Why You Don't Necessarily Need to be on LinkedIn (for reals)
As a former longtime recruiting & human resources professional and still loving my work as a career coach, I have helped a lot of folks develop and/or update their LinkedIn profiles to assist them with their job search. With that, I'm going to blow some minds when I say the following:
You don't necessarily need to be on LinkedIn.
It can be wildly helpful in a lot of situations, but in others, it can be wildly annoying and/or wildly irrelevant. So with that, I wanted to provide a "Top 5" list of sorts, in no particular order, as to why you may not find being on LinkedIn particularly useful, and you can make up your own mind.
Your career path is not in a traditional corporate / office setting. School teacher? Plumber? Bartender? Clinical Healthcare Professional? Farmer? Artist? Butcher? It might not be particularly useful to have an online resume (which is what a LI profile is) as a job-seeker...or as a hiring manager! From union apprenticeship programs to word-of-mouth to good old fashioned help wanted signs and ads to having your own website advertising your services, many non-traditional career paths are built far from a BigTech networking site. My husband is one of those. He had a LI profile for many years working in disability services, but when he transitioned into his new career as a butcher, he found it completely irrelevant and finally closed his account last year.
You don't want/need to be found. LinkedIn makes *millions* from HR folks with their LinkedIn Recruiter tool (which you might not know costs $10K+ per year, per license/seat, folks - I know because as a consultant I had it for several years...as it is not free to reach out to thousands of prospective applicants!), as well as from sales teams with their Sales Navigator product, not to mention their "Premium" upgrades they market to every user. This means at any given time, your profile could be seen by someone looking to sell their company or their company's product to you. And if you've established a name for yourself in your industry, or simply have a hella good profile in an occupation where hiring is rampant, that means you'll be contacted...a lot. I know a number of my favorite former colleagues in tech who have elected to jump off the LinkedIn train, because they know exactly what they want to do, had established industry connections, and preferred to avoid the barrage of recruiters (the majority from staffing agencies around the world, of which a large percentage send generic messages that often prove they don't read profiles but simply do keyword searches). Guess what? They're doing just fine.
You prefer privacy. It's often forgotten that LinkedIn is part of BigTech, and there are many ways your privacy is erased as a user. Not only are you posting your work history for everyone to see (while there are privacy settings, few have LinkedIn accounts who aren't going to show their profiles - I mean, what's the point to have a private profile on a site designed for networking? And what many don't realize is that EVERYONE YOU CONNECT WITH HAS YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS YOU SET UP YOUR ACCOUNT WITH. So if you set it up with your personal account? Yep, that stranger in London who wanted to "connect with like-minded professionals" now knows your gmail address. And with that? You take the risk of being added to mailing lists by users uploading their LI contact lists into databases. How do I know? I've been solicited multiple times in this manner by people I only was connected to via LI - and immediately removed them from my network (and told them why). Oh yes, and this.
LinkedIn has become more and more like Facebook due to a lack of enforcement of trolling, hate speech and misinformation. This is a big one for me. LinkedIn is not known for their diversity hiring, which is particularly overrun with men in their engineering and support teams who are supposed to be creating a safe environments for users - and enforcing their policies that claim to have zero tolerance for misinformation and hate speech. They have miserable customer support and a long history of avoiding direct conversations and complaints from users (this is a great example, as is this). Owned by Microsoft, there is lots of talk but little action.
The platform doesn't offer the features you need. This is particularly relevant for creative occupations, where portfolios are key and where LinkedIn falls short. While I've coached clients on how to make their profiles more "portfolio-esque" by adding media links to their employment history, LinkedIn does a poor job translating even those visually, with about half of the links not "pinning" (to borrow from Pinterest) the image from the link onto the profile...or not accepting the link at all. Yeah, you'd think having been around for 15 years they'd have figured this out...but, nope. It's one of the main reasons I encourage so many job seekers, both in creative and other occupations, to create a simple website (like the one I have here, or freebies on other platforms) with an overview of your professional self and what you're especially proud of, whether it be your artistic portfolio, projects you've managed, community endeavors, leadership, or whatever else represents you. And if LinkedIn doesn't represent you like you need them to? Your own website will.
So what if you want to stay on LinkedIn but want to modify your approach? You can definitely do that. Here are some ideas to mull over...
Assess your current connections. Do you really need 4,000 contacts? Nope. You can trim those down to a more manageable number of people you actually know (or have a mutually beneficial relationship with). Removing connections is quick, painless, and doesn't notify the contact. After retiring from the recruiting side of my business, I did a massive overhaul of my network, removing literally thousands of contacts and coworkers who I'd reached out to over the years whose connections didn't serve a purpose for me anymore, whether it be because they were applicants I never knew, or former coworkers I never had a particularly close relationship with, or were folks I knew to be non-responsive to my attempts to contact on the platform.
Maximize your profile and account for your own benefit. Ensure your header, summary and employment history areas are up to date (the latter with job details, not just titles) as is your profile photo. Get connected to industry folks - and maintain the relationship. Request recommendations from former supervisors, colleagues, and direct reports so you are ready for future job prospects and for recruiters to find you. And get involved in the discussions on the front page that are pertinent to your professional interests - I've met some really amazing people by doing this I'd have not have bumped into any other way.
Don't fall for the marketing tactics. LinkedIn has a HUGE number of "career experts" and "resume writers" both self-promoting and included on their own posts that have no business being there. Liz Ryan is one of the worst offenders, constantly attacking the HR community without the professional experience to back it up. There is also a growing contingent of twentysomethings on the platform with little professional experience who market themselves as job search experts yet who have literally no background in recruiting/hiring, puffing themselves up and passing along piles of steaming hot misinformation to vulnerable job seekers over and over and over to make a few bucks. Similar to the large number of career counselors at universities who've never worked outside of academia yet think they can tell students how to write a resume or interview with an employer in their field, there's a lot of BS out there to filter through. Here's a post I wrote about how to pick a career coach, the differences among them, and how to vet prospective coaches.
Ultimately, you can have a LinkedIn profile if you ever think there's a remote possibility of needing to network or job search in the corporate world. As for me, I keep my network much smaller than I ever did, but make sure my profile is up to date at all times. It's also a great place for me to keep what I call my "extended version" resume and employer references that. One big no-no for anyone who has a LinkedIn account? Don't ignore messages that come in from your network. One of the biggest reasons I remove connections - even long term ones - is that they have become unresponsive. Don't want the job? A polite "no thank you". Don't want to accept the invitation? Click the 'decline' button. Don't have time to participate in that project/event/etc.? Again, tell the person contacting you. Otherwise, why are you a user?
In these times where tech can be overwhelming and abiding by the status quo in our careers is pressuring us from so many directions, know your options...and do what's best for you.