It’s 2021. You’re looking for a new job. Where do you start?
If you ask around you’re likely going to hear a few answers. People may tell you to check online job boards, network, or update your resume. Where can you do all of that? On LinkedIn!
Like most other social networks, LinkedIn has been evolving since its public release in 2003. We now live in a time where graduating students are told they need a LinkedIn profile, creating a stigma around the platform. Young adults often register for an account thinking this will play a valuable role in getting a job. But does it actually get you a job? That question is up for debate, and LinkedIn’s future direction seems to be moving it further away from job acquisition.
When you look at the newer features on LinkedIn, a lot of them center around user engagement and the ways we can communicate. If you want to go “live” or post a poll, LinkedIn has features for you. This can allow people to research companies and acquire information, but it doesn’t seem too helpful for new job seekers.
LinkedIn is starting to emulate other social networks with their features. While the network can be used for professional purposes, recent additions seem to move away from its original identity. LinkedIn may not be the tool students hope it will be, so is it even useful enough to have?
Is LinkedIn Useful For the Job Seeker?
I feel like I fall into the majority when it comes to LinkedIn members. I am on there for two primary reasons: firstly, because everyone tells me I need it. Secondly, I’d like to use it for potential career prospects.
Then I think of my actual experiences on LinkedIn. I built a profile, put in all of my work experiences, and looked at job boards. I’ve even applied to jobs on LinkedIn in the past, though I haven’t had a great deal of success. There are often times when I asked myself why I even stick around. I don’t get the results I’d hope to see, nor do I feel this profile is my strongest online presence (though it’s certainly not a bad one). I have heard stories of people finding jobs and meaningful connections, though the people I know in real life don’t fall into that category.
In order for people to get employed through LinkedIn, recruiters need to be using the service. There is good news surrounding this, as a reported 87% of recruiters do use LinkedIn to “search” for candidates. The bad news, the term “search” isn’t defined too strongly. Some recruiters may be identifying potential matches for hiring needs, but other recruiters are just verifying your identity and experiences. It’s just another step in your digital background check.
While researching the successes on LinkedIn, I found a shockingly low number of articles that would encourage someone in my position. If I define my goal as “getting hired” or “getting interviews,” there doesn’t seem to be a lot of data suggesting LinkedIn will help me. I would imagine a service dedicated to professional networking would boast about these results if they were strong. Instead, I was left with independent studies on the service. For example, one survey determined that only 41% of users actually found LinkedIn to assist them when searching for employment opportunities.
Researching LinkedIn never really answered my question. I can’t confidently say why I am on the website. I also can’t think of a reason why I should leave it, but the future of LinkedIn isn’t painting an incredible picture for the job seeker.
What Are People Doing On LinkedIn?
Of all the of professional uses on LinkedIn, it has been a good resource for networking. I’ve met a few great people through the platform, and while they didn’t directly move me into a new career, they have shared advice and listened to my stories. This is the reason I have been happiest with LinkedIn, and probably my biggest motivation for remaining on the platform.
It seems in the earlier days of LinkedIn people were using the service primarily for networking. This is apparent by the older features you’ll find on the site. Early into its life, your LinkedIn profile was defined by the number of connections you had in your network. It would also let you know if people had similar work experiences as you or had mutual connections. Theoretically, this would allow you to expand your circle. There were also premium services, such as reaching out to members via InMail and seeing who viewed your profile.
Later into the life of LinkedIn, the features would expand into content sharing and creation. This was in a timeline style more akin to Facebook. There’s nothing wrong with this, and many people can find valuable information through content. In some cases it’s a less direct method of networking, but there are also times when it allows people begin dialogues with others.
If you truly want to understand LinkedIn’s future direction, it can help to look at their paid services.
In their premium services, there is an option for members to use the platform for sales. Thinking of the earliest features on the website, this is a shift in direction. LinkedIn has always pushed premium/ paid features, but many of their interactions over the past couple of years have placed an emphasis on generating leads.
It also seems many users have been bombarded by profile trying to make sales. In fact, members have used LinkedIn to write articles about handling sales pitches on LinkedIn. The more people use LinkedIn, they more they will become accustomed to the spam that plagues the service. Marketers are advising against using the service for spammy sales, but it’s become a staple of the LinkedIn experience.
This is what has defined my experience on LinkedIn recently. Some networking, fruitless job searches, and an uptick of sales pitches. To make matters worse, LinkedIn seems to be embracing the use of sales tools for its paying members. It seems unlikely they will be going away soon.
What LinkedIn Isn’t Going to Be
Beyond the sales, LinkedIn will be placing an emphasis on content creation. This is clear with its new features that mimic those of other social networks. Live videos, content reactions, polls, and photo management all seem to be part of LinkedIn in 2021.
This isn’t completely useless, but it moves away from the reasons I signed up for LinedIn in the first place. I don’t see an emphasis on acquiring jobs. I see an emphasis on businesses building an online presence and users creating a personal brand.
As the landscape of employment is more digital than ever, LinkedIn hasn’t done the one thing it ought to do: replace the resume. While LinkedIn isn’t the most beautiful platform, it’s clean enough to organize data well. It could have been a game changer in the way we apply for work. Instead, it’s an addition to your resume. Even when applying for jobs on LinkedIn, users are encouraged to attach their personal resume. So it’s really just a place to duplicate information rather than a streamlined method to apply for jobs.
LinkedIn will convert your profile into a resume. It’s not visually pleasing, nor will it impress any recruiter. This feature serves as a relic of what LinkedIn could have been. In its early days LinkedIn probably wanted to revolutionize the ways people applied for jobs. Instead it’s a way to share stories with other professionals.
Applying for jobs or profile management seems to be less important when you look at newer features. Now, LinkedIn wants content and premium members.
Should You Still Use LinkedIn?
If someone asked me whether or not they need a LinkedIn profile in 2021, my answer would be yes and no. You’re expected to have one, and it’s good to have that presence online. So long as the information on your LinkedIn profile syncs with your resume, it’s a positive digital footprint. Especially if you have other questionable information online, LinkedIn will bury that information with more professional information.
LinkedIn also isn’t a fast track to career success. You can have positive outcomes on the website, but you need to put in work. A lot of work. If you’re willing to reach out to strangers and get on the phone with someone you just messaged online, you might find yourself making career progress. If that seems like more effort than you’re willing to put forward, you don’t really need a LinkedIn, and you especially don’t need to be active.
In terms of their future direction, it seems the average user is mostly going to want to use LinkedIn for researching companies and some networking. People looking for individualized advice might need to go elsewhere. According to a New York Times article (which I ironically found through LinkedIn) people are going to Reddit for unemployment advice. During a time when LinkedIn should have been the best career resource, people opted for Reddit.
I do admit some bias here. After a decade, I never found the career development on LinkedIn that I expected. Some people may have different stories, especially if they work in a tech field. When I was a student close to graduation, everyone was talking about LinkedIn as part of the employment process. Now that I am on LinkedIn, I see a shift toward sales and content development.
LinkedIn does have its place. It’s not completely useless, but it could have been much more. I also need to remember that LinkedIn itself might not be the best, but I have met great people on there. That is its biggest redeeming quality, and one that shouldn’t be overshadowed. Sometimes LinkedIn is useful, but most of the time I just find myself adjusting expectation.