Does this thing come with an instruction manual?

Earlier this week I posted a few profile-enhancing tips on a LinkedIn discussion group frequented by active job seekers. One of the things I constantly notice when helping newcomers get up to speed on the essential functionality of LinkedIn is how poor they tend to be at populating their profiles with meaty, search-friendly information.

This is especially noticeable in the job seeker community. Rather than placing career relevant and recruiter magnet content, they fill their headline, summary and current/recent title section with terms and phrases such as the following.

-          Actively looking for employment

-          Unemployed

-          Jobseeker

-          Seeking a new opportunity

-          In career transition

-          Currently looking for a job as a __

I’m not suggesting they try to deceive anyone by showing incorrect employment status; but with or without a current paycheck, a software engineer is a software engineer. If that is the type of person you want to find and get hired, how likely is your search string terminology to include any of the above? I would imagine instead of any of those choices, you would search for: C++, Ruby on Rails, Java, Hadoop, developer, SQL or any other arrangement of the particular technology you need a candidate to know.

Going back to the LinkedIn discussion… there were a few comments and questions and many people seemed to find the information I shared helpful. Then one person posted something along the lines of suggesting that the reason users don’t do a better job of building their profiles is because LinkedIn doesn’t provide suggestions and “how to” tips for what to put in each field. Interestingly, I’ve encountered several people that seem to expect directions on basic things that most people take for granted, so I don’t mean to single this one person out for that.  

When I read the comment though, the first thing that popped into my mind was… well, let’s just say it wasn’t PC enough to share. I re-read it to make sure I wasn’t be too harsh and still couldn’t quite muster up much agreement with that point of view. There weren’t any instructions when I joined 7+ years ago and I actually thought back then and still do believe the site is rather self-explanatory and user-friendly.

What came to mind was how we are expected to be adults who earn a living figuring out how to do stuff, solve problems and basically deal with unknown situations without expecting someone to hand us an instruction manual before each move we make. I tried to think of an equivalent situation where the user of a product just decided to use it with or without knowing how it works.

Here are few examples that came to mind:

ATM machine – put your card in and follow the prompts on the screen to process your transaction. There’s no “how to get started” sign next to the machine explaining the purpose of this gizmo, what it does, how it does it and how you use it.  

Amazon / Ebay – want to buy  or sell something or just curious about how much something costs? Enter a few letters or words and bam there it is for you to examine, add to your cart or post your product for some other sucker to find.

Redbox – ever buy a soda or candy bar out of vending machine? Yep. Same idea here but for renting movies and video games.

Rental car – Hop in, put your paperwork away, figure out where the key goes, change the radio station to something less annoying, accidently turn on the windshield wipers and learn where the turn signal isn’t. It’s different than your own car, but you get used to it eventually.

IKEA furniture – OK. I admit you may need to read the instructions to build a desk out of 89 separate pieces of mysteriously shaped laminated particle board.

I don’t mean to sound insensitive to people who need help learning something new. But it’s just hard to comprehend in this day and age with fast moving, quick changing EVERYTHING that someone would expect the world to slow down to build a tutorial. Instead, how about they try to catch up and understand how to interface with an almost 10 year old website that continues to evolve features so that it can attract more novice users that eventually get it. 

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