LinkedIn: The “Dark Side”–What You Need to Know

Don’t get me wrong. LinkedIn is a potentially great job search and career management tool for career-minded individuals who want to make smart moves in their careers. It isn’t really LinkedIn’s fault that there’s a potentially dark side to the power it can bring to you. So what’s this dark side?

The big issue: If you’re trying to avoid being found by someone you have to protect yourself or your family from, your visibility on LinkedIn could give that person an edge you don’t want him/her to have. (This might sound like an extreme and probably rare situation, but I recently dealt with a client who was facing just such a situation.) I’ll write more on this problem in a bit.

Employers Tracking You on LinkedIn

Sometimes people tell me they’re concerned about employers finding out they’re looking for a new job because of something they’ve put in their LinkedIn profile. The obvious first suggestion is to make sure you turn off your activity broadcast notification before you make changes to your profile. That way at least you’re not publicizing your update to the world. [Note: Activity feed and activity broadcasts are NOT one and the same. Your feed is more or less posts about “what I’ve been doing lately,” not about changes to your profile.]

In fact, whenever you make minor changes to your profile, you should consider turning the broadcast notification off, so your network doesn’t get inundated with notifications about your tweaks.

I did have a client tell me once that his employer regularly checked employees’ LinkedIn profiles to see what they were posting there and, presumably, get clues as to who might be thinking about jumping ship. The employer didn’t make any secret about doing this–a not-too-subtle form of intimidation, I suspect. In other words, “be careful what you do, or we’ll find a way to boot you out the door.”

I have two thoughts on this concern: (1) Do whatever you can to find yourself another job ASAP, even if you can’t pursue that goal via your profile. (2) In your next and subsequent jobs, make sure your LinkedIn profile is strong and up to date at all times, so employers have no reason to suspect you of planning to leave.

Protect Your Privacy on LinkedIn

You can make your profile private so only you can see it–but what’s the point? You might as well not have a profile. Despite the common belief that you’re almost a non-person without an active LinkedIn profile, I’ve heard from reliable sources that savvy job seekers have found new positions without a robust LinkedIn presence. They just need to work harder and smarter at their job search.

When it’s a matter of personal safety rather than job security, the answer might not be simple. Recently I queried my e-list colleagues about the situation of the client mentioned above. Below is a brief summary of the tips I received and found on my own:

  • Go onto LinkedIn, find the person’s profile, and block him or her. When you go onto the profile, in the top rectangle’s blue bar where it says “Send a message,” the rightmost part has a downward-pointing triangle. Click on it. Second to the bottom is “Block or Report.”
  • Consider asking yourself questions about why you want to be on LinkedIn, such as: What do you expect to gain from being on it? What are the potential risks? What is the balance of potential risk and reward by having a detailed profile?
  • Go into your account’s Settings feature and look at the items to see what the options are and decide whether you want to change any of your current settings:
    Privacy Controls
    * Turn on/off your activity broadcasts
    * Select who can see your activity feed
    * Select what others see when you’ve viewed their profile
    * Turn on/off How You Rank
    * Select who can see your connections
    * Change your profile photo & visibility
    * Show/hide “Viewers of this profile also viewed” box
    * Manage who you’re blocking

Job Search and Life Challenges

As the Scottish poet Robert Burns once wrote, “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men Gang aft agley” or, in other words, “sometimes our plans go really wrong.” One situation where that can have repercussions is when your job search collides with a major life event that you couldn’t foresee and might have little or no direct control over.

I’m a big fan of making good plans, whether it’s for a job search or career change or for something more on a personal level. However, as many of you might also have experienced, I’ve found more than once that my plans can get derailed–temporarily, longer term or permanently. Here are just a couple of examples from my own experience that might resonate with you in some way:

  • In 1999 my mother passed on unexpectedly. My son and I shared a home with her, and that was where I ran my full-time business. She had also been my chief supporter and cheerleader since I started the business in 1991. Clearly her loss was a major life event that I had no immediate control over. I had to deal with all the related personal issues and responsibilities while doing my best to resume normal business activity as soon as possible–clients were counting on me, of course, but even more important was that my son’s well-being and mine depended on keeping things running. That was 15 years ago, and I’m still here, but of course I had to regroup and change some of my plans to fit the different situation that had come into my life.
  • Several months ago my son and I began planning a two-week trip to England to visit some friends of mine and do a lot of sightseeing. That trip occurred in late May and early June of this year. In large part it went as planned. However, since our return, events have not followed the expected pattern, which is why this is my first blog post in about two months! Unforeseen challenges have included ongoing family health issues (not mine), two beloved dogs suffering annual allergy problems, and more. I had to cut myself some slack as a result, prioritizing my business and personal activities to take care of the ones that seemed most critical and putting others on a back burner.

Obviously, this is not one of my “standard” blog posts, but it’s one that comes from the heart. You might find yourself in a situation where you have planned your job search or career change as thoughtfully as you can and put a lot of good energy into it, only to face something that challenges you to rethink or regroup in order to move forward productively. What I’m basically saying is that you can do yourself a favor by allowing for the possibility that things like this can happen, even to those “best-laid plans,” and you don’t have to let them throw you for an absolute loss.

I belong to a small group that has a twice-monthly phone call where we share our experiences and learn great things about how to handle a variety of situations. Usually these are business-related, but there’s often a personal aspect as well. A recent topic was “resilience.” I think it’s a good concept in connection with today’s blog post! When job search and life challenges collide, resilience might be a key factor in your ability to move forward.