Web 2.0 technology has taken the world by storm and in the process has taken many senior executives by complete surprise. In my conversations with finance leaders, I often hear a mix of interest, confusion, intimidation and even dismissal of social media in general and LinkedIn in particular.
I can certainly understand confusion and intimidation, but top-notch executives dismiss the value of this technology out-of-hand at their own peril. Listen to what executive recruiter Wayne Mitchell says: "LinkedIn is no longer an option, it's a must!"
So let's look at some of the misconceptions keeping CFOs and other senior finance executives from leveraging the power of LinkedIn.
1. 'I don't know what it is, and I doubt it's necessary.'
The primary misconception around LinkedIn is exactly what it is. Although it does have a "job search function," LinkedIn is really a business networking site. Since it is quite likely you will be looking for a new opportunity at some point, networking for both your career and your business are necessary. LinkedIn is a networking site, so it would follow that it is indeed necessary.
A recent survey of senior-level executives revealed the following:
The methods of job search deemed most effective by C-suite and senior-level executives alike are both networking (an average 55 percent) and leveraging former relationships (average 40 percent).
And networking is most effective when it is not rooted in "need."
If you're not in active job search mode, that makes your power and positioning on LinkedIn even greater. It is far better for executives to think about proactively raising their visibility long before they need to. Recruiters find something innately appealing about passively-positioned candidates — winning the trophy candidate equates to another feather in their cap and a notch up the reputation ladder.
More importantly, though, is thinking about how Web 2.0 technology is transforming the way in which we interact with others and the limitless interactions it affords.
Many of you will remember the old corporate bio packages companies assembled. The package contained a bio on the company as well as each of its senior executives. When an interested party called, the package was printed and mailed. Or, even longer ago, many marketing / advertising dollars were invested in printing hundreds of these packages because volume printing equals better pricing.
Fast-forward to the 21st century. Today, the entire executive team and the company can be found on LinkedIn by anyone and everyone. The advantage to the entire executive team showing up on LinkedIn is that it gives the company credibility, backed by the integrity and reputation of its transparent executive leadership team.
2. 'Having my name there is enough.'
Actually, it's not enough. Would you have any interest in networking with someone who walked into an event wearing a brown paper bag on his head, holding blank business cards and standing by himself against the back wall? While you might be curious, what message is he sending?
If executives show up on LinkedIn, few of them actually engage. Networking is a verb. It requires action. Standing against the wall and hoping a) no one notices you, b) someone will reach to you or c) enjoying the great food does not constitute networking.
Being a virtual wallflower isn't appealing either. An incomplete profile sends one of two messages: 1) You're not really interested in either networking or hearing from recruiters about potential opportunities; or 2) you're a social media dinosaur.
3. 'Recruiters don't use it.'
In reality, a large majority of recruiters DO use LinkedIn and at all stages of the process: reaching out to top-notch prospects to build a relationship with them, mining the LinkedIn database to find potential candidates, viewing third-party recommendations as an initial credibility screen of potential candidates and following prospects' posts and status updates to identify subject matter experts who fit the job requirements.
According to Fortune, "the average (LinkedIn) member is a college-educated 43-year-old making $107,000. More than a quarter are senior executives. Every Fortune 500 company is represented. That's why recruiters rely on the site to find even the highest-caliber executives."
4. 'It's just a passing fad'
LinkedIn and Web 2.0 technology are the new norm. They've transformed how we spend our time, made the global world a very small community, changed how we shopped, altered how and with whom we interact and forever revolutionized how we network and manage our careers.
5. 'I'll just duplicate my resume in my profile'
Let's go back to the networking event scenario. Would you walk into a function and hand out resumes rather than business cards? I hope that answer is a resounding ‘No!'
The rules for offline networking are the same for online networking. Your profile should be branded as well as interesting, written in the first person and expand beyond what a recruiter might find in your resume. After all, why would a recruiter need to contact you if your resume already appears online?
In the words of Douglas MacArthur, "There is no security on this earth; there is only opportunity." If you're not on LinkedIn, you don't even know how many opportunities you might be missing. In today's competitive job market, missed opportunities come at a very high cost.
Cindy Kraft is the CFO-Coach and America's leading Career & Personal Brand Strategist for Corporate Finance Executives helping clients understand their marketability, articulate their value and position themselves as the clear and compelling choice. She is a Certified Reach Personal Brand Strategist, Certified Reach Online Identity Strategist, Certified Career Management Coach, Credentialed Career Master, Certified Professional Resume Writer and Job & Career Transition Coach. Cindy can be reached via email Cindy@CFO-Coach.com, by phone 813-655-0658, or through her website www.CFO-Coach.com.