Does LinkedIn have a perception problem?

If you are not currently on LinkedIn, you probably have some reasons why.  But if you are currently jobseeking or even just trying to educate yourself about careers, these reasons really need to be reexamined.  As I explore some of the more common ones that I have heard, you will have to let me know whether these resonate for you:

 

I get all these spammy messages from LinkedIn!

The settings on LinkedIn are such that when new users join the site for the first time (and exactly when they have absolutely no idea what they are doing), they are immediately prompted to invite their entire address book to join.  This prompt (at least when I joined) comes before you have even really gotten in to create your profile, and it feels like a barrier to entry, so some people just click “yes,” assuming that they have to do so in order to get “in,” Unfortunately, what then happens, the person often does not realize what they have done and then a friend will ask “did you invite me to join LinkedIn?” and then both parties feel violated by the site.   If this has been your experience, I would ask you to – just for now – ignore all of those requests to join, just get in yourself to start experiencing the power for yourself before you dismiss it too quickly.  ….and when you get to that initial prompt to invite your address book, do like Nancy Regan told you to do and “just say no.”

 

Isn’t LinkedIn just Facebook for grownups?

This is of course patently false, but if you have this conception, I can see how it would be a significant barrier to entry.  When you get to the point when you are ready to move on from Facebook, why on earth would you want to move into the “grown-up” read: dull version!  LinkedIn is only superficially like Facebook in that it has a newsfeed feature and some buttons that mirror “like” and “comment” and “status updates.”  But the entire ethos of the site is different.  Speaking of which….

 

I don’t know what LinkedIn is supposed to be FOR!

LinkedIn is not some job board site where you upload your resume and wait.  Getting your information into LinkedIn is only the very beginning.  You get that in there so that you can begin DOING THINGS like researching, and reaching out, and recommending, and referring, and also lots of other things that don’t even begin with “R”!  🙂  LinkedIn is about finding your community, the people who are doing what you are doing, or what you would like to be doing, or what you would love to be doing.  It is a place to educate and empower yourself, to think about yourself and the people in your life differently.  Someone who has spent time on this site will engage with people that they meet differently.  People become resources, allies, and they present opportunities to pay it forward.

 

Don’t you have to pay for the site?

No

 

But LinkedIn is too “business-ey”!

…and I think part of this perception might come from the frequent requests to try “jobseeker premium,” the paid subscription features.   It is true that the way the site prompts you to build your profile feels quite constraining, and especially for someone who is entrepreneurial or creative, it may feel challenging to think about how to best capture who you are and what you are looking for.  To this, I would say three things:

  • It is not all about you.  LinkedIn is as much about finding people, groups, and opportunities as it is about presenting every nuance of who you are.  At least to begin with.
  • Find ways to be creative.  There are people in the platform who have found very creative ways to talk about who they are and what they do.  Upload a video!  Use your initial engagement with the site to see how others have captured more of who they are!
  • LinkedIn needs to change.  And it does constantly change and there is every reason to believe that it will continue to change.  Past performance tells us that the site will adapt to the needs of its users, and this is one way in which the world of work is rapidly changing, jobs are coming to be structured differently.  More and more of us are doing a variety of activities: consulting, writing, participating in community organizations, etc.  That all come together into a professional life.

I have a friend who is a brilliant stand-up comedian, but his LinkedIn site only shows his temp day jobs.  90% of his professional personality is muted because he seems to feel constrained by the site and what he can share.  But LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman is a model for how to capture a professional life that is multi-faceted.  He currently has 10 things listed under “Experience” as his “current” job!     Express yourself!  I think you will find that people respond to you differently.  I started hearing from entirely different pieces of my network when I included information about my storytelling on my LinkedIn profile!

LinkedIn gives a jobseeker something to do, if for nothing else, just to take stock of your current network.  I had a soon-to-graduate student meet with me this week who expressed that she had no idea how to begin educating herself about careers.  When I plugged in her very first keyword into my LinkedIn,  come to find out that several people she already knows well were gainfully  employed and very actively engaged in the work that she wanted to know more about.  Being focused on school can sometimes make us put blinders on about careers.  I am asking for even just an hour a week on this site to start to shift that.

LinkedIn is the single best way that I know to help enact the subtle changes in thinking that move someone from passively to actively jobseeking.  Some come on IN!

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