job search

Why LinkedIn needs to adapt to user needs

Wow. Here I am again, writing about my old friend LinkedIn.

I wrote about LinkedIn when I was a staff writer at CareerBuilder (when I wasn’t writing about CB’s own network, BrightFuse), and again when I was pounding the cold, unfriendly pavement in a long, post-layoff hell.

In 2014, after taking a few years to return to the halls of higher education, I’m a few months into a new job search. And while LinkedIn still has some amazing networking components and a healthy database of job listings, I don’t think it’s evolved to be all that it could be.

I’m talking about two main points here: industry, and location.

INDUSTRY: It’s been drilled into many of us that we must respond to the job skills market, that we should be agile and flexible in terms of our skill set, our experience and our interests. And many of us are starting second or even third careers, in clusters of competency that don’t always obviously relate to one another, or that may speak to different strengths we have.

This is certainly true for me. I’ve long had a dual career path. I have amazing organizational and administrative skills, and I’ve been really good at leading projects and processes in my corporate jobs. I seldom learn a job by repetition, preferring instead to be analytical and to understand how different parts of a system interact and relate to one another.

I also have years of experience in a distinctly different area, as a writer and journalist, working in both social media and print. I’ve written feature stories, annual reports and PR content. I’d say that’s pretty flexible.

linkedin_logoAnd yet, LinkedIn has a limited number of industry labels, of which you can only pick one. Have a “slash” career with multiple clusters of experience? Too bad.

LOCATION: The days of working the same job for 40 or 50 years is a thing of the past. For many of us, it also means that living in the same area for 40 or 50 years is also an outdated concept. Since 2000, the launch of my professional career, I’ve lived in three different cities.

I wasn’t being flighty or undependable – each job lasted for several years and I achieved a lot in each one of them. But I responded to opportunity, as well as changes in my personal life, when I moved to a new town.

In a tight job market, it would be a godsend to be able to indicate more than one potential location on your LinkedIn profile.

Yes, there are ways to work around this; joining a LinkedIn group in cities of interest is a obvious way to build visibility. But it seems like having multiple choices for city/region would help us job seekers be more visible to potential employers — or at least tell a clearer story about our long term intentions.

PLAN OF ACTION: I do understand LinkedIn’s perspective, and the perspective of the companies who are searching for candidates. The system should be straightforward and simple.

And clearly, opening these fields to a free-for-all would be an absolute nightmare.

For all the benefits of CareerBuilder and Monster, its ease of use invites a lot of candidates who, despite good intentions, are just not qualified for the jobs for which they are applying. It becomes very easy in the dark pit of a long, arduous job search to just apply for every damn thing you see. I’ve been there, wrote the book and saw the movie — it’s sorely tempting to start flinging your resume at as many walls as you can in the hopes that it will stick.

One idea would be that LinkedIn industry and location fields would still requires a single primary selection, but allows a secondary selection field where additional industries and/or additional cities could be entered — a searchable field, of course, that hiring managers and HR people could see in a search for candidates. (Obviously, one that would also be visible and easy to understand if the job seeker used LinkedIn to apply online.)

I would be completely OK with LinkedIn including these benefits as part of their Premium package. I think that would minimize the risk of the free-for-all scenario playing out, but would still allow people who really need to use those fields the capability to add them to their profiles.

Regardless of my own personal preferences as a user, it seems to me that LinkedIn needs to become more agile and flexible, and respond to the needs of its users. It’s the 21st century workforce marketplace, after all. Time to get on board!

Turbo job search

job_searchAfter nine months of searching, I have some encouraging news in my job search. I don’t want to jinx it by talking about details before the ink is dry, so to speak, but let’s just say that it appears there is light at the end of the unemployment tunnel!

It was a long, hard, emotionally draining search over those months. I thought I was an expert; after all, I’d just spent a few months in early 2008 learning best practices when I was searching for a job that would bring me to Chicago.

And then I was hired for my dream job – where I actually wrote about careers and job searching. I was devastated to lose that job, but I’d figured I had just had a master course in how to look for work. I’d only be out of work for a month or two, tops. Right? Well, not quite.

2009 was an entirely different ballgame. What I can tell other people is this: Your search today must be unlike any other search you’ve ever conducted. You have to be in a lot of places, all at the same time. You can’t just use one or two tools to land a job – you have to use the whole damn toolbox.

You can’t glide through a standard-issue job search. You have to kick it up to TURBO.

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Lose your job? Tell your story

Michaela Watkins

Michaela Watkins

Last week, casting news at Saturday Night Live made a big splash on Twitter and the Web. The show fired two of its female performers (Casey Wilson and Michaela Watkins) and hired two others (Nasim Pedrad and Jenny Slate).

There was a lot of debate about the changes: who was funny, who wasn’t, and why SNL only has four female performers in a cast of 15. I’ll admit that I don’t watch SNL frequently enough to be able to offer an opinion.

What really got my attention was how quickly the former cast members, particularly Watkins, got THEIR story out there. News of the cast changes hit the wires early Friday morning (September 4th), and by the end of the day, Watkins had talked to Entertainment Weekly and The New York Times, as well as other outlets.

Both performers talked to the press, but Watkins in particular seemed to understand that she needed to take this news, this change of course, and reframe it in a way that was a win for her. I don’t know if it was her or her PR team, but she was quite successful in putting the focus on her and her talents.

That’s a journey for anyone who’s lost their job: How do you get YOUR story out there?

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