Editor’s Note: This is part of an ongoing Q&A series called the Inside Story where we sit down to learn more from the people behind the products at LinkedIn.
For the second interview in our Q&A series, “Inside Story”, we sat down with Kevin Simon, Director of Product Management for LinkedIn’s identity and search products, to get his thoughts on the shifting perceptions of a professional identity and what inspires him and his team at LinkedIn.
Q: What would you say one of the biggest changes has been for professionals over the past ten years?
It’s no longer just about finding the next “job.” Today’s professionals are thinking about their professional lives as continuously evolving careers, and the way they navigate to and through new opportunities in those careers, has changed dramatically. In today’s world, the best opportunities come to you, often times when you’re not even looking for them. We’ve designed the LinkedIn Profile to help you attract these opportunities – whether it be a position on a non-profit board, an invitation to speak at an industry conference or even the opportunity to mentor a future professional. Having the ability to highlight everything from what you’ve accomplished to what you aspire to do, beyond your 9-5 role – is critical to making sure the right people can find you.
Eighty-percent of opportunities are going to those who were discovered when they weren’t actively looking. So the number one thing I’d like members to know is that you’re limiting your prospects and doing yourself a disservice by only updating your profile when you’re hunting for a job. Instead, try treating it like an always-on advertisement for your professional self, and let it do the work for you.
Q: What’s your favorite member story?
We hear some pretty inspirational stories from members across the world every day. From the veteran flight attendant who used LinkedIn to help him change careers 28 years in, to the newscaster that used LinkedIn to find her children’s Mandarin tutor, they are diverse and inspiring. But there’s one story that always stands out in my mind – a friend had lost his job and was pretty down about it. It wasn’t just emotionally challenging, there was also significant financial stress associated with the event as well, and it took a toll on him and his family. Naturally, I suggested taking advantage of LinkedIn, and – to his credit – he really went for it. When I got the call from him informing me that he had ended up landing a job via LinkedIn far better than the one he had left, I was pretty moved. This story showed me, first hand, the power we have to make a really big difference in people’s lives. These stories, inspire all of us at LinkedIn to do everything we can to ensure our members have the tools they need to help them grow and transform in their careers.
Q: What are some factors or influences that help you and your team come up with new features/products?
There’s a great book called the ‘Medici Effect’ that really influenced my thinking on this topic. There’s a misperception that the best ideas come out of thin air, or by getting a few product managers in a room and feeding them pizza until they crank out something innovative. But the reality is, the best ideas come from embracing diversity – of functions, seniority, disciplines, education, and more. Ask this diverse team to leverage a range of ideas that already exist, in different domains, and look at how they can be applied to the area you’re focused on. You can add further fuel by leveraging competitive insights, market trends, user behavior data, and more. If you look at innovative leaders like IDEO, their processes, hiring practices, and client work all are oriented to leverage this principle. I’m also a big fan of user research, an important ingredient to the process we just discussed. Actually sitting with users as they go through an experience you’re looking to innovate around is one of the best ways to unearth the ‘unknown unknowns”. (Forgive me for quoting Donald Rumsfeld.)
Q: What’s your favorite LinkedIn tip you’d like to share with members?
Update your profile?
I really love the daily LinkedIn Updates email (LinkedIn Contacts) which tells me what’s happening in my network – who’s in the news, who has had a work anniversary, job change, birthday, and more. It gives me a great snapshot of what’s going on in my network at the beginning of each day and has, for me, been a great way to stay in touch with members of my network I am not working directly with on a daily basis.
And, of course, update your profile!
Q: What’s not on your LinkedIn Profile?
I’m an audiobook fanatic. The Bay Area has become notorious for its long commutes, so to help pass the time and take my mind off the bumper-to-bumper, I started listening to audio books. I now have a shorter commute, but still go through several books a month. Sometimes, if I’m listening to a really good one, I’ll find myself having arrived at my destination, still hanging out in the car listening to it. So if you see me in the parking lot, just hanging out, you know why.