather than their personal environments. Unlike some other familiar sites which could be mentioned, LinkedIn isn’t about sharing information and building relationships between people with common interests within the context of a social domain. Nor is it (quite intentionally) designed to satisfy the extrovert tendencies that some people have. It’s all about providing the world with an insight into one’s standing within the community of professional people at large.

At the beginning of 2009, according to the LinkedIn Web site, over 34 million members in more than 200 countries were already using the LinkedIn resource. With a new member apparently joining every second, then by inference there will be over 50 million by the end of this year ― 80 million by Christmas 2010! And judging from those simple extrapolations it’s obvious that LinkedIn provides individuals with enormous opportunities to develop their professional networks.

Let’s consider another statistic using some real numbers. I currently have just on 100 direct connections. That’s 100 people who know me personally. Most of them I’ve met and worked with at some time over the last twenty years. If we take their connections to other people then I am just two contacts away from 15,000 people. And, taking THEIR connections into consideration, I’m only three contacts away from 1.5 million people. So I already have indirect contact with something like 5% of the total LinkedIn population! Not a bad effort, seeing that I’ve only been a LinkedIn member for around 15 months now.

These might be considered by some to be just meaningless numbers, but in reality they can provide a wealth of opportunity for the individual who may be looking either to develop his or her customer base or perhaps even to find a new job – which could be so very important at the current time with unemployment on the rise. There are options on LinkedIn both for posting and for seeking jobs. For those searching for work, there is scope for discovering something about a potential employer. You never know, you could even find someone you know who already works there. That could be very helpful in making sure you get that interview. And for the employer there is an opportunity to research the background of the individual, which goes a step beyond what can be viewed from reading a CV.  One of the most positive things that can happen for both the individual and the potential employer via LinkedIn is a positive reference, available on-line, from an ex-colleague. You cannot buy that sort of influence.

Another big contribution that LinkedIn offers immediately is the ability to ask questions and opinions of other people, on just about any topic. This leads to others who can offer an expert opinion providing their thoughts. The person posing the question gets to mark whom they consider to have been the best contributor, which can be another little tick in the box for professional standing amongst one’s peers.

All things considered, LinkedIn has grown to become an immensely powerful resource for individuals looking to promote their status amongst the professional community. You don’t have to brag about yourself, just summarise who you are and what you have done. It’s a bit like an on-line CV. And it’s amazing the number of people who remember you from times past and get in contact again! Remember the old saying – it’s not what you know but who you know!

Of course, with so many members, it can be difficult to find the wood in the trees, so to speak. That’s where groups come in. Any LinkedIn member can set up a group, which has the effect of publishing an interest or affiliation. This makes it easy for people to identify others of the same ilk. An Official Group is a special case in which the organisation whose members form the group recognises it by notifying LinkedIn to that effect. So you can be confident that a group flagged as ‘Official’ is kosher. Because we’re talking here about the IAP Official Group we need to ensure that all its members are current IAP members. So when I receive a request to join the group, I confirm with Anne Harding in the office that the applicant is on our database. Otherwise, there’s no cost involved, either in joining LinkedIn or the IAP Group.

A little about me: I’ve worked in the IT industry for most of my adult life, starting out as a hardware field engineer for the HP1000 range of computers. During the 1980s I took on a new career challenge by moving to the HP Professional Services Organisation where I supported HP’s Factory Automation product range across the UK and beyond. When HP moved away from providing software applications I transferred to software development, which is where I earn my living today, working with Microsoft .NET and SQL Server technologies. I’ve been a full member of the IAP since 1999 and I’m also a life member of the Worldwide Association of Shareware Professionals, which I joined in 1995. I’m responsible for managing their LinkedIn group as well as the IAP’s. I would welcome contacts from people who may have known me in times gone by.

You can contact Andrew at andrew.mckay@iap.org.uk. His Web site is at www.andrewmckay.co.uk. LinkedIn is at www.linkedin.com and Andrew’s LinkedIn profile is at www.linkedin.com/in/andrewmckay.

[Interesting project or development? Let us know at eo@iap.org.uk!]

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