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Many of my friends have a LinkedIn profile and they claim that it is quite useful for making industry connections, but I am not sure how these connections work. Will they be able to replace the need to apply specifically to a company?

Are people flocking to LinkedIn just because it is the latest fad, or there is some concrete need behind it?

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    This 'fad' has been there for a decade. – MrFox Apr 22 '13 at 18:15
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    Not an answer so much, but... I will always look at a candidate's linkedin profile. Mostly I want to see if we have any common connections I can ask about the candidate. Not having a profile makes me think that the candidate is out of touch, especially for the programmer candidates I interview. – Telastyn Apr 22 '13 at 19:30
  • An obligatory /. reference for the other side of the coin: tech.slashdot.org/story/13/04/18/1544205/… , an entertaining read, for the most part. – Deer Hunter Apr 23 '13 at 0:53
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    have been on it for 6 years. got 4 job offers in the last 2, without trying. so it helps. also met a few people in the same line of work thru it. again not active in its forums or anything but via people searching and one thru a friend of a friend – tgkprog Apr 23 '13 at 2:59
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    If you want to get your name in front of many recruiters, then a LinkedIn profile with bring them to you. – Xenson Apr 23 '13 at 17:45
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Depending on your job role, this can vary from quite important to not at all important. If you want to claim to be a social media expert then it may be quite important to have a profile on LinkedIn(LI) as it can often be seen as a professional version of Facebook. On the other hand, there may be some people that have worked for a number of years in a field where their work tends to be viewed as classified and thus there may not be much they could into a profile on LinkedIn. Government spies could have trouble with making a profile on LinkedIn if 99% of their work is top secret and not for the public to know.

I doubt that I'd say this replaced the need to apply specifically in a company as various places will have protocols. However, LI does have capabilities to send your profile as a resume that could be quite useful for some situations.

LinkedIn was launched on May 5, 2003 so in a way it isn't that new of a site. There are a few ways one can use LinkedIn that may be worth noting here:

  1. Profile of self - It is a way to list your experience and interests for others to find you. This is a way to build your brand and show off your skills and experience.
  2. Maintaining contacts - It can be a way to know who you know and thus be able to send information to specific contacts. This can be useful if you meet various people and would like to have a centralized place to find out about each of these people.
  3. Apply for jobs - There is a portion of the site where companies can put up jobs and thus you could apply through LI directly.
  4. Groups - There are various groups on LinkedIn that can be useful for helping to network, discuss interests and the like. My current job was found in a LinkedIn group so I do have first hand experience of this working. For example there is an "IT Jobs Calgary" group that worked for me.
  5. Articles - Some people will write articles on LinkedIn and thus could use the site to build a following to some extent.

Thus, while one could have a profile on LinkedIn, there are more than a few other things you could also do with that site.

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Alison Green from Ask a Manager had this to say about the use of LinkedIn:

I can’t imagine rejecting an applicant because she wasn’t on LinkedIn, unless the position I was hiring for included social media, in which case it might raise my eyebrows. I think that recruiter really overstated this to you.

That said, it’s true that the vast majority of applicants for professional jobs these days do have LinkedIn profiles, and if I notice that someone doesn’t, it does feel a little off. Not like “this person is horribly flawed,” but more like, “huh, I wonder if she’s less keyed into professional trends.”

It’s not going to stop me from hiring someone … but there’s also no reason not to just throw together a profile and have some reasonable presence there. Being on LinkedIn doesn’t really require more than setting up a profile; you don’t need to be constantly logging on or anything like that.

I’d think of this kind of like sending a thank-you note: Neither is likely to be a deciding factor on your candidacy, but both take minimal time and make you look more polished, so it’s hard to find a compelling reason not to do it.

Source: do I really need to be on LinkedIn?, 2015-03-31

So in short: not having a LinkedIn profile isn't a red flag unless social media are a key element of your work, but it's better to create a simple profile to avoid looking out of touch with modern workplace trends.

Speaking from experience, not having a profile would be even stranger for certain "modern" fields like IT and certain industries like consultancy. Consultants may even be required by their employer to maintain an up-to-date LinkedIn profile.

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I use Facebook for my friends and family and LinkedIn for my business contacts. As you and your current co-workers move from job to job over time it's easy to lose track of them. LinkedIn provides a way to maintain that contact without having to track email addresses, etc. Whether that contact is useful in the future is unknown but it's a pretty low-level of effort to ensure it's in place.

LinkedIn is also useful for maintaining a history of employment. I wouldn't use it solely as a resume to send an employer but it can be useful for keeping one up to date.

As with most online services, it's useful if you find it is useful.

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I changed positions three times in the past few years, and all three job opportunities came through my LinkedIn profile, as well as other opportunities that weren't the right match.

In my opinion, having an up-to-date profile with connections to close co-workers is a bare minimum for professional networking and self-promotion.

Are there other things one can do instead? Certainly. One can have a more informal offline professional network, if you enjoy doing the work to maintain that sort of thing. In my judgement, the LI profile is the most efficient way to establish this.

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It depends on if you rely on connections and contacts for job opportunities. It also depends on the type of industry and how the recruiters operate. In IT any social or network related platform will definitely get a lot of attention. I think the need comes from being able to identify or uncover links that you might not have otherwise been aware of (for both companies and employees).

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