Fear and Loathing on LinkedIn

Steve Boese Bad HR, Career Paths, Engagement and Satisfaction, HR Tech, HR Technology, Leadership, Social Recruiting, Steve Boese

This week the professional social networking site LinkedIn announced a new feature (initially) aimed at current college students, the LinkedIn Career Explorer.  This new capability provides the student the ability to visualize potential career paths based on their field of study, search for relevant job opportunities, find and follow target companies matching their career aspirations, and discover and connect with people who themselves are connected to these potential career paths, companies, and key influencers. Lione

Sounds pretty awesome, actually. And a far cry from what is typically available for students from their campus career center, or the shady alumni or fraternity contacts who many students have traditionally turned to for career advice. According to the LinkedIn blog, the Career Explorer capability will soon be extended beyond the college student crowd and likely will be rolled out to the millions of working professionals who make up the LinkedIn user community.  Yep, a cool new, networked, and exciting career planning tool rolled out to the LinkedIn population, which happens to include most, if not all, of your organization’s high performers, solid contributors, and recent ‘future stars’ who just might be wondering if they made the right move hitching their wagon to your horse.

For those organizations that have not developed or evolved more enlightened and active career planning and development programs for their top talent, the emergence (or at least the potential emergence), of a more structured, powerful, and widely available mechanism to make it easy for talented employees to plot their own next career move, to connect with the right people to make that move more possible, and to proactively pursue their goals has to be, at some level, really frightening. Call me cynical, but for some reason I get the feeling the LinkedIn Career Explorer won’t be ‘guiding’ your marketing manager to that lateral move to an operations or purchasing job that you’ve been trying too hard to convince her to take.  You know, to round out her experience.

The thing is you could be right about the lateral, developmental move.  You know her, her skills, the feedback on her performance review and talent assessment from her director.  You understand the importance of a stint in operations for future VP-level talent. It is the right move.  But unless you have laid the groundwork, made it clear that she is on the fast (or at least accelerated) track in your shop, and that this lateral move is an expected, and important step for her development, then you are halfway to losing the argument to the social web.

And even if you have done all the necessary planning, communicating, and developing to convince your marketing superstar to spend the next 18 months negotiating bulk purchasing contracts for industrial lubricants, the folks at LinkedIn are likely to be painting a picture showing Marketing Director or VP of Digital gigs at some of your most interesting competitors as the next logical step in her path.

It used to be, you’d only have to worry about competing recruiters luring your best talent away to what is usually seen as an uncertain path, now it looks like soon your friends at LinkedIn may help guide the way a little more clearly.  But don’t be afraid, if you lose that top marketing manager you can probably find another one soon enough.

You did upgrade that LinkedIn account, didn’t you?