By Tom Crouch
One of the more frequently encountered concerns expressed about LinkedIn is privacy. While most people on LinkedIn use it as tool for network development and job search, they may not always want to be exposed to random browsers or uninvited “unknowns.” This is a bit of a challenge. After all, one of the main purposes of LinkedIn is to be more accessible and visible to the outside world – the general idea is to “be seen” more. Still, there are some people who are naturally cautious and slightly uneasy about their level of public exposure.
The important thing to know is that you can and probably should control your level of exposure on LinkedIn; this is a relatively easy thing to do. It’s called “Privacy and Settings,” and you can choose whether or not you want “Everyone” to see your content and activities, or no one, or somewhere in between. It’s up to you.
Step one is to open up your Profile page and move the mouse cursor through the black top banner over to the top right hand corner, past the little icons for messages and notifications, and to where there should be a miniature version of your Profile photo (you do have a Profile photo, right?). If there is not a photo yet, then just glide over the white and gray silhouette. A pull-down menu will appear which starts with the “Sign Out” option (which you should always do at the end of every session) and ends with an access link to the Help Center (check it out too).
Move over the tab labeled “Privacy and Settings” and click. It will usually ask for you to repeat your password. After that, it’s pretty straight forward. It’s up to you to spend some time investigating each of the four title tabs on the left menu (i.e., 1 = Profile, 2 = Communications, 3 = Groups Companies and Applications, and 4 = Account.) Check out what each section involves and what alternative settings are available. All four sections have their own set of internal links to various account management tools and related Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s). There isn’t enough space here to describe all the available choices, so this article will only address some of the key ones and then leave you to investigate the rest.
For example, from the “Profile” tab, check out both “Choose whether or not to share your profile edits” and “Select who can see your activity feed.” From the menu box you can determine who gets notified whenever you post something of professional interest or make updates to your Profile page. Do you want “Everyone” to see your activities? Or “Just your Network or Connections”? “Only you”? You choose. As an example, you might want to turn this option off if you’re discreetly looking for a new job and don’t want your present employer to see that you’re obviously enhancing your page and possibly looking to move on to new territory.
Another key selection from this group is “Select what others see when you’ve viewed their profile.” Whenever you visit another LinkedIn member’s page, this could be “Your name and headline” (which is what LinkedIn recommends and wants, and includes your photo), or the middle-road ”Semi-private profile characteristics such as industry and title” (there’s no photo or specific origin displayed), or third “You will be in complete private mode,” which means you will be completely anonymous in your viewing choices (Profile Stats are sacrificed). Equally important here might be choosing “Select who can see your connections.” If you don’t want your contacts or endorsements to be visible, choose to opt out.
Lastly in the Profile section, have a look at “Edit your public profile” whereby you can customize your public profile and control how you appear when people search for you on Google, Yahoo!, Bing, etc. Here you can decide which specific elements of your Profile you want to be visible to the public. Check the boxes of those you do (e.g., Picture), and leave blank those you don’t (e.g. Past Positions). While in this area you can also click “Your public profile URL.” This allows you to enhance your personal brand by creating a customized URL for your LinkedIn page. If you want you can go from a slightly awkward and automatically-assigned URL to one of your own name and design. This is better when adding your LinkedIn contact info to resumes, cover letters and business cards.
There’s much more to investigate and learn about regarding account management and settings. Check out the Communications tab to learn how to alter the flow of emails. Look into the “Account” tab to manage your security settings, change passwords and email settings, or to close an account. “Privacy and Settings” is a tremendous resource for learning how to control your level of exposure on LinkedIn, but like so many things related to successfully using LinkedIn as a tool for job search and career development, the key is to “click and play.” Try it!