LinkedIn boss Barbara Wittmann – “Being authentic is hugely important”

25 Jan 2023

Barbara Wittmann is Country Manager at LinkedIn for Germany, Austria and Switzerland and a Senior Director . She has also studied at LMU. In this interview, she explains what makes a good profile – and what to take note of in a changing world of work.

Ms. Wittmann, you did your master’s degree at LMU in Slavic languages. What do you say to the preconception that everyone who studies humanities ends up as a taxi driver?

There are undoubtedly taxi drivers with a degree to their name, but our society and the work environment have experienced radical changes in recent years. The half-life of knowledge and skills is growing ever shorter. Lifelong learning is the new reality, albeit not the new normality. That is why it is very important to learn the skills and abilities that will make you successful and happy, or that will help you find a job you enjoy.

Barbara Wittmann, Senior Director and Country Manager at LinkedIn for Germany, Austria and Switzerland.


Did you find your job via LinkedIn?

I did. But I was contacted by the recruiting team, who saw my LinkedIn profile and my activities and wrote to me. At the time, I was open to a new role and LinkedIn was my employer of choice, so I had always kept a lookout for new vacancies that arose. That signaled my interest to the recruiting team, which is how we first got in touch. After a number of interviews with different people, I was finally given the nod – and was overjoyed. That is why I always advise people to send out specific signals if they are interested in a job or company. You can get talking to them more quickly than you might think. And even if you don’t immediately land your dream job, a good network is unbeatable.

In terms of members’ commitment, LinkedIn Germany is the fastest-growing European market and the second largest in the world, after India. Why are we [Germans] so fond of this platform?

One reason is that the coronavirus pandemic had a powerful impact on the world of work and led to many changes. Communication – and with it LinkedIn – was transferred more or less overnight to the virtual world. Virtual and hybrid events have thus become a regular feature of our lives. And our members too drive this commitment with the informative and useful content they provide.

At the same time, the pandemic has prompted companies to think about how they work, their corporate culture and their values. Employees too are thinking much more carefully about where and how they work and how meaningful their job is. We call this the Great Reshuffle. It is why many people have gone looking for jobs. Jobs are changed much more frequently in the USA. But in light of the shortage of specialists and – in some sectors – labor in general, there are currently plenty of opportunities for new jobs in Germany as well. Right now, six people around the globe find new jobs via LinkedIn every minute.

Why do you see hybrid work and flexibility as so important in today’s world of work?

It’s simple: Because you can no longer do without them these days. The pandemic has turned our work environment on its head, kindling the desire for greater flexibility in many people – in terms of work times, but also in terms of where they work and how many hours they work. Employees themselves are now actively and loudly demanding this kind of flexibility. Employers who ignore them run the risk of losing them.

At the same time, companies have understood that there are many positive impacts when staff are given greater freedoms, as this boosts satisfaction and productivity. Flexibility likewise improves the opportunities available to groups who traditionally have a hard time on the labor market. Many mothers, for example, would like to work more but are unable to do so due to external circumstances. Flexible working models create better ways to reconcile work life and private life while also increasing the number of hours worked. Conversely, fathers too should take advantage of this flexibility – for example by cutting down their hours, moving them to different times or doing more of the childcare work at home.

You yourself are very active on LinkedIn and regularly post content. What topics are especially close to your heart?

The world of work is experiencing huge changes right now, so there are plenty of exciting topics to address in this field. Alongside hybrid work and flexibility, diversity is another issue that is very important to me – above all because we all still have a lot to learn on this score, and because change is urgently needed. These two topics will also influence the future of work, i.e. the skills we will need to operate successfully in the digitalization, mobility and sustainability space.

What part does personal branding have to play in social networking? Can it genuinely improve your career opportunities?

Your personal brand reflects how you present yourself online and offline. While it may seem strange and abstract to see yourself as a brand, it is actually more about concentrating on your strengths and communicating them in clear messages. With that in mind, ask yourself: What are my strengths? What is my style? What topics are of interest to me? Your answers will lay a solid foundation for a fascinating profile. And – voilà – you have your own personal brand.

What many people underestimate is that, if you want to engage successfully in social networking, being authentic is hugely important. I am convinced of one thing: The more authentic you are in how you present yourself, the more likely you are to find a job that suits you. You will feel happier and more at home in your work, and you will automatically be more successful in your career – irrespective of what ‘success’ ultimately means for you.

What makes a good LinkedIn profile?

I’ve got three tips for you: First, the profile photo. It makes you authentic and more approachable. Statistics prove the point: Members with a photo get up to nine times more inquiries, 21 times more profile hits and 36 times more messages. The picture doesn’t have to be perfect or professional: Use a photo that shows what you are like in your professional milieu. But do avoid poor-quality pictures, as well as company logos only, landscapes, animals and words or aphorisms.

Second, put your professional experience in a nutshell in the ‘Summary’ section. Describe what you have done to date and where your strengths lie. A few short paragraphs are enough, preferably with no technical jargon.

Third, get others to confirm your abilities. List your most important skills, which your contacts can then confirm. Doing so lends greater credibility to your profile. Members who list five or more skills or areas of knowledge attract up to 17 times more profile hits.

Is LinkedIn only for professional people, or is it something for students too?

LinkedIn can be a helpful companion even while you are still studying. It is becoming more and more important to have your own network, because today’s career paths are much less linear. Our studies show, for example, that professional people who have an extensive network earn above-average incomes and rate their own career opportunities more positively.

On the other hand, we also know that opinions vary on this point: While some Germans enjoy networking and do it frequently, others perceive it more as a chore. What I find particularly interesting is that the vast majority of people in either camp believe that networks will become increasingly important in the future. Knowing this, you should make a start as early as possible, and students in particular should create a profile in the first semester. Practical activities – be they as a working student, in a traditional internship during vacations or as a sideline job – are very important if you want to get to know companies and job profiles. You can also browse through and apply for companies’ vacant positions. Even if your first application doesn’t land you the job, you might be stored in a pool of candidates and invited to an event.

What are you looking for?