LinkedIn: Helpful Career Tool or Stalking Device?
Unless you've been under a rock the past few years, you know about LinkedIn. It is a social networking site that is intended to be career oriented. Companies often look to LinkedIn to learn more about potential employees, as well as following up with current employees. If you are looking for a job, it seems like a great way to network. LinkedIn really does have its benefits, but it is not without some drawbacks.
Sure, it seems like a fun site since you can post a profile. You add some basics about where you work, work experience, and education. You can search for jobs, former co-workers, and future co-workers when you get a new job. Sounds great, doesn't it? And yes, in many ways it is great. But just consider this, when you are searching for colleagues on LinkedIn, they are doing the same for you. Whatever info you can find on your co-workers, they can usually find on you. Just a little something you should think about before you put too much information.
The LinkedIn Trap
I often read articles about the best way to apply for jobs. In these constantly changing times, it is considered a requirement to have a LinkedIn profile in the professional world now. What makes it worse, it is a major career boo-boo to have an outdated profile. I've also heard you are pretty much shooting yourself in the foot if you don't post a photo.
So basically, if you are actively looking for a job, you need to have an updated profile with a professional looking photo. Your profile also has to be searchable. So there you are, desperately searching for jobs and knowing recruiters are going to look for your profile on LinkedIn. How unfortunate for you if you are a private person. Sorry, but you are expected to throw your privacy out the window now if you want to get a new job.
A good LinkedIn profile should list your current employer, as well as some past employers. Your work experience needs to be listed. If you want to make sure you get a good job, you are probably going to list the schools you attended. You will be polishing off that profile with a nice photo. So this means, if you happen to have anyone that is looking for you (ex-boyfriend, ex-girlfriend, ex-spouse, creepy stalkers, collection agencies, etc.), you just gave them plenty of information to find you. Now everyone knows where you work; they can easily look up your company's name and pay you a visit. In fact, you've even given them your photo, so if some creep decides to stalk you, he or she can just sit out in the parking lot where you work and match your face to your photo. Perfect!
I Can See You!
Let me give you a little story. At one of my past jobs, we worked with professionals and collected dues payments from them periodically. Since people often changed jobs or never gave us employment information in the first place, it used to be hard to track down those that decided to no longer pay dues. But with LinkedIn, it became super easy to find anyone in the professional world. It was basically handed to us on a platter.
In no time, my co-workers and I determined LinkedIn was the easiest way to find anyone we needed. Yes, LinkedIn was a better stalking tool than Facebook, Google, MySpace, or any of those sites that promises to find you anyone in the U.S. I find it interesting that MySpace gained such a poor reputation because of all the supposed "inappropriate" activity on the site. Yet I never had to tell MySpace the name of my employer or even give it a real photo of myself. Hell, when I joined, you still did not even have to give a real last name. Try that on LinkedIn and see how far you get. No one found me on MySpace from my past; yet, I constantly have people from my past finding me on LinkedIn. Gee, thanks.
LinkedIn Can Help
Don't get me wrong, I realize many people have found jobs because of LinkedIn. Plenty of companies posts jobs on LinkedIn. I also realize plenty of recruiters scope out LinkedIn and approach people about jobs. LinkedIn is the perfect website for networking with others in your field. It is a nice way to keep in touch with co-workers so you can use them as references in the future. All of that is wonderful!
I am also happy to say LinkedIn does now have a blocking tool because they started to receive complaints about... well... stalking! You can now adjust your privacy settings on LinkedIn so you don't have to share all your information with just anybody. All of that sounds pretty nifty to me. My only issue is, if you are actively looking for a job, it is not in your best interest to keep your profile too private. So be careful what you share on LinkedIn!
LinkedIn My Way
If you are wondering if there is a "happy middle" for LinkedIn, I am happy to say I think I have found one. I have simply stopped taking advice from career articles that don't know a thing about me. I think some of the advice is just unrealistic. Depending on what field you are going into, I don't think you need to put all your information out there. If you work in marketing or social media, then yes, all your information and your photo probably needs to be in your profile. Chances are, you already have a website with all that information on it anyway.
With all that said, I don't think most of us need to post too much information. I took down my profile photo months ago. You see, I may not have the most popular name in the world, but there are a few ladies out there with my name. There are also a few people I would like to avoid for the rest of my life. So now, when someone searches for my name on LinkedIn, there is no face to go with the name anymore. Is this the right Jeannie? Well, maybe, but maybe not. I am not going to make it too easy for those that search for me.
Do potential employers expect to see my photo on my LinkedIn profile? Sure, they probably do. Are they going to hold it against me that my profile does not have a photo? I hope not. If they do use that against me, I probably don't want to work at that company anyway. Thanks, but no thanks.
As far as other information goes, I give enough, but not too much. A general description of past job duties is enough. I make sure to add enough information about past employers so an HR person can compare my resume to my LinkedIn profile. When the two add up, that should be enough. Do I receive any unsolicited emails now from recruiters about potential jobs? Nope. Is that OK? Sure. I never received any job notifications I was actually interested in before anyway.
In the end, I am sure I sound slightly paranoid about LinkedIn. It is OK because a little paranoia keeps a person alert and safer than the average person. I know people that are a little too trusting with the information they share online, and nothing good has come of it. So feel free to use LinkedIn however you'd like, just know that you don't have to fall into the LinkedIn trap like all the articles claim you do. The economy is not as bad as it once was, and you are allowed to share as much or as little as you want on LinkedIn.
Copyright ©2015 Jeannieinabottle
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