Thursday, April 4, 2013

Top Six LinkedIn FAILS

According to LinkedIn, I can now call myself a graphic designer!

I don’t just mean LinkedIn fails, I mean how LinkedIn fails us, as a society.

I’ve been frustrated with LinkedIn.

I’d like to berate LinkedIn for some less-than-stellar interactions I’ve had. (Case in point: here are my search results for “Steve Lewis Seattle”. Yes, it’s a common name, so why do the results include “Kelly Fetters” and “Kim McCoy”? It also doesn’t recognize “strategize” as a word, which is really weird since that word is so trendy).

But I’ll just admit that’s probably more due to my lack of tech savvy than LinkedIn’s technical flaws.

No, LinkedIn’s technical flaws -real or imaginary- are the least of its problems.

LinkedIn wants to be the go-to site of the professional world, and that’s a huge problem.
I recently graduated with a Master of Public Administration from a prestigious university; the first question from all four career advisors about my job hunt was “How’s your LinkedIn profile”?

My program had seminars devoted to LinkedIn and improving your profile. It’s fair to say that all four of those advisors were dependent on LinkedIn. Over-dependent, even.

When I say that LinkedIn fails, I don’t mean in the trendy way, “these are the top five biggest LinkedIn failures”. My critique of LinkedIn is deeper: LinkedIn’s failures aren’t with its platform; LinkedIn fails US, as a society.

Here’s how: LinkedIn likes to think of itself as “Facebook for Adults”, but its practices and policies are far more juvenile than Facebook. Even worse, it re-introduces practices that we as a society deemed long ago as bad. Very, very bad.

6. The Fluff Factor

LinkedIn’s current model promotes over-promotion and self-aggrandizement, which are somewhere between horrible and lousy traits in an employee. LinkedIn is essentially all the flaws of the job search process distilled down to one very lousy website. LinkedIn unnecessarily narrows based on criteria that are likely utterly unimportant or possibly detrimental for a job.

5. In LinkedIn, everyone is tech-savvy.

As I stated above, I’m not the most technically sophisticated guy. Tech has nothing to do with the jobs I’ve had or the jobs I’m looking for. But that doesn’t matter to LinkedIn: I have to come across as a tech-whizz or else I’m unqualified for the job. 

4. LinkedIn’s promotional tactics don’t match its air of maturity and professionalism.

LinkedIn recently prompted me to endorse my connections. Regardless of whether or not my endorsements are valid (I really don’t know how some of my classmates are at graphic design or fundraising), I found the exercise both ingenious and shallow. Ingenious for starting a efficient social media trend; shallow for being hollow, juvenile attempts at self-promotion.

Juvenile is fine for Facebook (which doesn’t pretend it’s anything but FB), but obviously not if you’re trying to be “adult” and “professional”.

3. LinkedIn’s paid-membership model is disingenuous.

I can imagine reasons for having different levels of membership, but the basic free level pretty much sucks.

For example, I can see a few of the people who viewed by profile recently, but not all -unless I’m a paid member!

I can contact some people out of my network, but not all, unless I’m a paid member!

Actually, I’m not sure what I can do for free, everything clogs up in the hope that I’ll upgrade to a paid member.

In fact, there’s a whole realm of services you can do on FB for free that you can only do on LinkedIn if you’re a paid member, which puts me in the very awkward position of defending Facebook: at least it doesn’t force you to pay for basic services.

The words that come to mind are “disingenuous” and “trickery”. Again, not qualities usually attributed to “professional” and “adult”.

I’ll throw another word with much trepidation: Elitist. It forces you to join a club merely based on your ability to pay.

2. LinkedIn fails the non-profit sector.

Part of me wonders if it’s not just a conflict of natures: I’m a bleeding-heart community type of guy dedicated to making the world a better place, usually done through non-profits.

LinkedIn, conversely, was developed by for-profit business types for for-profit business types, the type for whom ‘trickery’ and ‘elitism’ are just part of business.

It puts me in the uncomfortable position of thinking that these are purposefully designed class divisions, false and unjust social classifications that I’m pretty good at avoiding, except when I’m on LinkedIn.

It all wouldn’t be a problem if LinkedIn were uniquely for and by the for-profit community; unfortunately, as I stated earlier, I’m in the non-profit/public sector, and LinkedIn is the #1 tool promoted by the career development center at my graduate school. Here are the results for Catholic Community Services, a large nation social-service organization. (For those who don’t want to be bothered with opening a link, the answer is ONE, the branch in New South Wales, Australia). 

I’ve found Catholic Community Services to be the best of example of what’s endemic with non-profit social service/public sector agencies and employers: none of them are on LinkedIn (or have a very minimal presence). And why should they be? LinkedIn’s business model and promotional tactics are antithesis of the public sector. Which leaves aspiring do-gooder public servants in an awkward limbo.

1. LinkedIn: Back to the headshot.

Remember the days when a job resume included a professional headshot and your marital status?

Neither do I, because that became professionally unacceptable decades ago.

Luckily, LinkedIn is here to wrong that right! Professional headshots are all but mandatory.

At the very least, it puts employer into that awkward position that they might be construed as judging potential employers by their looks; while potential employees (especially the overlooked and rejected ones) thinking they didn’t get the job because of their looks.

Or, just to state the obvious, “looks” can include race, color, age and/or “sexiness”.


LinkedIn is social networking at its worst: disingenuous, money-grubbing and perfect for the discriminating employers.

That’s probably why so few of my non-profit friends and social service organizations are on here. 

We’re not in it for the money, we don’t trick people, and we’re actively working against discrimination.

I just wish it wasn’t the current tool of choice for career counselors in the non-profit and public sector.

Maybe if LinkedIn went back to its roots, focused on delivering a quality service, stopped Myspace-cerca-2006 promotional tactics, and not only acknowledged that not everyone is in it for the money, but offered services for nonprofit organizations (like have a category for “organizations”, not just “companies”), it would be worth call itself “Facebook for adults”. 

Until then, I’m going to stick with Facebook for all my networking and job hunting needs, as at least I know what I’m getting into. 

No comments:

Post a Comment