One of the key side-effects of the COVID-19 pandemic has been how it has played out in the economy. There are currently 12.6 million people out of work in the U.S. alone, with estimates from the International Labour Organization noting that globally some 245 million full-time jobs have been impacted.
To meet some of that challenge, today, LinkedIn is launching a new Career Explorer tool to help people find new jobs. Out in beta today in English (and adding further languages soon), this is not another job search engine. It's a tool that matches a person's skills with jobs that she or he might not have otherwise considered, and then provides pointers on what extra skills you might want to learn to be even more relevant.
Alongside this, LinkedIn is launching a new skills portal specifically to hone digital skills; subtle profile picture "frames" to indicate when you're looking for work, or when you are hiring; and interview prep tools.
The launches come on the heels of the company confirming that it now has 722 million members (which may not be the same as active users, which it does not disclose), and with owner Microsoft noting in its earnings this week that LinkedIn has seen revenues increase 16% versus the same quarter a year ago.
It doesn't disclose actual numbers but said that the growth was driving by Marketing Solutions (its advertising business), which also seems to imply that its Talent Solutions (which is where the jobs/recruiting business sits) could use a boost.
The Career Explorer tool is perhaps the most interesting of the new features.
Built with flexibility in mind, LinkedIn is leaning on its own trove of data to map some career paths that people have taken, combining that with data it has on jobs that are currently in higher demand, and are extrapolating that to help people get more creative about jobs they could go for.
This would be especially useful if there are none in their current field, or if they are considering using the opportunity of a job loss to rethink what they are doing (if COVID-19 hasn't done the rethinking for them).
The example that LinkedIn gives for how this works is a notable one. It notes that a food server and a customer service specialist (an in-demand job) have a 71% skills overlap.
Neither might be strictly considered a "knowledge worker" (interesting that LinkedIn is positioning itself in that way, as it's been a tool largely dominated by the category up to now), but both interface with customers. LinkedIn uses the Explorer to then suggest what training you could undertake (on its platform) to learn or improve the skills you might not already have.
The Career Explorer is a progression along the road of a bigger strategy that LinkedIn has had to grow two areas of its business -- education/training (LinkedIn Learning) and recruitment/job search -- by building tools that help users leverage both at the same time. Last year, it launched a skills assessment tool that serves a somewhat similar purpose: these are tests that people can take to verify what skills they have and what skills they still need to learn for a particular job or role that they might be considering.
In the midst of a pandemic, that effort took on a more pointed recovery role, with skills training developed in partnership with Microsoft (which owns LinkedIn) specifically to address digital gaps in the employment market, which when filled could help the economy rebuild. LinkedIn said that to date, around 13 million people have used those tools to learn new skills for the most in-demand jobs.
The idea with these new tools is that while people may be losing their jobs, there is still work out there. LinkedIn itself says it has more than 14 million positions open right now, with close to 40 million people coming to the site to search for work every week, and three people getting hired each minute. So the aim is to figure out how best to connect people with the opportunities around them.
And given that LinkedIn, now with 722 million users, has long made recruitment and job searches a central part of its business -- both in terms of traffic and in terms of the revenue it makes from those services, I often think of it as the place where professionals go to network and look for work -- launching these tools not only can help LinkedIn be a more useful partner in the job-search process. It helps keep that jobs business evolving at a time when it otherwise might feel somewhat stagnant. And after all, despite the activity on LinkedIn, unemployment remains high and some believe will get worse before it gets better again.