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What LinkedIn Endorsements Mean To You

"Wayne has endorsed you," read the subject line of a message from LinkedIn in my Gmail inbox. "Oh, how nice," I thought. A long-time colleague took the time to recommend me. Then I saw that Mary had endorsed me, then Fran, and so on, and so on. Now I was suspicious. "Was this some kind of phishing scheme? Did something I wrote go viral? Why all the attention, all at once?" Then I actually opened one of the messages and saw that these endorsements were a new LinkedIn thing. I also saw, when I went to the LinkedIn site, that I could return the favor and endorse my own connections. To be honest, my next thought was, "What fresh social hell is this?"

OK, maybe I got a little dramatic there, but what I was responding to was, one, another surprise update from a social network and, two, what seemed like on its surface another social obligation--in more ways than one. I also worried that LinkedIn was becoming Klout-like, with a single (albeit aggregated) metric determining worth and value. (This is a premise being tested by a University of North Carolina professor who is basing 20% of his Social Media for Reporters students' grades on the number of points their Klout scores rise over the semester.)

So, what is the new LinkedIn Endorsements feature?

In a Sept. 24 blog post, LinkedIn's David Breger explained it this way: "On LinkedIn, you have many smart, talented, and skilled professional connections. Starting today, we are introducing Endorsements, a new feature that makes it easier to recognize them for their skills and expertise. With just one click, you can now endorse your connections for a skill they've listed on their profile or recommend one they haven't added yet. Think your connection is great at programming AND project management? Let them know!"

To endorse a connection, you can click on recommended skills in their profile. Connections can also be endorsed from the new Skills & Expertise section at the bottom of profiles. When you have been endorsed, you receive notification in email and on LinkedIn, and these endorsements will show up in your own Skills & Expertise section.

LinkedIn has launched Endorsements in English across the United States, India, New Zealand, and Australia, and plans to add languages during the next few weeks, according to Breger's post.

What's in it for you?

LinkedIn Endorsements will provide an easy-to-read skills dashboard of sorts--a very streamlined version of your resume. This could be useful for people looking to connect with someone on a particular topic--one of the core functions of social networking for businesses--or for LinkedIn users in the market for a new job or otherwise looking to promote their expertise.

"Having a range of people in your network specify certain skills that they feel you do best provides an interesting data point for recruiters looking at your profile," said Tony Deblauwe, senior HR manager/business partner at Citrix.

LinkedIn Endorsements may also reduce some of the risk associated with bringing a new employee into the company.

"LinkedIn Endorsements might be a useful business tool for customers to review people," said Larry Stybel, president and CEO of career management and leadership development firm Stybel Peabody Lincolnshire, as well as executive in residence at the Sawyer Business School, Suffolk University. "For example, I have a search for a VP and I see two potential candidates rated highly in a skill. But one candidate is rated highly by someone I respect. I will contact that individual for a detailed reference without the candidate's knowledge. In other words, this may be a tool that can reduce risk to 'buyers.'"

So will there be a mad rush as people look to endorse and be endorsed, vying to attain as many endorsements as possible in a particular area? Is this the classic "I have more marbles than you so I win" paradigm?

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