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

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

    • You’re welcome. I know that for some people, LinkedIn can feel a bit like navigating a “mine field” and keeping up with the challenges can be a daunting task.