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Yeah, yeah, yeah – you keep hearing that you should have at least a few recommendations from significant others (like previous bosses, not your spouse) on your LinkedIn profile page, but really – is it that important?

Actually yes, and the reason it is that important is a concept called “social proof” – which is when someone respected by others affirms your worth or value to them. In the same way you’ll try a new restaurant because your friend the foodie swears it’s terrific, social proof lets us substitute the judgment of a trusted friend, colleague, or professional for our own first-hand knowledge. Based on their (knowledgeable) judgment, we’ll give it a go.

Forms of social proof
In the online world, there are a number of ways to provide social proof. For example:

Recommendations on your LinkedIn profile. Essentially, if your previous boss (perhaps a branch director or company VP) says you were a terrific contributor, then I, a potential boss looking at your LinkedIn profile and seeing that recommendation, will make the assumptive leap that you’d be a terrific contributor for my organization as well. Result: interview scheduled. Note that these are LinkedIn recommendations rather than endorsements (see LinkedIn Profile Recommendations – the New Letter of Recommendation for tips on how to ask for recommendations).

Commendations in your e-portfolio. Including letters or statements of commendation from those who’ve supervised or otherwise benefited from your work in your e-portfolio can be nearly as effective as LinkedIn recommendations, with the exception that recruiters and hiring managers will have to know about you before they know to check out your online presence. (With LinkedIn, you can be found via keyword searches as well as by your name.) An e-portfolio letter of commendation, however, has the benefit of allowing the writer more freedom (and length) to describe work that you did, how you did it, your amazing ability to overcome obstacles, etc. So similar to a standard letter of recommendation.

Resume “testimonials.” These would be the exact opposite of the previous long-form approach, comprising a sentence or two about an outstanding strength or attribute from a previous supervisor or employer. These brief snippets would be incorporated into your resume in the margins or perhaps at the end of the document, depending on how your resume is formatted.

Shout-outs on social media. These aren’t as easily seen or found as the three more permanent options above, but they can still be helpful. Public congratulations, notes of appreciation, and recognition of extraordinary accomplishments on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn updates, and other social media platforms can all add to a critical mass of positive statements from the universe of bosses, colleagues, and collaborators who have experienced the quality of your work.

Soft self-promotion
Although most of us, especially in the LIS profession, balk at self-promotion, social proof enables us to get the word out in ways that don’t feel quite so self-serving.

If you’ve truly done exemplary work for someone or some organization, they’ll probably be happy to share that information if it helps you succeed in your career, and especially if you offer to reciprocate (always).