Navigating the Trash Bin That is LinkedIn
As a career coach and advisor, I talk about LinkedIn all the time. I tell students and clients about its relevance, and help them build profile pages so that they can grow their networks and gain new career opportunities. “It’s a 24/7 living resume”, I say. “A professional profile page is better than no online presence”, I say. While all of this is true, it doesn’t change the fact that LinkedIn is complete trash. It is a garbage dump of uselessness that has deviated to far from its initial purpose that I question how much longer it will be in existence. Despite this, you still need a profile. Why? Well… In this post, I’ll go into why LinkedIn sucks and how you can use it without losing your mind.
I’ve had a LinkedIn profile since 2007. Back in those days, the purpose and function of the site were pretty straight forward – collect professional contacts to grow your network (and, by extension, your career). And it was fine. Not an everyday social media site like (the) Facebook or MySpace (which was still totally a thing). It just just a place where you updated your academic and work experiences, saw who was doing what where, and gathered intel on your potential interviewers and employers.
Then Facebook added a news feed and LinkedIn was like “Let’s do that, too!” And then it became a garbage dump.
The feed didn’t immediately make the site trash. For awhile, there was a tacit understanding that things should be kept professional. Articles were industry-specific and career-focused and people were professional and respectful. But that didn’t last long. Between the click bait articles and the “like if you agree” memes, LinkedIn became what people claim to hate about social media. Factor in the asinine (and assholey) comments that accompany even the most innocuous content and you get a website that is, as I’ve stated before, complete trash.
(An aside: I’m always confused about folks posting vitriol on a website whose purpose it is to easily link individuals to where they work. At least a Twitter troll can mask their identity a little bit! You post (or like) something ridiculous or unprofessional on there and people have a direct line to your boss. Not smart.)
But, as I’ve also stated before, you still need a profile. Until there is a better option, you still need to be there so that people who are looking for your talents and skill set can easily find you. Recruiters still use the site to find people they want to hire, so it behooves your career to belong. In other words, it’s a professional norm that isn’t going away any time soon.
LinkedIn isn’t going to address this any time soon since they make a massive amount of money from the click-through consumption. This, however, does not mean that you have to get sucked down the drain. Here are three ways to ensure your head doesn’t explode every time you’re on LinkedIn.
Don’t scroll the feed.
For the love of everything you love, don’t do this. Not doing this one thing will exponentially decrease the dumpster fire of feelings that LinkedIn brings out. There is no need to scroll. Do you really want to see memes about leadership or read faux inspirational stories about success posted by miserable people who hate their jobs? Do you want to stumble upon a racist comment from a former colleague or see that your company’s operations manager gave a thumbs up to an article for employment discrimination? I know I don’t! This is why I don’t scroll. (I scrolled for the purposes of writing this post and wanted to rip my eyeballs out. You’re welcome, readers!)
Do what you came to do.
If you logged in to update your profile or review connection requests, then just do that and leave. Complete your tasks and be on your way. The easiest way to deal with LinkedIn is in the smallest possible dose with the lowest level of engagement. Check your inbox. Add some new skills. Use the alumni portal to find new potential contacts . Read up on the discussions in your industry-relevant groups. But don’t get on the feed. Avoid the dumpster fire at all costs.
Unfollow/disconnect with people.
In my experience, a lot of people have a misconception that you can’t disconnect from people on LinkedIn. This is false. While this option isn’t as heavily advertised as it is on other social networking sites (and the company tries to dissuade users from doing this), it is a great way to drain some of the nonsense from your feed. It is also the only way to make sure that your network is working for you. The whole point of LinkedIn is to advance your career. If the people you’re connected to aren’t serving that purpose, cut them off.
You do have to be strategic with this. There are people who won’t notice and people who will notice right away. If the person is someone you don’t see on the regular (or don’t know in the first place), then kick them to the curb and keep it moving! No need to compromise your user experience for someone who has no bearing on your career. It might cause some drama to disconnect from your boss or co-workers, however, so this would be a time to just unfollow their posts. This way, you remain connected but don’t have to be exposed to their nonsense.
I still recommend not engaging with the feed at all. But if you really want to, this is the way to go.
LinkedIn was never cool, but at least it was tolerable. It served a purpose. Now it’s just cluttered with the same stuff that I don’t want to see in other parts of the internet. I hope there is a new site in the pipeline somewhere that preserves the function of LinkedIn without the feed. We need a place to make and nurture professional connections, but we don’t need their unprofessional opinions. That’s what Twitter is for.