I have been using LinkedIn for about three years with mixed results.  I have advocated that executives’ using LinkedIn is critical to maintaining visibility in an increasing virtual world.  People do indeed research others on the internet and having a website and a LinkedIn bio is important to provide positive and relevant information about your business, organization or profession.  Executive and corporate recruiters definitely use LinkedIn and are probably the main generators of revenue streams for the LinkedIn business model.

LinkedIn Keeps Growing

More and more people are signing up as evidenced in more and more requests that I receive from persons who wish to become one of my connections.   I now have 600 connections and counting.  This large number does not make me feel either popular or especially connected. Many of the requestors I do not know well and there are several that I do not know at all.  That’s okay.  I am again an open networker, so I rarely decline a request to connect.

Mixed Bag

I find that I do not have time to keep up with all the daily updates, and I would guess that maybe one out of  50 updates I do find interesting.  Not that my own occasional updates are terribly compelling or interesting.  My updates usually involve telling folks about what kind of legal matters that I am working on.

The affinity groups are uneven in their being current and substantive.  Some discussion groups are better than others.  The biggest problem: Who has the time to check in and keep current?  I know that I suffer from time scarcity and lingering on LinkedIn can’t be a priority for me.


I do like the business news feed that is on my home page, and I actually try to read the articles when I am there.

LinkedIn also provides a portal to my blog, which is convenient for its distribution.

The best feature about my “connections” is that it keeps me current on people’s job changes and e-mail contacts.

The introductions via connections are awkward and they seem more personable to accomplish via private e-mail exchanges between the interested parties and their mutual connection.

You need an enhanced paid account in order to do direct in-mail communications with persons to whom you are not connected.  In-mail communications from strangers may come across as intrusive.

I am not negative about LinkedIn.  I do think that it has not lived up to either its promise or potential.  The key thing is for LinkedIn to develop more content to make it attractive as a destination website.  Interactivity will have to revolve around compelling common interests like a cause, an alumni group, or a trade or professional group continuing-education matter.

Must Keep Using

Should you forgo LinkedIn?  I think not.  You want to make it easy for potential customers, clients, employers, recruiters and business partners to research you.  LinkedIn, through internet search engines, has become a primary source to do that.  As I have said in previous posts, it’s your free billboard.


It is the beginning of the year.  The time for New Year’s Resolutions.  My little son reminded me on New Year’s Eve for us to make our New Year’s “Revolutions.”  His revolution was to do 40 minutes of guitar practice per day (up from 20 minutes).  He had carefully written it down and happily wadded it into a ball to throw into the fireplace.  As the flame consumed his promise to himself, I complimented him on his lofty ambition. Resolutions are indeed personal intentions of revolutions directed at ourselves.  My son’s malapropism has some relevant meaning.

It got me to thinking about appropriate resolutions for executives.  There are many I could conjure up, but three seemed like an easy number to digest and remember.

Resolution # 1: Look Before You Leap

At this time of new possibilities and opportunities, an executive who is considering moving to another company should carefully scrutinize his non-compete, non-solicitation, and confidentiality agreements he has with his current employer to ascertain whether he would be in violation.  The executive should not try to do this without the assistance of legal counsel.  Employers have gotten more aggressive in seeking enforcement of these agreements as evidenced by the many court cases around the country.

Resolution #2: It’s Not Secret If Everyone Knows Or Employees Don’t Know It’s A Secret

Confidentiality Agreements are meant to protect the proprietary information and trade secrets of a business.  If the executive leadership has not instituted safeguards, controls, and notices of confidentiality for its important business information, then do not expect a court readily to treat it as confidential information.

An employee confidentiality agreement is a good start.  Physical and technological protections of business information along with legal protection of intellectual property through copyrights and patents are a good finish.   Think locked filing cabinets, password protected computer files, documents marked “confidential,” and so forth.  The New Year is a good time to establish protocols for safeguarding trade secrets, etc.

Resolution #3: Know How To Use Social Media But Don’t Lose The Personal Touch

If you are an executive or professional, no matter what your age, you are committing business development and networking malpractice by not understanding and utilizing social media whether it is LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.  Whether you realize it or not, you, your business, or your profession are affected by social media and will continue to be at an accelerated rate.

You don’t have to be a “techy” to join LinkedIn or pen a blog – I am living proof of that.  You must do something or you will be increasingly on the margins of access to information sharing.  After some skepticism, I recently signed up for Twitter and I will let you know how it goes.  Older executives must adapt and be continuous learners.

