LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network, with 150 million members worldwide and 25 million members who are located in the Asia Pacific region.
The corporate, resume-style profiles of the LinkedIn social media platform, allow you to make connections with existing colleagues, extend your professional network, and also search and apply for jobs.
However problems might arise during a LinkedIn job search, or while using LinkedIn when you are planning on starting your own business.
When used for conducting a LinkedIn job search or preparing for a new business venture, the social network allows you to connect and interact with people who might be able to help with your new endeavours.
You can join and participate in relevant LinkedIn groups, make connections with recruiters, employers & partners in your focus area, and even apply for publicly listed jobs. Also, recruiters, employers and potential partners can search for and contact you about opportunities.
Using LinkedIn for all these activities can be very public. If you are connected with your current colleagues and employer, they can get clued-in to the fact that you are actively pursuing other positions/ventures.
Being open about the fact that your current employer is not your priority any more, is not always a good idea. The level of secrecy you’d require will depend on the company’s position on the subject. There may not be too much of a concern, if your company has announced that they are downsizing or if you are at the end of your current contract.
However in most cases, such activities will cause extra pressure or negative consequences for you within your current place of employment.
Case Study: Transitioning from a corporation to a small business
Alex is a 45 year old marketing expert from Melbourne, Australia. For decades he worked for the same company, and had grown to be a valuable part of their team. The company had recently invested money into his postgraduate qualifications at university, with the vision he would remain with the company for a while.
Alex had always visioned that he would raise the capital to start his own small business, which would be fuelled by his qualifications and professional experience in marketing. At the age of 45, he decided to make this move, and commenced building his business, while still remaining at his current company.
Alex decided to use LinkedIn to extend his professional network, and form relationships with potential suppliers and clients for his new business. He immediately added his small business details into his LinkedIn profile, and actively sort to make connections with people who could help him grow his personal enterprise. Several people from his current company noticed these actions, through observation of his profile and newsfeed.
While there was no existing policy that stated he could not further a side-line business, his employers recognised he was distracted from his work, and was setting himself up to leave the company and work alone. His supervisors made it increasingly difficult for him to remain in the company, with-held his usual bonuses, refused a due pay increase, and were no longer willing to provide him with financial and time allocations for his education.
Alex left his company, due to the added pressure, well before he had completely established his new business, and suffered a great loss of income because of his public LinkedIn activities.
How to use LinkedIn in stealth mode when starting a new business.
In the case of starting your own business, here are some tips to consider:
- Turn off your automated public announcements. Make changes in LinkedIn settings to ensure your updates, including your new connections, aren’t broadcast on your newsfeed. This prevents suspicion via a sudden influx in activity.
- Contact potential suppliers or clients privately. You can add them to your network and interact with them through private messages.
- Be careful with public forums such as LinkedIn groups. There is little concern if you have very generalised conversations that relate to your professional development, or courses that you may be studying, but withhold from topics specific to the side-project you’d like to keep secret.
- Do not add your current business ownership to your resume. Through private messages, you can communicate your plans for a ‘new business’ that will be operating at a later date, if you are confident these connections are not associated with your current place of employment.
How to secure a new job via LinkedIn, while keeping your LinkedIn job search a secret.
Even if you aren’t starting a new business, but are seeking to secure a new position within a new company, your current employer may not be overly supportive. If you start adding in recruiters to your contacts list, and make obvious changes to your profile, you will instantly send off an alert, regarding your intentions.
- Turn off your automated public announcements.
- Keep your current LinkedIn profile positive. Make it clear that you are happy in your current position, enjoy working with this company, and are pleased with the experience they are currently providing you with.
- Avoid mentioning a completion date, for your position within your current company. Leave it open ended, so everyone understands you still work there.
- There is no need to publicly announce your job search, via statuses, updates or through messages on groups.
- Interact with new connections, as though they relate to your current position. There is no harm in adding old or existing colleagues, or people you have met at conferences or other areas of your life. This is very natural for someone who is currently employed, but wants to stay in contact with people they know or expand their professional network.
- Use LinkedIn to connect with people for job search networking and continue interactions offline.