Endorse Me Not, Unless

Endorsements image1

You’ve no doubt noticed the latest somewhat controversial LinkedIn trend of endorsements.

A window pops up at the top of your profile asking you: “Does so-and-so know HMO?” “Endorse.” “Does Amy Schmidt know leadership?” “Sure.” “Does Billy Gus know C++?” “Um, yeah I think Billy does something with computers…” Click.

At the click of a button we can endorse the skills and expertise of our friend or colleague and possibly make someone’s day.

And it costs us nothing. One click. How rewarding!

Like many others, I have endorsed the skills of some of my connections (though, admittedly, I’ve done this sparingly, so if you are wondering whether I’m an endorsement Scrooge, this is your confirmation…)

In turn, I’ve also received my share of endorsements over the past year or so.  And like picking through a handful of pine nuts, I’ve tasted the sweet though fleeting joy of some of them, while others have left a slightly bitter taste in my mouth.  Why is the last nut in your little packet always spoiled?  Never mind that…we were talking about dubious endorsements.

Let me explain why I find them dubious. For one, I’m confused about the people who are endorsing me.  At times, these are my verifiable colleagues and associates.  They’ve either seen my work, collaborated with me on a project, or interacted with me professionally on several occasions thus having gained an impression of some of my skills at least on the surface level. This enthusiastic endorsement of my PowerPoint skills is largely understandable.

At other times, however, I get endorsed by colleagues I’ve only said “hello” to in the cafeteria.  They might very well know about my last week’s ankle injury – if you are reading this, Sally, please forgive the exaggeration – it was only 6 stitches, not 8! – but how can they possibly know about my in-depth knowledge of SDLC?

I’m not complaining about that though. Others have complained about this altogether much more eloquently:  [http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505125_162-57578085/why-linkedin-endorsements-are-worthless/].

In fact, despite my obvious trepidation, I am going to try to do the opposite.  I will assume my endorsers know someone who knows someone who absolutely swears by how good I am at SDLC.  It’s possible…  Or, perhaps, they’ve accidentally hacked into my computer just as I was arduously working the “animation” feature of PowerPoint.  (Hint: I like to make those key points fly in…from the right… and I’m pretty sure I can patent that move.)

In other words, let’s assume my endorsements are an accurate description of what I’m good at…

If so, then why are “Software Documentation” and “Process Improvement” my top two skills? And what kind of skill is “Software Documentation?”  I don’t produce Software Documentation and I don’t code based on it.  I do interpret it in order to understand how our product design is structured and how the user must be trained.  Reading it, I often exclaim, “Is that what the user has to do?  Holy Moly, please, say it ain’t so!”  But does “Software Documentation” really cover what I do and, more specifically, what I am good at?  I am not so sure.

And then there is “Process Improvement”. “Process Improvement” – really?  I always thought of myself as a creative person. For instance, my husband says I create new idioms at least weekly.  Here’s one:  “Those pizza slices are flying off the shelf like hot cakes.” or “That Chipotle was a mob house on opening day.”  See what I mean? Good stuff.  But “Process Improvement”!?  Isn’t that what big, boring corporations do when they are no longer capable of innovating?

And besides, I’m a technology trainer.  Shouldn’t a training-related skill be at the top of my list and not 6th place?

As I ponder these questions, I decide to write to some of my colleagues who had recently endorsed me for skills, and ask them what made them select “Software Documentation” over, say, “Training”, which is an actual skill I have displayed on multiple occasions to various audiences within and outside my organization.

Only one of the 10 people replies, honestly stating that he didn’t know he had a choice of what he could endorse, so he just endorsed what was displayed by LinkedIn, presumably thanks to a very secret and fancy algorithm that popped up “Software Documentation” with my smiling face hovering above and possibly, audibly stating how “I approve this message.”  Ah-huh!

Perhaps this points to a feature problem, rather than simply a people problem?  What if LinkedIn would organize endorsements differently, by, say, allowing me to endorse a colleague in a more focused manner?  For instance, upon logging in…

a)      A pop-up leads in with “Is there someone in your network whose work has impressed you recently?” – yes/no

b)      A “yes” leads to my contact list and a quick search finds my lucky candidate

c)      The system displays their full set of skills

d)     I select the relevant skill(s) which I have personally witnessed or benefited from, and…

e)      Briefly comment on each, rather than just “Liking” it.

Voila! Such thoughtful, pointed, meaningful endorsements would likely lead to more representative skill distribution on my colleague’s profile.  If nothing else, it would certainly help them get an accurate picture of which of their skills are valued by me (and others) and why, potentially deterring frivolous “quid pro quo” endorsements.

Oh, I see, LinkedIn, three clicks and some typing is highly burdensome to your users?  Or perhaps, you don’t think a sample of one is a trustworthy sample, eh?

Well, I will continue to hold out for more responses, but in the meantime, the above feature improvement is my recommendation and I’m sticking to it.


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