Despite the rise of social media, it is still not a substitute for meeting with people in the flesh, having conversations on the telephone, and sending thank you notes and condolence cards.  Being there and showing up still counts for a lot.  Younger executives should cultivate old fashion pressing the flesh.

Senior executives and the twenty-something young Turks can learn from each other.  To borrow a phrase from my son, that would be a nice “revolution.”


A general counsel friend who was updating his LinkedIn profile queried me as to whether it was prudent to list his activities related to his Catholic faith.  He was concerned about turning off legal recruiters and potential employers by

John F. Kennedy

revealing his substantial commitment to his church and faith-based organizations.  I kidded him that he was not Jack Kennedy running to become the first Catholic president of the United States.  We have come a long way from 1960 in terms of religious prejudice.   But he does raise an important point.

Diminishing Religious Discrimination

Last year, there were some people who thought Chicago would not elect a Jewish mayor and that notion seems laughable now.  Commentators have noted that Republican primary presidential candidate Mitt Romney has to overcome an anti-Mormon bias among significant conservative and evangelical  elements in his party.  Muslim Americans certainly have to contend with stereotypes.  We have elected our first African-American U.S. president, so should we be concerned about residual religious bias in the social media market place?

I certainly do not dismiss the fact there remain various degrees of discrimination and bigotry whether it be religious, ethnic, racial, etc.  Should that fact dictate what we reveal about ourselves in our LinkedIn profile?

Appropriateness of Religious Information

If your non-business pursuits reflect your substantial commitment to your faith-based activities and you want to share your religious interests publicly, then by all means you should do so. However, if you want to proselytize your religion on your LinkedIn page, then you will likely alienate potential employers or customers. LinkedIn, after all, is about business. If your religion is a big part of your public identity or you are a clergyman, rabbi or imam, then listing your religious activities certainly makes sense.

Your Story on LinkedIn

For many executives and professionals, their references to religious related organizations simply round out a picture of their non-work related, nonprofit, and charitable endeavors.  For example, I list the fact I was president of St. Joseph Seminary at Loyola University of Chicago Board of Advisors and that I am a member of the Queen of All Saints Basilica Men’s Club (including being an assistant Webelos Cub Scout Den Leader at the Basilica.)  Although I do not wear it on my sleeve, I am proud to be a Roman Catholic, and revealing that fact tells people something about me – it contributes to my story.

Your LinkedIn profile is a piece of your narrative.  Executives and professionals should think carefully about how they craft their narratives.

As I said in a previous post about putting your photo on your LinkedIn profile, if someone wants to discriminate against you because of your age, looks, ethnicity, race or whatever, you would not want to work or do business with that person anyway.   I would add religion to that list.

Use of Commonsense

As is in everything in life, moderation is the watchword.  If your career pertains to faith-based organizations, then a long list of religious-oriented activities would make sense.  If you are an executive for a Fortune 500 company and a 100% of your listed activities is religious based, you may limit your potential opportunities within your company as well with other employers.  The more well-rounded your employers’ perceive your experience, the better.


A general counsel friend wanted to revise and make more robust his LinkedIn profile and queried me as to whether it was necessary to have a photo.  He may have been self-conscious about his looks.   Join the club.  Aren’t we all? He did want his revised profile to be seen by possible recruiters.  He also had a question about revealing one’s religion on LinkedIn, but that will be the subject of another blog post.

Mirror Mirror On The Wall

Many people are self-conscious of their photos and just do not like being photographed.  Some do not like the way they look because of age, weight, baldness, etc.   Some do not like the idea of others having photos of them for privacy or security reasons.  So having their photo out there on the internet on LinkedIn makes some people very uncomfortable.  Understandably, you find it more so for women than men.

Being Judged

For purposes of using your LinkedIn profile as a resume billboard for a job search or business development, it gets even trickier.  Some people do not want to be excluded for consideration for a job or a contract because of race, ethnicity, age, average looks, and so forth.  We all know that people can be discriminated against for those reasons (race and ethnicity were not the concerns of my general counsel  friend as he is neither a racial nor an ethnic minority).  Unfortunately, research has shown physical attractiveness can give a person a leg up in life. Nevertheless, for a job interview or for a business meeting, you will eventually have to meet potential employers or customers in person.

Let It Be

You are who you are, and you should be at ease with yourself even if there are nincompoops who may not be comfortable with your identity, looks and  background.

