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Last week I received a LinkedIn in invite to connect from a girl, let’s call her Jane.  She is new to the digital/social industry, seems young and hungry to succeed, and as I’m always on the hiring trail I figured I’d accept the invite.
Mistake.
Within 24 hours of accepting I received the following message (see below), asking me if I would endorse her.  She said if I did she would in exchange endorse me.  Absolutely obscene.  Why would this girl think that I would endorse her?
A.      I don’t know her at all, personally or professionally
B.      Because I don’t know her, how could I possibly vouch for her skills?
C.      As she doesn’t know me, how could she vouch for my skills?
This leads me to one of my biggest problems with social media.  For all of its great powers of connection, social media does allow people a level of comfort they would never approach if instead they had to make these requests in person.  Jane, while clearly ambitious, has no sense of professionalism or business ethics.  She wanted to leverage my name and hard work (through an endorsement) to help her boost her positioning and ultimately her career.   She would never have done this if she had to stop me on the street to ask, but because social provides a distance between users, she felt no hesitation.  In fact I’d guess that she messaged a ton of people this same offer.
While LinkedIn can be a great tool for hiring and connecting, it should not be treated differently than any other professional forum.  References are a very important part of building your professional identity, and therefore should never come from a person who cannot speak intelligently on your behalf; let alone from someone who doesn’t even know you well enough to speak on your behalf at all.  It’s just dishonest.
When seeking out endorsements or recommendations, look for people you’ve actually worked with or for.  Then ask them if they’d feel comfortable serving as a reference.  Offering a recommendation in reciprocation should not be necessary and when it comes to LinkedIn is actually a bit of a faux pas.  I give references to people I believe in, from whom I want nothing in return.
That is the way I’d approach things on an interpersonal level, and how I’d approach things from a social level.
So Jane, while I appreciate your ambition, I hope that you that no one takes you up on your offer and you’re forced to make a name for yourself on your own.  Oh wait, I guess that’s what we all had to do in the old days.

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