Ah, LinkedIn. Just when you think you’ve got the site all figured out, they completely replace a familiar interface or feature with a brand-new one — or you stumble across an aspect of it that somehow, amazingly, you’ve never noticed before.
Even after 11 years of teaching this tool to audiences far and wide, I still run into these same issues myself and occasionally have to check the help menu to figure out the latest, greatest way to accomplish something on the site.
With this in mind, I thought it might be worthwhile to highlight a handful of helpful features the majority of LinkedIn users (in my experience) never come across that can be of tremendous value and utility, particularly within a career management or job hunting context.
Tell Employers You’re Looking for Work — Confidentially
For years, one of the most challenging aspects of LinkedIn has been the quandary you face when you’re in search of a new job while you're still employed. How do you use LinkedIn for your search and keep your boss or co-workers from finding out about it?
If you’re in this situation, you obviously shouldn’t state openly on your profile that you’ve got a wandering eye and are actively seeking your next gig. And yet, if you don’t mention you’re available, is it reasonable to assume that recruiters will overlook you, thinking you’re not interested in making a move?
Thankfully, the brilliant engineers at LinkedIn have come up with a new feature to help with this common scenario.
If you visit the Jobs page of the site and open the Preferences menu, you’ll notice a new setting called “Let recruiters know you’re open.” Turn this setting on and anyone using LinkedIn’s recruiter platform will be able to tell you’re actively looking for a new opportunity, while anybody whose profile indicates they work in the same company as you, or at an affiliated organization, won't be able to see you’re on the hunt.
While this option is not foolproof, as LinkedIn’s disclaimers clearly warn, this feature should work fairly well for the majority of users and will allow you to announce your availability with minimal risk of the wrong people getting wind of the news.
Find Companies That Fit Your Needs
Another great feature of LinkedIn (that’s almost impossible to find, for some reason), is the advanced companies search page. This page lets you quickly build a list of employers using various location, size and industry criteria. What’s more, when your sorted list comes up, simply clicking on a company name will instantly tell you whether you have any friends or friends of friends at the organization — people you can approach for a warm referral.
So how do you find this special company page? Simply click on the Advanced link in the top right of the main LinkedIn screen (next to the search feature) and then click on the second blue Advanced link you’ll notice at the top left of the next page that comes up.
On the surface, this second Advanced link looks like a superficial header or back button, but it’s actually a link that opens up a sub-menu where you’ll find the powerful company page option. Click “Companies” on this sub-menu and the whole screen transforms, allowing you to apply filters on the left side of the page to assemble a list of companies meeting your exact specifications.
Email People in Your Groups, for Free
On our next stop, we come to the topic of LinkedIn Groups. Most people are at least aware of the Groups feature and many have joined several of these virtual communities related to their interests. However, what people don’t necessarily realize is that you can email other members in your Groups for free — that means without paying for a premium membership or having to buy the site’s expensive InMail credits.
Again, using this feature comes down to knowing how to navigate a non-intuitive user interface. To see who’s in your Groups, you need to open up a Group page and click on the number of members listed under the group name. This will let you see the full membership list. Then you can hover your cursor over the name of any member’s name to display an email icon that allows you to message that person. Since nothing on the page suggests you do any of this, and the number of members itself isn’t underlined, most people never think to click on it. But that’s the key step to unlocking this feature.
For practice, you might pop into one of your own Groups right now (via the Interests, Groups, My Groups menu) and try the steps above, just to see how they work, for future reference.
Land Freelance Work
Last but not least, LinkedIn has recently rolled out a new feature that I suspect is going to be an increasing focus of their efforts.
In an attempt to capitalize on the exploding gig economy market, and the burgeoning freelance market, LinkedIn has added a page to help you land contract and freelance work. You’ll find this new feature under the Interests menu — it’s labeled ProFinder on some systems and Freelance Marketplace on others. Despite the potential confusion, it’s the exact same thing and the functionality is identical.
At any rate, pay a visit to this page, poke around, and you’ll see that there is a wide variety of service categories built into the tool, ranging from graphic design to writing and editing, real estate to wellness. Should you be in need of one of these services, all you have to do is answer a few simple questions and you’ll be matched up with some potential providers on the system.
Alternatively, if you’re a freelancer or consultant yourself, you can sign up to be listed in the directory (there’s no charge). Then you will automatically be contacted if a potential prospect expresses interest in your line of work.
Initially, I wasn’t sure quite how effective this tool would be or how long it might take to gain traction. But I went ahead and signed up as a career coach on the system to test it — and lo and behold! I’ve been getting an average of 10–15 leads a week sent to me via email. For those folks who work as consultants or who are seeking to make a little extra money on the side, I’d definitely encourage you to check out this powerful new lead generation tool — just one of the many LinkedIn features people overlook that can have a significant impact on your career fortunes.