My personal belief is that if someone wants to discriminate against me because of my age, looks, ethnicity or whatever, I would not want to work or do business with that person anyway.  People are naturally curious as to what a person with whom they will do business looks like.  I know that I am.  A photo provides more context.  Accordingly, I have no hesitancy putting my photo on LinkedIn.

If I were a woman, I would probably be a bit more circumspect because of security concerns as there are weird people out there in the world.

Bottom Line:  You can skip a photo on LinkedIn without sacrificing the effectiveness of your profile.

LINKEDIN FLEXING ITS MUSCLES: Are you flexing yours?

The fact that today President Obama is having a town hall meeting hosted by LinkedIn at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California says a lot about LinkedIn’s impact on social media and its evolving potential.  Obama will answer questions from a live audience at the museum and from LinkedIn members on the internet.

Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California

This past August, LinkedIn reached a milestone: It surpassed 120 million worldwide members with fewer than half of its total number of users residing in the United States.

I am about to reach my own milestone with LinkedIn: My connections now total 499 and will cross over to 500-plus any day.  500 connections is a robust number.  What does this all mean for my use of LinkedIn?

It is clear that LinkedIn is growing by leaps and bounds and is the dominant game for professional social networking notwithstanding Facebook. Most LinkedIn members are still in the infant stages of their utilizing its full potential.

People are using LinkedIn to post and view updates from their connections.  I think more people view updates than post them, so the posters do get a lot of visibility.  I know that posting updates does provide opportunities for offline conversations with my connections.  A fellow board member will say, “Oh, I saw the item about your family being on the early morning news show for your children’s first day back to school.”  This comment begins a conversation.  The trick is not to becoming a serial, pesky updater and becoming part of the internet noise which we all are trying to reduce.

G. A. Finch's LinkedIn Profile Page

I have been able to get people job interviews for advertised positions when I have used my LinkedIn connections at a particular company or organization to facilitate an introduction.

LinkedIn does post jobs in particular fields, but it is no and has plenty of room to grow.  The company states on its website that it “has a diversified business model with revenues coming from hiring solutions, marketing solutions and premium subscriptions.”  So clearly, it intends to become the go-to source for employment recruiters and job seekers.

The one current drawback to LinkedIn is that many people, if not most, don’t check the site frequently, so an update or an email message can get stale.  LinkedIn needs to create more incentives to visit its site a couple of times a day rather than a couple of times a week or a month.  Recently, LinkedIn has added a news content feature which should encourage its members to visit their home pages.  For example the home page news features business bloggers from (Harvard Business Review), which is actually quite good.

The advice I would give LinkedIn is to increase the quality and availability of high-end business and political news and blogs, e.g. add content from the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, the New York Times, and the Washington Post.  This quality content will drive more traffic to LinkedIn.

As I have said in earlier posts on social media, an executive or professional can’t afford not to be on LinkedIn as it is increasingly becoming the dominant venue for people to check out the executive or professional.  LinkedIn is a free billboard to let people know who you are, what you have done, and what you can do.  Now it should also be about what interesting things you are doing now.

Why wouldn’t you be on it?  Why wouldn’t you file updates?


Closed Networker

When I started using LinkedIn two years ago, I was a purist in that I only invited and accepted invitations from people with whom I had a business or civic relationship.  I did not “connect“  to acquaintances.  I also tried to keep my LinkedIn network to business and not personal contacts.  I did not want to mix the two. I was a closed networker. 

If someone whom I did not know sought to connect to me on LinkedIn, I would either archive the request or suggest that the requesting person come by my office to meet me when it was convenient for us both.  I wanted to evaluate the person and have a meaningful basis to be in each other’s network. I was a little self-conscious and sensitive about the idea of rejecting a requestor and coming off as being exclusive or self-important.

Open Networker

My thinking changed about seven months ago for two reasons: 1) I reminded myself that my business and personal worlds were not so compartmentalized and were in many ways seamless, so to limit my LinkedIn network to my business and civic contacts was artificial and counterproductive; and 2) I heard a LinkedIn presenter argue for his open, come one, come all policy.  As a result, I became an open networker and accepted anyone who wanted to connect with me. 

I received many requests from people in my various LinkedIn Groups.  The requests from some groups like my law school and college were no-brainers  – it made sense to connect with fellow alumni.  Requests from more impersonal groups like industry groups or city groups seemed more superficial, but I went with the flow of being an open networker.  I also received some random requests from people who shared  a mutual acquaintance with me.

