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 many 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 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, then click on the “Update preferences” link a Job Preferences box will pop the middle of the screen. Scroll down a bit and you’ll stumble across a setting called “Let recruiters know you’re open.” Turn this setting on and anyone using LinkedIn’s recruiter platform will be able to tell that 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.
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 areas of interest. However, the majority of users don’t necessarily realize you can email the people you’re in Groups with for free — without paying for a premium membership or having to buy the site’s expensive InMail credits.
Given this ability to email fellow LinkedIn Group members for free, a powerful networking method is to go into your various Groups, see who the other members are and look for those you might want to reach out to. Keep an eye out for any appropriate folks who might be relevant to your career goals.
To find your Groups, click on the “Work” menu in the upper right corner of your profile. Next, open a Group page and click on the number of members you’ll see under the group name (even though nothing about this text suggests it’s actually a live, workable link); this will open up the full membership list. Then you can use the “Find a member” search to locate a specific person, or you can simply peruse the member list. Next, hover over the listing for a person you want to contact. At this point, an email icon will pop up allowing you to message that person for free.
All in all, it sounds like quite a process, but once you’ve got the hang of the steps involved it tends to become second nature. For practice, you might pop into one of your own Groups right now and try the series of steps above, just to get familiar with them and 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, LinkedIn has added a new feature allowing people to both find contract workers, if needed, as well as to offer their own services on a freelance basis. You’ll find this new feature — called ProFinder — located under the "Work" menu on the right side of the main LinkedIn toolbar.
At any rate, pay a visit to this page, poke around, and you’ll see that there are 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 to 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 many people overlook that can have a significant impact on your career fortunes.