What is LinkedIn and How Does It Work?

Last updated: January 15, 2017 - 3:54pm EST

The Internet really facilitates job searches if you're looking to get (back) into the workforce. By the same token, it also helps companies put their job openings in front of people from far and wide who are looking to fill a position. But regular job search websites are rather impersonal: a job gets posted, a person applies, and a decision is made on whether to give the applicant further consideration. LinkedIn.com does things a bit differently.

So what exactly is LinkedIn?

LinkedIn is a social network designed to be used by businesses and work professionals. Individuals can create profiles that act as CVs, and connect with contacts who can endorse their skills. Companies can also create their own pages to advertise to potential partners, and post job openings that users can apply for.

How does LinkedIn work?

When you sign up for LinkedIn, you create an online profile with relevant information about your professional life.  This can include your work, volunteer, or other worthwhile experiences; your skills, and your interests. Acting like a virtual resume, your LinkedIn profile helps you connect with colleagues and professionals in your field. The idea is that by presenting yourself on LinkedIn.com, you will have more opportunities to connect with people who can help you with advancing your career.

LinkedIn profile

You can also apply for jobs on LinkedIn, or post them if you want to use LinkedIn for recruiting for your own company. You can search for jobs within various business fields, and often apply for a job you want directly through LinkedIn. You can also contact professionals in your field directly through LinkedIn, as long as they also have profiles. This gives you an edge over traditional job applications, as you don't have to play phone tag or set up a time and place to meet for an interview.

LinkedIn job listings

Why use LinkedIn? 7 ways LinkedIn will help you professionally

1. Put your work experience in front of people looking for it.

At its most basic, having a profile on LinkedIn is like having an online version of your resume. This gets you exposure to many more potential employers than distributing resumes by hand. Some of the most influential businesspeople in the world, such as Microsoft founder Bill Gates, have profiles on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn profile of Bill Gates

2. Make your company available to potential partners.

By the same token, many famous companies around the world have company pages on LinkedIn. They are eager to show themselves off and maybe even hire some new employees. For example, here's the LinkedIn page for electronics giant Apple:

LinkedIn company page for Apple

3. Establish and expand your professional network.

Connect with people you know, either professionally or personally. They might point you towards a job you'd like, or ‘introduce’ you to professionals in your field of work.  You can do the same for them, too!

LinkedIn connections

4. Show off your credentials.

On LinkedIn, you can be as detailed as you want about your qualifications and skills. Your connections can also endorse your listed skills, and you can do the same for them. Your abilities look a lot more impressive to potential employers if you have people to vouch for them!

LinkedIn skills and endorsements

5. Hiring happens here.

Companies both big and small post job listings on LinkedIn, so there are plenty to choose from if you're looking to get into the workforce. Or, if you're already running a business and are looking for fresh talent, you can post a job yourself!

LinkedIn job applications

6. Get advice from industry veterans.

Join groups of people with similar jobs or skills, and have discussions with them about professional matters that you care about. You might get advice on how to take your career to the next level, or find a new job that's perfect for you!

LinkedIn groups

7. News from the working world, at your fingertips.

LinkedIn has a feature called “LinkedIn Pulse,” which has thousands of articles from industry professionals and successful figures such as Bill Gates, Barack Obama, and Dr. Deepak Chopra. Keep up to date with the latest business and workforce news, either from your contacts or from LinkedIn itself through LinkedIn Pulse.

LinkedIn Pulse

The history of LinkedIn, and why it’s so popular

LinkedIn was founded in Mountain View, California at the end of 2002 in California by Reid Hoffman, along with professionals from technology companies such as PayPal and Socialnet.com. The website itself was launched in May of 2003, and reached one million users by mid-2004. LinkedIn has also made many impressive acquisitions during its existence, including popular websites like Bright.com and Lynda.com. In a $26 billion dollar deal, Microsoft acquired LinkedIn at the end of 2016, a year in which LinkedIn made $960 million in revenue.

LinkedIn is currently the world’s largest network of professionals, with over 467 million members worldwide. LinkedIn is so popular simply because it works. Millions of people use LinkedIn every day to search for work, and many of them do actually land jobs. By directly connecting you to professionals in your field, LinkedIn gives you an edge over those still utilizing traditional job searching methods.

In 2008, LinkedIn launched a mobile app for their service.  This means that you can take LinkedIn with you on the go, and always keep up to date on job opportunities and make connections!

Is LinkedIn safe to use for professional networking?

LinkedIn is a fairly safe social networking website, as long as you're careful about how much personal info you reveal while using it.  LinkedIn can't verify the identities and qualifications of its users, so always research new users you come into contact with, and never give any user your financial information.

There are some safety concerns on LinkedIn that users must be aware of, including the potential for fraud and misrepresentation on profiles or company pages. There are also some users who attempt to run financial scams through LinkedIn, preying on the desperation of those seeking immediate work.

To learn more about potential safety issues on LinkedIn, and to read up on our tips for staying safe while using LinkedIn, check out our article on LinkedIn safety.

How much does LinkedIn cost?

LinkedIn is free to sign up for and use (and the app is free to download). You can use it to set up a professional profile, search for jobs, and make connections, all without spending any money on it. LinkedIn also offers premium plans, each with additional features and tools that can enhance your LinkedIn experience.

If you want to learn more about LinkedIn's premium plans, what they offer, and how much they will cost you, consider reading our article on LinkedIn Premium.

LinkedIn competitors

There are a few alternatives to LinkedIn out there, each with its own unique spin on professional networking. Beyond.com has an expansive job listing portal, and allows you to join a “Community” with other professionals in your field. Opportunity (formerly Opprtunity) allows you to enter information about your qualifications, and then matches you with companies who are looking for those skills in potential new employees. Zerply, another LinkedIn alternative, focuses on giving professionals in the entertainment industry a place to display their work portfolios and look for job contracts.

There’s also AngelList, which focuses on recruitment and networking for entrepreneurs and start-up companies. As a final example, there's VisualCV, a way of sharing your complete work credentials virtually with those looking to hire. If you want more information about each of these competitors to LinkedIn, we’ve got you covered in our article on the best websites like LinkedIn.

 

 

 

That’s our introduction to LinkedIn! If you want to learn more, we’ve got an entire LinkedIn course on TechBoomers. We can help you with things like how to make connections on LinkedIn, how to find a job on LinkedIn, or how to post a job on LinkedIn if you want to use LinkedIn.com for recruiting. For now, consider reading our next article on how to stay safe while using LinkedIn, or read our LinkedIn review to help you decide if it’s the right website for you.

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