LinkedIn is turning 15. (The birthday is the subject of this blog, along with some interesting infographics about how the world has changed over the 15 years)
As part of their birthday celebration, LinkedIn is encouraging people to share their career aspirations when they were 15 years old.
I am actually taking this post in a different direction (surprise!) but I am nothing if not a rule follower, so to answer the question about career aspirations when I was 15, here goes:
I don’t recall specifically what my big career dreams were at 15. I was still heavily involved in music (band), but didn’t plan to major in music. I was probably already leaning toward psychology/mental health, but still had strong political aspirations and a business orientation. Given that the summer I graduated from high school (at 17), I spent the summer knocking on doors trying to save souls, I’m pretty sure I also was still considering being a missionary. Whatever I planned to do, I am sure travel was a must. It always has been.
And most of our pictures are packed away due to our house being for sale, so my “Me at 14” picture will have to do for the pic LinkedIn wants.
Enough About Me, Let’s Talk About You, Birthday Site
It occurred to me it would be much more fun/interesting to talk about LinkedIn, which has changed so much over the 15 years. Here are 15 somewhat randomly organized observations about the good, the bad, and the mystifying.
1 – LinkedIn is an important part of the social media landscape
When Sree Sreenivasan presented How to Use Social Media in Your Career through the New York Times, he listed LinkedIn first among five social media options, noting it has 500 million members, calling it the “quintessential professional network.”
I tend to think LinkedIn is here to stay, having made it 15 years.
2- LinkedIn is a useful and varied place to find content
One of my tasks at my freelance position is searching for timely posts about legal practice management issues that also meet specific editorial guidelines. When all my usual go-to options fail, LinkedIn is sometimes helpful.
If you’re not in a position of having to be picky about editorial criteria, I think you could find something about almost anything remotely business-related on LinkedIn.
I tried to think of something relatively obscure to search for on LinkedIn and came up with vinegar. That led me (through a content search) to:
3 – Having to explain LinkedIn to someone else helped me understand it better
A few years ago, I had an opportunity to be an assistant in a LinkedIn workshop for sales professionals. Isn’t it always the case that you learn more about something by having to explain it to someone else? The experience gave me more confidence with LinkedIn as I helped participants figure out how to set up their accounts and how to get the most out of them. (Big thanks to Becky Robinson for her role in giving me this chance.)
4 – Posting on LinkedIn for a client is a great way to learn more about how to navigate LI
Two of the freelance positions I have held in the past four years have involved posting to LinkedIn on behalf of clients. Doing this has been another way to expand my LinkedIn abilities and give me a different perspective. Holding someone else’s professional image in your hands (at your keyboard?) or that of an organization is a big responsibility.
5 – When LinkedIn introduced live video as an option, that was an asset
I don’t agree with all the changes LinkedIn has made over the years, but this is one I liked. “If a video is available, 60% of visitors will opt to watch it before reading any text,” according to Replay Science. Presenting material through video is more likely to get someone’s attention (that’s what you want, right?). Also, the process of delivering material through video helps you practice your presentation and videography skills, something we all need anyway.
6 – Hashtags, on the other hand…
Call me old school, call me hesitant to change, call me whatever. I’m not a fan of hashtags on LinkedIn. I recently argued, during a conference call with a freelance team I was on, that they shouldn’t be used. Au contraire, they argued. Use them or don’t do our social. Well okay.
One reason I don’t like hashtags on LinkedIn is that, when I was posting for a client on Buffer or Hootsuite, I had to do their posting separately because a hashtag would give away the fact that I was bulk posting across several sites at once. It was a check and balance that made me try to add something unique to their LinkedIn posting. I guess I should just be happy for the streamlined workload. Maybe I just like doing things the hard way and am a glutton for punishment. I prefer thinking I care about my clients’ content being the best, most attractive, most compelling it can be.
7 – And GIFS, on the “other” other hand
I just learned that LinkedIn now accepts GIFS within its messages component.
Why, LI, why?
8 – Writing articles on LinkedIn (along with other activities) can still be awkward and cumbersome
The LinkedIn user interface has improved over the years (hopefully we all get better with age), but it can still feel clunky, non-intuitive and confusing to me. Back in 2015, co-founder Reid Hoffman was quoted in The Next Web as saying:
I think some people find it very confusing. That’s absolutely the case and there’s definitely more work we can do.
Keep working on it, LinkedIn. Please.
9 – Keywords are of paramount importance
Keywords matter now more than ever on LinkedIn (and this, of course, is not unique to LinkedIn). This is one I am better at parroting than implementing, apparently, but I am learning. Former LinkedIn staff member Jeremy Schifeling of Break Into Tech says keywords are critical to making you “findable” when he lists the only four things that matter on LinkedIn.
10 – I don’t know how long I’ve been on LinkedIn
I would have referenced how long I’ve been on LinkedIn if I could figure out how to do that. See also #7, about the difficult interface. Twitter has its faults, but one of them isn’t the ease of figuring out how long I’ve been there. (The discovery below took me one click.)
11 – Networking metrics are difficult to follow
This is another category that I have trouble figuring out sometimes. There’s a difference between connections and followers. I had to gather number of connections for a former freelance client, and every single month I had to dig through her profile in a byzantine manner to figure it out (it’s harder when someone has more than 500 connections). I got it right for her every month, but it was so frustrating to not have an easy way.
12 – Having a premium account gives you more benefits, but can be expensive
I have not yet personally seen the benefit of paying for a LinkedIn premium account, but it does give users more benefits. One of my clients had premium and I did have a bit of an “ooh-aah this is cool” reaction every time I used it. Here’s one breakdown to help you decide and here’s another.
13 – LinkedIn can be important to personal branding
[Note: I got this one from 5 LinkedIn tips to strengthen your personal brand (and I agree with its premise).]
Any senior leader who is interviewing, partnering, mentoring, and attending or speaking at conferences needs to create the right online impression to match their personal brand and values. – Sandra Long, author of LinkedIn for Personal Branding: The Ultimate Guide.
14 – I struggle to figure out how much to segregate the personal from the professional
In my mind, LinkedIn is for professional content mainly.
However, I don’t comply with my own beliefs.
I do think the site has become more blurry about personal vs. professional. When I was looking for vinegar-related content (see #2 above), there were several recipes and gorgeous food photographs to scroll past before I found a business article about vinegar. For a moment, I thought I may have inadvertently ended up on Instagram.
I still try to skew content to the professional side even if it is mostly personal. For instance, when I wrote about caregiving, I usually prefaced a link on LinkedIn with “your employees may be experiencing caregiving stress” or something similar.
Ultimately, though, I’m not that much of a “compartmentalization” sort of person (rightly or wrongly). What you see (or read) is what you get, and I bring my whole self to work, in general. In addition, since writing is part of my professional profile, pretty much everything I post is a potential work sample.
15 – LinkedIn is useful for job-hunting
LinkedIn is an effective tool for job hunting. Despite its good and bad points, it is a place to share your expertise, network and pursue opportunities.
Happy Birthday, LinkedIn
In the LinkedIn Turns 15 post, Allen Blue says the platform’s initial tagline was “relationships matter.” Although some of the interface issues make it a bit difficult to pursue those relationships sometimes, the platform does make a difference for those of us who commit time and energy to it.
Keep on making a difference, LinkedIn. And Happy Birthday.
Note: I am linking this post to a Kat Bouska prompt, “write a post inspired by the word time.”
Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many. My pronouns are she/her/hers.