Have you received an email invitation to upgrade your LinkedIn account? I’m asked at least once each month if I want to purchase a premium account, often including a free 30-day trial, but never took the plunge … until now.
LinkedIn is recognized as a premier site for professional social networking, and there’s good reason to register for a free account even if you aren’t ready to look for a job. The premium versions, however, open up more advanced features. What I wanted to know is whether or not the cost would be worth it for individual users.
What is a premium account?
At first glance upgrading to a premium account can seem confusing. There are different plans for different uses, such as recruiting, sales, and job seeking. Annual and monthly payment choices are available, and there are multiple plans for each type of premium account. The trial program I am most often offered is more appropriate for businesses and employers, so I signed up instead for Job Seeker account. I chose the Basic option for $19.95 per month, but there are two other options – Job Seeker and Job Seeker Plus – with increasing numbers of features and higher fees. The screenshot below shows a quick comparison of some of the features each plan offers.
Job Seeker Basic, the least expensive premium account type, provided me with access to the following features:
Who’s viewed your profile?
A free account includes a short list of recent views, while the premium account lets you see a complete history. The upgrade also includes stats related to how many times your profile appeared in a LinkedIn search and the keywords that were used to find you. The screenshot below illustrates the feature that sorts those who viewed your profile by industry. These tools provide some interesting feedback on how the information you’ve included in your profile impacts its inclusion in other users’ searches.
In my case, these industries align with my professional background, although I wouldn’t have predicted Information Technology and Services. If I were on the job market, it might be worth looking at that field a little closer to see if my qualifications matched current openings.
Featured Applicant Status
Did you know that you can apply for jobs that are posted within the LinkedIn system? This is true for all accounts, but with the premium services you can “move to the top of the list.” This is an option you have to select with each submission and may make your application more visible. Premium account applicants are presented to the hiring employer before basic account applicants.
As a premium account user you can add a variety of badges to your profile. Choose from among a general premium badge, a Job Seeker badge, and the Open Link badge, which indicates that you are open to contact from those outside your network. You can also search for other accounts displaying the Open Link badge to see if there are users you can contact from within the companies that interest you.
Profile badges have the potential to attract more attention to your account, and the Job Seeker badge in particular may be a better way to announce that you are looking for a job than adding it to your headline or summary in some way. This badge could also pose a problem if you are currently employed and don’t want to advertise that you are looking for a new position. You get to choose whether or not to add these to your profile, so think it through carefully knowing that “your connections will be notified of changes to your badge settings.”
I chose to add the Job Seeker and Open Link badges to my profile and it took some time for them to appear. Once they were visible, however, I almost immediately received new requests to connect and within a few days an email inquiry about a new position. It’s hard to say if this activity was directly related to these badges, but the timing was interesting.
Invitation to the Job Seeker Premium Group
Similar to other LinkedIn Groups, this community includes a searchable discussion forum, list of members, and variety of job postings. Members of this group share their own tips, success stories, and lessons learned, as well as ask questions about LinkedIn and the job search process in general.
Search and Organization Tools
The premium accounts offer more options for filtering, saving, and grouping contacts and profiles you view. These tools allow you to engage in more strategic use of the network as you locate other profiles in your industry, build your network, and set up ongoing searches for jobs that match your needs and qualifications.
With the next level up from Job Search Basic, you can also use InMail messages. This system allows you to “send direct messages to recruiters” and others who are not already in your network of connections. When I asked my connections about the benefits of LinkedIn Premium, this feature was mentioned as one of the most helpful.
Do students need premium accounts?
I am still exploring the features available, but based on my experience so far with the upgraded services:
You should consider a premium account if:
- You are new to LinkedIn and actively looking for a job. Overall, the premium services offer a good immersion into the LinkedIn system with lots of prompts and tips to develop a complete and effective profile. If you are in the midst of a job search, this could be a good jumpstart to establishing your profile and leveraging the network.
- You have the budget for it. Keep your finances in mind and consider what an extra expense of $20.00 or more could mean to you each month. If you sign up, give yourself a timeframe to work with – maybe 90 days or six months. Do the math to see what this will cost and set a specific date on your calendar to make a decision about whether you want to continue or end the service, downgrading to a free account.
- You are really going to use it. You know your strengths and weaknesses, and if you are likely to log in or a regular basis to make the most of the added features. Paying for an account could motivate you to use it more. If you decide sign up, go through all of the brief videos in the welcome tutorial. Each one includes a tour and quick tips to help you maximize the tools available.
You may not need a premium account if …
- You aren’t on the job market. LinkedIn has many benefits related to professional networking and career exploration, outside of a traditional job search, and you can take advantage of most of them with a free account.
- Your industry isn’t actively using LinkedIn. Before you decide whether or not to pursue LinkedIn, search for people and companies in your field of study or work. While the platform has millions of users, if it’s not popular with others in your industry or your geographic location, it may not lead to the connections you need.
- You don’t have the budget for it. LinkedIn is still available to you with a free account, so if finances are too tight for a premium upgrade, make the most of the basic options as part of your overall career development and job search strategy. Work with your school’s Career Center for advice about LinkedIn and access to host of other related services.
- You haven’t fully explored your free account. Do you know if your college has an alumni group on LinkedIn? Have you conducted a search for companies in your industry? Is your profile complete and up-to-date? The basic account features may meet your current needs.
If you haven’t been active on LinkedIn, as a college student you are not alone. A recent study reported by ReadWrite.com found that while “a surprising low 46% of students have never used LinkedIn … even for those who are using LinkedIn, however, it’s still not a priority in their job search.” ReadWrite also talked with Career Center personnel who felt that students without a lot of previous work experience may be reluctant to post profiles on LinkedIn.
There are a lot of missed opportunities for professional networking before graduating and beginning a job search, and LinkedIn is just one way to help build these relationships. In addition to students and job seekers at all levels, LinkedIn members also include employers and recruiters. It can be a good place to start establishing a professional digital footprint, even if you have limited experience in your field, and get involved in career development conversations. During a related #IOLchat session, participants recommended that, “it’s never too soon to start building a network, and LinkedIn is an incredibly useful and powerful tool for this.”
Before You Subscribe
Google “LinkedIn trial offer” and you’ll see some concerns from other members, even on the LinkedIn site. It’s important to read the platform’s terms of service and know how to cancel your paid account when you are ready. Billing is automatic and you have to include your payment information before the trial begins.
LinkedIn hosts a regularly scheduled job seeker webinar to answer questions about the different accounts and provide “tips for using your LinkedIn account to help you land your next great opportunity.” This is just one of several webinars that are free to all LinkedIn users, but you have to register in advance.
Before you subscribe to a paid account, take some time to compare the options and decide if it’s right for you. And if you’ve tried LinkedIn Premium in the past, consider sharing your experience and recommendations with us here.