LinkedIn has been around since 2003 and is widely considered the benchmark for professional networking social media platforms. But is the site still relevant, or is it a waste of time? If you don't use LinkedIn effectively, your searches, messages, and other activity on the site can take hours, squandering considerable time.
However, when used correctly, and with panache, LinkedIn can perform near miracles for your career's development. Recruiters and employers both use LinkedIn to source candidates for employment, sometimes even using recently departed employees or newly-placed employees for career-networking opportunities of their own.
Do You Need a LinkedIn Profile?
The short answer is "Yes." Even if you choose not to spend a lot of time on LinkedIn, or any time at all, it's still worth taking 30 minutes or so to set up your complete LinkedIn profile. Then, make an appointment on your calendar to check in on it every six months or so, and update with any new, big accomplishments. In addition to those scheduled check-ins with your profile, of course, you should update it anytime you switch jobs.
Recruiters and hiring managers use LinkedIn to search for candidates. So, if you don't have a presence on the site, you won't come up during searches. Having a LinkedIn account also means that you can use the site to research companies, interviewers, recruiters, and hiring managers, which is helpful before submitting applications and showing up to interviews.
In short, having a profile is a good idea. Even if you are not actively searching for employment, you can use LinkedIn to connect with current and former colleagues and link to people you meet at networking events, conferences, and so on. To engage even more with the site, join LinkedIn Groups.
While there's more to know about whether LinkedIn can help with your job search, here's a snapshot of the good and not-so-good features:
The Benefits of Creating a LinkedIn Account
Aside from your time, it's free, although there is a paid option. And for many recruiters or hiring managers, their first step after receiving a resume or job application is to look up the candidate on LinkedIn.
More and more companies have moved to standardized online applications, and it is more common than ever to see a LinkedIn section near the resume upload tool, where you can upload your LinkedIn profile right next to your CV. If it is well crafted, this is a huge advantage since potential hiring managers will not only be viewing your resume but your LinkedIn profile as well.
LinkedIn is an easy, modern way to maintain a Rolodex of connections that may be helpful in your career. That person you met at a conference five years ago may very well wind up working at your dream company, or that colleague from your very first job may know a hiring manager you're eager to contact. With just a quick message you can reconnect and pursue a new lead.
Why LinkedIn Could Waste Your Time and Money
While creating a profile on LinkedIn is highly recommended, the site can take up too much time for which you're not being paid. Here are a few things to keep an eye out for:
It can be pricey—and doesn't necessarily deliver. One of the features LinkedIn offers is "Job Seeker Premium." You get a month free, and then there is a monthly fee, which as of early 2019 was $29.99 per month. With Job Seeker Premium, you can see who's viewed your profile and how you compare to other applicants, get access to video courses and salary insights, and send direct messages to recruiters.
Premium also allows you to move your application to the top of the list as a "featured applicant." However, the recruiter sees a badge next to your name, indicating that you paid for that position.
As a social media tool, it becomes easy to lose focus. Like any social media platform, LinkedIn wants engaged users who interact with the site frequently and stay on it. Just as putting in hundreds of applications to jobs that are not a good fit for your experience isn't productive, so too is spending hours scrolling deep down into the profiles of hiring managers. At a certain point, it becomes more akin to browsing Instagram or Facebook than doing any real job searching.
How to Make LinkedIn Work for You
Start by creating or updating your profile. That's what you use to connect with people in your network. Your profile is also how you get found on LinkedIn because it contains information about your skills and experience, which are crawled by the bot to match recruiters' employer search parameters.
LinkedIn won't work for you if you don’t identify yourself. Setting up a LinkedIn profile with “Private Profile” or “Human Resources Manager” (if you're seeking applicants) instead of your name and asking someone to connect isn't going to be effective.
If confidentiality is a concern, don't worry. LinkedIn is one of the most private social networks. Connect only with people you know well. Be strategic if you’re job searching while employed, and don’t announce it to your connections. There are ways you can job search confidentially without jeopardizing your current position.
Once you have your profile in place, you'll want to invite people to join your network. Start growing your network and writing messages to your contacts. You can send LinkedIn messages to request recommendations as well as for job search and career assistance and advice.