I have a confession to make. For me, any major purchase decision I make takes weeks if not months. It’s not that I am reluctant to part with my money. Rather, it’s that I love the pre-purchase research. Feature comparison charts, video reviews, customer ratings. Take all that data. Drop it into a custom Excel sheet. Let it marinate. Then rinse and repeat a couple more times before I pull out my wallet. Drives my wife crazy. But it works for me.
In today’s job market, LinkedIn is an essential tool in your job search toolkit. Job seekers trying to find the next job without a LinkedIn profile are like lost hikers without a compass wandering across the desert searching for water. It’s hot, dusty and is not going to end well. To win the job search, you need to be on LinkedIn. And that’s where the buying decision, and the pre-purchase research, come into play.
Which LinkedIn subscription plan are you going to select? LinkedIn offers a wide variety of plans tailored for specific user and business requirements. For this article, I am going to focus on four specific plan options: Basic (Free), Premium Career, Premium Business, and Sales Navigator. As of the publication date for this article, LinkedIn monthly pricing is below (Note: LinkedIn offers a 20-25% discount for annual purchase dependent on plan):
Basic = $0 (yes, I know…that is the definition of a free offering)
Premium Career = $30/month
Premium Business = $60/month
Sales Navigator Professional = $80/month
For each of these levels (Career, Business, and Navigator), LinkedIn gives you a one-month free upgrade so you can test out the plan and determine if it meets your job search needs.
Right off the bat, you should ask how you can compete with free? The adage “you get what you pay for” applies to this purchase decision. I sold for 25+ years and never had the cheapest solution in the market. But I still made the sale, delivered my quota, and won more than my fair share of opportunities. It all came down to the value that the solution provided for the client. For job seekers, the Basic (or Free) plan is where you start, join LinkedIn and build out your profile. You can also begin to build out your network and add connections with the free plan. Think of the Basic plan this way. You got tickets to the game, but you are sitting way up in the cheap seats. There is a game going on down there on the field, but from where you are sitting, it is going to be hard to see and participate. To take advantage of the power of LinkedIn for your job search, you are going to need to move up to a paid subscription level.
You are a job seeker, so Premium Career would appear, on the surface, to be the logical subscription level to select. LinkedIn directs job seekers to this level with a tag line stating, “Get hired and get ahead.” Premium Career gives you access to several important job search features, at the lowest monthly rate, including:
Profile views: You can see who has viewed your profile in the last 90 days. Knowing who has checked out your profile is an excellent opening to establish a new network connection.
Applicant and Salary Insights: You can see how your profile compares to other job applicants for a specific job posting and view salary data for specific job opportunities.
LinkedIn Learning: You get access to a library of online courses to supplement or expand your skills for specific opportunities and even a new career path.
InMail Credits: you get three free InMail credits per month enabling you to reach out with a message directly to potential contacts and recruiters outside your current network.
All these features are essential elements of a successful job search strategy. But you get what you pay for and will quickly realize there are limitations to Premium Career. It comes down to a tradeoff between productivity (time) and efficiency (targeted job search) versus the monthly cost.
Advertising is a powerful tool. The branding and tag line for Premium Business “Grow and nurture your network” might lead you to believe that this is not the right plan for a job seeker. That would be a mistake. Premium is an excellent plan for business professionals, but it also adds several additional features that can accelerate your job search. In addition to all the Career level features, you add:
Unlimited Network Search: It’s challenging to build a job search network if you can’t find people with whom you would like to connect. Premium Business expands your search capabilities with unlimited browsing across the LinkedIn network, including 3rd-degree connections.
Company Insights: An effective job search plan must include a list of your target organizations. Premium Business adds deep insights into a target company’s HR growth trends.
Additional InMail Credits: you get 15 free InMail credits per month to increase the pace of your networking activity outside your current network.
For many job seekers, Premium Business represents the best balance between job search functionality and monthly cost. But I am going to make a case for you to consider one additional upgrade to the Sales Navigator level.
Sales Navigator Professional:
I know what you are thinking. I am not in sales. I am just trying to find a job. Why would I want to upgrade to the more expensive Sales Navigator plan? If you have read any of my previous articles or watched my video series, you know that I view the job search as a sales cycle. So, if you are looking for a job right now, trust me, you are in sales. And the Sales Navigator subscription plan adds two additional features that can make a significant difference in the efficacy of your job search.
Advanced Search Filters:
The key to building an active job search network is to first develop a targeted and refined database of potential contacts within your target accounts. Sales Navigator adds several additional search filters that allow you to quickly and easily locate your target contacts. With Sales Navigator, you can instantly filter your search results by Function, Title, and Seniority Level. Yes, you can get the same results using Boolean search techniques. But the tradeoff is time and simplicity of the search process. I value my time and believe it is worth more than $20 per month (the difference between Business and Navigator).
To build your network, you must make connections. Cold outreach to a new connection on LinkedIn can be difficult. Social selling is an excellent strategy to utilize to “warm-up” the target contact before you reach out for a networking relationship. Engaging with your target contact’s LinkedIn activity (posts and articles) before your first outreach will exponentially increase the probability of a connection acceptance. You can do this social selling with any LinkedIn level (even the free Basic plan). But here is the critical difference. With the Basic and Premium plans, you get a daily news feed covering your entire network (first-degree connections and people, companies, and hashtags that you follow). To complete your social selling, you must manually (think time and effort) search through the news feed to find the activity that is specifically relevant to your job search. But with Sales Navigator, you get a real-time custom news feed that only includes the Leads (target contacts) and Accounts (target companies) that you have identified in your job search plan.
The Payoff – My Recommendation:
There are lots of ways to bake the cake, but I want to offer you my recommendation for selecting the right LinkedIn subscription level to support your job search.
Step 1: Sign up for LinkedIn Basic. Get your profile and all your other branding assets (elevator pitch, resume, and cover letter) finalized and ready to support networking and your job search. When you are prepared to start building your network, move to Step 2.
Step 2: Upgrade to Sales Navigator to start developing your job search network. You should be able to build a potential database of 450 contacts and then refine down to a functional network of 150 or more contacts within four months. Including the free month, that is a $60 to $150 investment over the Premium levels for the four months. Once your network is in place, proceed to Step 3.
Step 3: You can choose to downgrade to Premium Business once your job search network is in place and begins to produce opportunities and interviews for you. Be sure to stay on the Premium Business plan while you are fully employed and continue to maintain your network. Additionally, if you are in a sales, marketing, or business development role, you may want to remain on Sales Navigator and take advantage of the full platform to drive the growth of your business.
That’s my pre-purchase research in a nutshell for LinkedIn. Now, what to research and buy next? A new truck or a large screen TV? The possibilities are endless!
If you like getting your job search advice served up with an authentic voice, a dose of humility, and some popular culture, please subscribe to my AdvantEdge blog.
Dan Troup is the Managing Director of the AdvantEdge Careers coaching service. If you are interested in learning more about how a job search expert and certified career coach can assist you, please contact AdvantEdge Careers for a free initial consultation.