Limited, Qualified Networker

My thinking has evolved once again and as I told another student of social networking, I am now a limited, qualified networker.  I was starting to get requests from people who ranged from pyramid scheme types to people I did not respect to people with whom I would never have any reason to sincerely and meaningfully interface.  I felt I was beginning to devalue the capital of my network.  Not a good thing. 

Developing and expanding one’s business network is not a popularity contest.  It is not like running for office and seeking as many votes as one can get.  Also, we all are both inspired and judged by the company we keep.  So quality connections do mean something and have real value.

So what is a limited, qualified networker?  It is a term I made up.  It means I will be open to networking with folks where I have an existing relationship or where there is a real opportunity to have meaningful interaction in the future.  It also means I will screen and be more selective about whom I will choose to connect.  My intention is not to offend, but to be more effective with the limited time that I have. 

The reality is that not all contacts are created equal.


By G. A. Finch

A fellow alumnus, Gene Killian, recently started a discussion in the LinkedIn University of Michigan Law School Group with the query: LinkedIn Use Violates Restrictive Covenants?

Mr. Killian alerted the group to a recent complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota captioned TEKsystems Inc. v.  Brelyn Hammernick, et al. 


Plaintiff TEKsystems Inc. is in the business of recruitment and placement of temporary and permanent employees.  Defendant was a former employee of the Plaintiff and had signed an employment agreement which contained provisions not to compete, not to solicit, and not to divulge confidential information.  Defendant went to work for a purported competitor of Plaintiff.

Plaintiff alleges Defendant violated the non-solicitation and non-compete provisions by soliciting Plaintiff’s contract employees and clients within the restricted geographic area covered by the employment agreement.  Specifically, the complaint alleges Defendant “communicated with at least 20 of TEKsystem’s Contract Employees using such electronic networking systems as LinkedIn.”  The complaint went on to allege that Defendant connected with several named employees of Plaintiff.  Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant specifically asked an employee whether he was still looking for opportunities and alleges that Defendant stated that she would love to have the employee come by her new offices and hear about the stuff she was working on.

These allegations are just allegations and, of course, Plaintiff will have to prove its case.

Social Media Bumping Up Against Employment Contract Provisions

What I find interesting is the intersection of social media and employment contracts.  We talk a lot about both of these subjects in this blog.  Now we see how one can affect the other.

People have gotten way too comfortable with social media like Facebook and LinkedIn. We forget 1) that what is sent into the internet never really goes away and 2) that it can be conceivably be read by thousands, if not millions of individuals.  Most disturbingly, much of it can be used in a court of law as evidence against you.

We don’t know what Defendant’s response and defense will be so we can’t speculate how a fact finder (judge or jury) might decide this case.

Medium Doesn’t Change Underlying Elements of a Cause of Action and  Use of Carve Outs

I do have a couple of observations:

A) The medium or means of communication may vary (e.g., telephone or email), but improper communication is improper communication.  You can’t solicit a customer or former employer if you have signed a valid non-solicitation provision.

B) If you already have pre-existing relationships with employees, customers, clients, potential customers and potential clients, then be sure to list those in a carve out provision before you sign non-solicitation, non-compete and confidentiality agreements.  There may be overlap between your existing contacts and your prospective employer’s contacts and you don’t want to be precluded from utilizing them post-employment.

The TEKsystems Inc. case is instructive in that we should not be lulled by the false sense of intimacy and instant camaraderie of social media like LinkedIn and Facebook.  Our communications, whether on the internet or face to face, can have unanticipated legal consequences.


Executives’ and professionals’ interest in learning about LinkedIn is accelerating at a brisk pace.  

More and more applications are being developed for LinkedIn users.  Just recently I signed on to two applications: Slide Share Presentations and Legal Updates. 

Useful Applications

One allows me to upload presentations on topics that I have spoken or written about.   The other allows me to upload articles, newsletters, blog posts and filings.

For example on the Slide Share Presentation feature,   I uploaded a power point presentation on public construction projects that I did for a seminar given to civil engineers.  This simple upload drastically increased my audience on that topic manifold and any LinkedIn connections can utilize it.  When you spend time preparing a presentation or writing an article, you do want people to read it.   

The Legal Update application is targeted to lawyers being able to broadly disseminate their written materials on legal subjects; I have not used it yet, but I have plenty of already published legal articles that are yearning to be read by a wider audience and have additional 15 seconds of fame.

