By Angela Rose, Hcareers.com According to the LinkedIn press center, by the end of 2011, professionals are signing up for LinkedIn membership at a rate of two per second. In fact, as of February 2012, LinkedIn is the largest online professional network with more than 150 million members worldwide. LinkedIn members searched for other professionals nearly 4.2 billion times in 2011 alone. Any of these searches can eventually lead to freelance work, consulting gigs, even job offers at financially thriving companies. For example, executives from all 2011 Fortune 500 companies are LinkedIn members. Eighty-two Fortune 100 companies utilize the platform’s corporate hiring solutions. Job seekers have submitted hundreds of thousands of job applications through “Apply with LinkedIn.” Even if you’re currently employed and happy in your position, joining LinkedIn is a wise career decision. Sure, many financial analysts report that the economy is (slowly) improving. And, as of March 2012, the unemployment rate seems to be holding steady (if not making incremental gains) at 8.2 percent. But economic environments can turn on a dime - and you don’t want to end up holding only the change in your pockets. Think of a LinkedIn profile, complete with recommendations, as a sort of “insurance” should you eventually lose your job, decide to seek a second source of employment, or need to explore other career options. Your coworkers are an obvious place to begin soliciting recommendations, and it is possible to do so without stirring the office gossip pot - just consider the following. 1. Speak with them in person first. If you send a coworker a LinkedIn-generated recommendation request out of the blue, she may jump to conclusions and assume you’re planning to leave your current job. If she’s a “Chatty Cathy,” the word could get out. Speak to her ahead of time, and frame your request in such a way as to decrease the chance of gossip. Once she knows to expect your LinkedIn-generated recommendation request, she’ll have no cause for alarm. 2. Play the economy card. Everyone knows the economy is less than ideal right now –including your coworkers. Many are equally concerned about the future, the stability of your mutual employer, and what they would do in the event of a layoff. When you speak to one of them about writing a LinkedIn recommendation, mention that you’re building a profile on the network “just in case” anything untoward should happen to your current employment. No one (not even your boss) can fault you for that. 3. Offer to reciprocate. Once your coworker has heard your line of reasoning, she’ll probably want to start asking for recommendations on LinkedIn herself. Offer to write one for her in exchange. If she’s engaging in the same activity, she’ll be less likely to spread the news around your place of business. 4. Give a little guidance. Most coworkers will have no idea what to say in a LinkedIn recommendation, even if they’ve worked by your side for years. When you send your recommendation request email through LinkedIn, add a few details you’d like her to include. You might ask her to mention specific skills that are important in your industry and specific projects you’ve worked on together. Whether you’re actively searching for a new job or just preparing for an unfortunate possibility, the system will not consider your LinkedIn profile “complete” until you have at least three recommendations. Choose several coworkers, approach them strategically, and you’ll be well on your way to meeting that requirement. About the Author Angela Rose researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues for Hcareers.com.