Building a Professional Ethos on LinkedIn

Building a Professional Ethos on LinkedIn

Christy Oslund (Michigan Technological University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2663-8.ch014


In the face of increasing use of digitally mediated contexts, teachers and students on all levels are expected to be familiar with creating content appropriate for the World Wide Web, and their professional lives are affected by the digital content they create. The professional online networking site LinkedIn, for example, is a group of communities where professionals can create an ethos that will benefit them in both searching for work and maintaining their current working status. In such venues, both students and teachers still need guidance on how to create a profile and presence that will establish a positive, approachable ethos. Specific examples show how the author accomplished this in the $50 billion per year pet industry. These examples clarify both what to do and what to avoid in creating a profile and presence in a professional online community.
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LinkedIn began as a professional networking site when launched in May 2003 (“About Us,” 2012). Employers, employees, and businesses seeking clients all use the site to connect with represented professionals, who range from dog walkers to Wall Street executives. With 2 million company members, 161 million individual members, including member executives from each Fortune 500 company, LinkedIn is currently the largest online professional networking site (“About Us,” 2012). Membership in LinkedIn and participation in one of the more than a million groups on LinkedIn is a free, accessible, and immediate way to begin building a public profile and ethos amongst a professional community. Though paid Premium Subscription membership earnings are up “91 percent year-over-year” (“About Us,” 2012), it is still possible to belong to LinkedIn, participate in communities, and submit resumés to companies for no cost to the user. More than 102.5 million unique individual views from around the world were made in the first quarter of 2012; with more than 20 million members who are students or recent college graduates (“About Us,” 2012), it is evident to a growing number of people entering the job market that LinkedIn is a tool for helping develop a professional reputation and profile. LinkedIn is rapidly growing, and in one year moved from the 54th most visited web site to the 31st most visited (“About Us,” 2012). The popularity of this site continues as the number of page views increases, and the number of members participating in the LinkedIn communities.

By watching the site it is also evident that what is not clear to all users is the difference between building a visible profile and building a visible, credible profile that increases personal value to potential employers and clients. LinkedIn provides opportunities to build a global profile; this same site, if used thoughtlessly, can help ruin a reputation in each computer-literate industry and nation. How people build their profile and comment in communities directly affects the ethos and reputation they establish amongst the LinkedIn audience. Being deliberate and careful can make the difference between creating a positive or negative impression on potential professional connections. As Daniel Keller (2007) reminded us, the same rhetorical concepts are at work in digital spaces as are at work in traditional rhetoric, those being “appeals that address an audience’s emotions (pathos), rest on a logical argument (logos), or appeal to an understanding of ethical behavior (ethos)” (p. 49). This means that while using LinkedIn can help create a positive ethos, failure to make the right traditional rhetorical moves in LinkedIn communities can create a negative reputation that will follow a person across time and space.

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