Content for In-person Conversations

I have found that the LinkedIn content aggregated on my home page and profile prompts many offline, in-person conversations with my LinkedIn connections and non-LinkedIn contacts.  LinkedIn has become a repository of useful information that can be shared easily.  For example, at lunch today, I recommended to one friend who was interested in expanding his use of LinkedIn to read my blog posts about it.  For another friend at lunch, I pointed to certain LinkedIn groups that could be fruitful for a job search.

To Ask or Not to Ask, That is the Question

A different friend at the lunch brought up the question of whether you should seek people you know to connect or wait to be asked.  The overwhelming response was you should actively ask as that is the point of social media – it is after all, not a dating game or popularity contest, but a networking objective.  Being intentional rather than random about your connections is the idea.  You don’t want to seek or accept connections from people you don’t know or don’t have some affinity or affiliation.  Of course, for people you do not know and with whom you  want to connect, you can invite them to have a meeting or telephone conversation to learn about each other and then make the decision.  If you do not want to connect with someone it is more polite to simply archive the request than to click the “I don’t know this person” button because if a requester receives too many rejections, her account may be frozen by LinkedIn.

Having said all this now and before about the beauty of LinkedIn, we all should note well:  Although LinkedIn is a powerful tool and medium, there is no substitute for in-person, face-to-face dialogue with folks.


Recently, a partner at a professional services firm queried me as to the utility or desirability of connecting on LinkedIn to people with whom he works.  An excellent question. I told him that it was advisable because it is a way of learning more about what your co-workers do.  We think we know all the skill sets, expertise and work experiences of our co-worker across the hall or next door.   Assuredly, we do not know the extent of what our colleagues have done and can do.  Assuming your colleagues’ LinkedIn profiles are sufficiently built out, you will learn things you never knew about them.  For example, you might find yourself saying something like: “I did not know Bill spoke Turkish” or “I did not know Sally used to work for IBM” or “I did not know Abdul has a software patent.” 

Also when your colleagues post their updates on LinkedIn, you will learn what new civic, professional, and personal interests in which they are currently involved.  This gives you and your colleagues opportunities for discussion and connectedness and helps build a team culture – an imperative for successful organizations.   

Finally, seeing each other’s connections allows for and should promote opportunities to coordinate business or civic development efforts for your firm and to support each other.


This post is my second update of my 06/13/10 post captioned SOCIAL MEDIA: IGNORE AT YOUR OWN PERIL. Social media continue to be a hot topic among executives and professionals.   I have many conversations about online social networks with both master networkers and newbies.  Although social media comprise multiple sites like Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn, my personal experience has been limited to LinkedIn.  Drilling down further, here are seven more observations and useful things to know:

  1. You should comment on the updates from the members of your network as it increases your interactivity and communication with your network, which is the whole point of establishing a network.
  2. You shouldn’t forget to provide frequent updates on what you are doing as it will invite comments and messages from your network, and you and your contacts will discover an opportunity to chat about a mutual interest – again, this is the whole point.
  3. On LinkedIn, your updates don’t have to be 100% business or professionally related.   LinkedIn is not Facebook or Twitter, so you don’t want to post a lot of trivial activities or very personal information, but you do want to paint a multidimensional picture of your life and personality other than strictly business.
  4. You can integrate your LinkedIn to your smart phone so that you have 24-hour access.  My good friend Dan Cotter showed me this feature several weeks ago.
  5. If you use Microsoft Outlook, you can integrate LinkedIn to your contacts and email, and there are many neat features that are too numerous to describe for this post.  You can do this via the Tools button at the bottom of your LinkedIn homepage.  I tip my hat to Larry Kaufman as I was educated on the Microsoft Outlook application by Larry’s 06-16-10 presentation titled “Unleash the Power of LinkedIn” (see my 06-16-10 post captioned SOCIAL MEDIA: SIX MORE THINGS TO KNOW.)
  6. You can find LinkedIn affinity groups that you are truly interested in joining such as your college, industry, clubs, employer, etc. and this becomes an easy way to stay informed and to connect with people with whom you share something in common.    I limit the number as I feel I have only so much time to consume the information that they generate in terms of discussions, news, and so forth.  Other LinkedIn users have a different philosophy and believe that the more groups you join, then the broader and more useful your network becomes.  You have to decide what makes sense for you.
  7. Although this is stating the obvious, it cannot be stressed enough – triple check your LinkedIn profile to make sure it is correct.  Think of all the politicians who had inaccurate, sloppy, exaggerated, wrong, or false information about themselves on their online profiles and bios and the resulting grief that they endured.

I would love to hear your LinkedIn stories, observations, or tips.

%d bloggers like this: