LinkedOut – Why I left LinkedIn

I’ve had a productive Saturday: I spent two hours in a bookstore, I replaced three violin strings, and I deleted my LinkedIn profile.

The latter might seem surprising for someone who runs a website featuring career stories of science graduates, so I thought I’d explain why it was time for me to leave LinkedIn behind.

It doesn’t properly show my achievements. LinkedIn is very focused on job titles. For many types of jobs, that’s great, but for me it didn’t work at all. In the past decade I have been a PhD student, a science communicator, a community manager, an online editor, an outreach director, a community strategy manager, a scientific engagement manager, and something that didn’t even have a name. I get LinkedIn messages and ads targeted to some of these words, but those titles don’t really describe what I did, and were often arbitrary titles bestowed on me because my job needed a name. Meanwhile, LinkedIn kept urging people to endorse me for “cell biology” – a skill I haven’t used since 2008. The majority of people who endorsed me for this have never worked with me in a cell biology lab. If they had, they’d know better.

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It constantly wanted things from me. Even though I added 634 people on LinkedIn, it still told me to “grow my network”. I was also prompted to improve my profile, to add more information, and to constantly look at other people’s posts, endorse them for skills I can’t make a judgment about, and congratulate them on their irrelevant “one year at working for myself” or “six years in grad school” anniversaries. (LinkedIn, stop trying to make work anniversaries happen. It’s not going to happen.)

People kept adding me and I don’t really understand why. Hold on, did I say I had 634 contacts? Yes. Because LinkedIn encourages people to scan their whole address book, and I have had jobs that involved emailing lots of people, LinkedIn matched me up with pretty much everyone. And because of my past roles in science community building and my ongoing support for early career researchers, I was nice and kept adding everyone back (except headhunters). But why? Do I need that many connections? Do that many people need me? What do they need from me that they aren’t getting from Twitter or email? And what about the people who added me on LinkedIn because they know me through non-work projects? What is the point of that? Adding someone on LinkedIn just completely lost all meaning to me.

It’s  impersonal. I don’t want to be website-ist, but all LinkedIn profiles look the same to me. That’s great: it’s an equaliser, and it makes it easy for recruiters to directly compare people. It also rips any shred of personality from people’s profiles. I don’t want my professional page to look the same as an investment banker’s page, and I’m sure that feeling is mutual.

I don’t want LinkedIn to be a top search result for my name. Google loves LinkedIn, and will return it as a top search result for many names. That can be great (see below), but my Google search results are already pretty decent even without LinkedIn. If you search my name you find my own websites, my Twitter profile, articles I wrote, reviews of talks I gave, and pieces I was interviewed for. All are more informative than LinkedIn.

 

So, I had reasons, but I didn’t want to rush into things. First I had to play devil’s advocate, and argue in favour of LinkedIn.

What is LinkedIn good for?

Groups. There are a few good professional discussion groups on LinkedIn. Even a few good science ones. But it isn’t straightforward to stay up to date with just your group of choice, without also getting the full LinkedIn experience. You can set up email notifications, but to interact you still have to visit LinkedIn. (It works the same as Facebook groups.)

Being in charge of the Google Search results for your name. LinkedIn is an easy way to make sure your professional profile drifts to the top of a search result. Plus, you’re in charge of your own profile. It bumps down mentions of you that you are NOT in charge of, like pages of track meet results from when you were an athlete in high school, or local news reports of that time you were interviewed on the street about a car crash you witnessed, or an archived and uneditable forum post about a TV show you watched in undergrad.

A self-updating contact book. People change jobs often these days. It actually looks good to have experience at multiple companies rather than just one, and with every move their email address changes. As long as your contacts update their LinkedIn page with their new email address, you can reach them no matter where they go. If you just have their address, it will expire in a few years.

 

I did weigh those advantages while deciding whether to delete my profile, and for me, at this point in time, I decided that I don’t need LinkedIn.

 

Soon, my LinkedIn profile will be completely removed from Google search results for my name, and a search for “Eva Amsen” and “LinkedIn” will probably bring up this post, and this Times Higher Education interview with me, in which I am being kind of neutral about LinkedIn for science graduate students.

If you really want to know the professional details of my life, I also have a website with a bio and a CV and lots of examples of my past work.

And finally, if you have the questionable honour to run into me in person, I can give you an oddly shaped piece of cardstock with all the useful info on the front and a creative prompt on the back. Because my professional style involves asking people to draw pictures, not endorsing them for skills I know nothing about.

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