My dissertation topic focused on the boundaries of expertise--demonstrating that people tend to overestimate what others know based on the labels used to describe their respective expertise domains. For instance, friends of mine often think--because I'm a psychologist--that I can answer questions that they have about psychological disorders. Similarly, I have friends who have asked me questions about their children's educational standing. The thing is, my opinion is probably not much more informed than theirs are. While my research is broadly related to education, I have no experience with curriculum development or placement in gifted and talented programs. My grad school advisor experienced similar problems when she received a phone call from a journalist who wanted her "expert opinion" on peer tutoring programs, which is similarly outside her expertise.
Now, is understandable that to people who have no familiarity with psychology (as in, they don't know all of the different sub specialties, or aren't familiar with our training programs) would assume that we do have this knowledge. Thus, it is unsurprising that we may get questions from people who know us and are seeking information that seems relevant to our expert labels. And even though we may not be able to answer their questions--we likely have enough knowledge to be able to direct them to someone who can answer their questions.
Now let's talk about LinkedIn Endorsements. Given the above, it makes no sense to me that the same people who are unclear on exactly what it is that I do can endorse me for skills that I do not have. I often receive notifications that I've been endorsed by family members or friends for all sorts of skills that I do not have, from research experience in peer relationships to familiarity with software programming languages. According to LinkedIn:
But how are these meaningful? Now, if my research idols were to endorse me for having skills that are actually within my domain of expertise (e.g., child development research, trust in testimony research), I would be over the moon. These are the types of endorsements that actually mean something.
Here are few tips from a 2012 Forbes article about making the most of endorsements:
1. List your own skills - if we are going to have people who have no idea what we do endorse us for skills, they might as well be the skills that we actually have.
2. Hide endorsements that are not reflective of your real skill set - If potential employers, collaborators, or recruiters ever do start to use endorsements, it would be deceptive to let them think you have skills that you do not have.
3. Seek endorsements from people you know well--particularly people who are in your field of study- if we want endorsements to mean something, then it is better that they come from people who can actually speak to our work--same as recommendations. It is common knowledge that we shouldn't have our parents or close family friends write recommendation letters. We should apply this same principle for endorsements (at least in my opinion).
4. (and this one was not on the Forbes article) We should be more careful about when we choose to endorse as much as when we want others to endorse us.
In sum, while I appreciate that social networking sites are seeking methods for increasing engagement on each other's profiles, if we really want these endorsements to mean something, we need to change how we use them.