LinkedIn or Website? Probably Both

Career Blog

Published: March 7, 2017 by Kate M. Spaulding

If LinkedIn were to disappear or stop being free, would your online presence disappear along with it?

One of my last posts in 2016 was a call for you to set up a personal website. I argued, “having a personal website gives you more control over your image, how you present yourself, and how you showcase your work.” I still believe it, and I think it’s even more true now than it was in December.

Why? Well, in case you haven’t been hit by LinkedIn’s new user interface (UI) rollout yet, here’s your fair warning: there’s a new desktop UI coming, and I think it’s terrible. If your profile has already been updated, do you agree with me or not? I’d love to hear more in the comments.

Whether you like it or not, you must admit that the site and your profile are organized very differently than they were before. In the last iteration, users had a lot of control over how their profile looked, the arrangement, and what information was highlighted. Users could also toggle between a chronological or algorithm-determined “top updates” view of their newsfeed. Groups were easy to find, and it was simple to participate in discussions.

Now, however, you can no longer rearrange the sections of your profile, your accomplishments (e.g., projects, organizations, publications, awards, certifications, etc.) are hidden, and only three skills are displayed (and without the row of profile pictures next to them, which lent them credence). The new intro section has a lot of white space and a tiny picture. The link to my website is off in a sidebar hidden under a “show more” button. If you’re still looking for your Groups, they are hidden under the “Work” menu in the bar at the top, and they almost feel like a separate product. Viewing your notifications now means navigating to a separate page, rather than toggling over a drop-down menu.

All of these changes led to a couple of realizations.

  1. LinkedIn owns my profile, not me.
  2. This means they control its look and feel, and even, to some extent, its reach.

And those are two more incredibly persuasive reasons to have a personal website.

Furthermore, there’s research showing that the quality of your online portfolio matters. So it makes sense to control your online image with a well-done website. Hover.com conducted a survey of 121 people involved with hiring and found

“86% either Agree or Strongly Agree that they will visit a portfolio when given the option…[and] 71% of employers Agree or Strongly Agree that a portfolio’s quality will influence their decision on whether to hire a candidate” (source).

While the sample size was small, and perhaps predisposed to seeing value in websites, the statistics are striking.

In a nutshell, then, here’s my argument: You need a personal website in order to present yourself as you wish, control the quality of your online brand, help you get a job, and continue to grow your career. If LinkedIn were to disappear or stop being free, would your online presence disappear along with it?