Dear LinkedIn, Help Us Help You!

I speak for many: I am one of many Career Professionals who promote LinkedIn every day to job seekers, career changers and anyone interested in taking a proactive role in managing their career. I will use the term “we” from this point on and will go out on a limb and speak for all career professionals because I have not found one yet who disagrees with me on this (and I know hundreds of them).

The jury is in: Based on many blog posts, comments in LinkedIn groups and in-person collegial discussions, it’s clear that many of us are frustrated with continually being caught off guard by sudden changes to the site. While it is understandable that LinkedIn must make smart business decisions that cause changes to the site, being more transparent and proactive in sharing information regarding the changes would benefit us, LinkedIn and its members.

Must changes be so surprising? Believe me, with the many changes in the world of work, our industry knows very well that the only constant in life is change. We are not saying don’t change, we’re just saying, please consistently warn us when it is about to happen or at least make it easy for us to know when it has taken place. We have been able to adapt to LinkedIn changes but it can be challenging, depending on the scale of the change. Some changes are small (like changing how to remove a contact) but many are big (like removing entire sections such as the pages providing details on specific Skills & Expertise or Signal). In some cases these changes are announced publicly (usually on the LinkedIn blog) but in other cases, it is done without much notification, if any at all. Sometimes the changes are so abrupt that the LinkedIn Help Center hasn’t event caught up and shows incorrect and old instructions. In other cases, we are in the middle of a live presentation using LinkedIn when we find out a major feature has totally disappeared without warning (this happened to me). I know people who have been prepared with PowerPoint slides for an early morning presentation only to have had the prepared screen shots become outdated overnight. In many cases, the only way to find out about a change is from online posts and verbal dialogues by angered LinkedIn members and trainers.

Let’s try to make it better: Is there a way to involve career professionals with LinkedIn changes in a more meaningful way? I am aware that in past years, LinkedIn created special training and support for journalists and I wonder if it has considered doing something similar for career practitioners. In both cases, these groups provide extended publicity for LinkedIn. That publicity can be good or bad, depending on how these groups interact with and experience LinkedIn. Why not take a preemptive approach with career professionals to help LinkedIn garner more positive marketing and improve LinkedIn members’ experience? If this would be of interest to LinkedIn, I would happy to help in that effort.

This could be a win-win! I truly believe we have valuable insights that would make LinkedIn a better product and that you are missing out on utilizing our expertise. Here are some ways we could be useful to LinkedIn. First, as avid users, we often notice glitches before anyone else. If we had a more effective way to share these with your company, you might be able to catch unintended consequences faster. I’m sure if asked, many of us would even be willing to preview, test and provide feedback on new features. Second, as teachers and evangelizers of LinkedIn, we interact with members and potential users every day. We hear feedback that you never will. We can provide front line opinions on features that people find useful, valuable or annoying. This could help LinkedIn avoid trouble by discarding or adding features that devalue members’ experience with LinkedIn. Finally, we can help others feel less intimidated about using LinkedIn. When we are in the middle of a presentation and jarred by a new change, it reinforces to the audience that it can be hard to keep up with all of the changes. This discourages people from being interested in using the site more often and perpetuates the argument that it’s too much to keep up with so why bother joining or using LinkedIn at all.

Call to act: If you are a career professional who agrees with this point of view, please share this post with others, especially anyone at LinkedIn who might be open to this idea and feel free to reach out to me. If you work for LinkedIn, I would be happy to continue this conversation. Please contact me to discuss ways that we can help LinkedIn succeed.