LinkedIn has been in business since 2003 and is widely considered the benchmark for professional networking social media platforms. There are more than 700 million users on the platform from countries around the world, and each week, 40 million people use LinkedIn to search for a job.
Who's On LinkedIn
When you use it 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. But as with many job search tools, there's a possibility for it to become a waste of time.
If you don't use LinkedIn effectively, your searches, messages, and other activity on the site can eat up hours, squandering considerable time.
Here's what you need to know about using LinkedIn for your career.
Do You Need a LinkedIn Profile?
The short answer: 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. These communities exist for all sorts of categories—geographic locations, alumni groups, industry-focused groups, and so on.
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
- It's free. There is a paid option that offers additional benefits, but the basic free version offers plenty of features. One caveat: While it's financially free to create and maintain an account, these tasks do take up your time (another cost).
- Important people use LinkedIn. Recruiters and hiring managers will often look up a candidate on LinkedIn after receiving a job application or resume.
- It's another way to see job postings. You can search for job posts on the site. Plus, often people post job opportunities that may be more under the radar.
- It may be part of the application process. 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.
- It's 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.
- It's a good way to research companies. During the application and interview process, researching companies is an important step. LinkedIn can help you do that. Plus, you can also look up people you'll be interviewing with on the platform, which can help you prep for your conversation.
- It can help build up your brand. People can provide endorsements and recommendations, which helps give recruiters and anyone else looking at your profile a sense of your experience and talents. In general, you can think of your LinkedIn profile as a good way to develop and build your brand. Often, a person's LinkedIn profile page is one of the top results if someone searches a person's name online.
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 2021 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.
You can also send LinkedIn messages to request recommendations as well as for job search and career assistance and advice.