[May 2018 update:
Linkedin has now partnered with ID.me to speed up the military verification process.
I’ve met Blake Hall, the ID.me co-founder. He’s a military vet and the startup has been around for a number of years. (He tells quite the story about how the military developed his entrepreneurial skills.) ID.me has plenty of experience, their online verification system is as secure as it gets, and they have the certifications to prove it.
Here’s the latest Linkedin page to sign up for the free year of Premium services. Read on to learn why you have to use it, along with all of the other networking skills you’ve read about.]
[April 2016 update from reader Carl Reid:
Linkedin’s free year of Premium membership can be obtained at the “Linkedin For Veterans” page.]
[September 2015: Linkedin changed their link again. Click on the “Job Seeker” link in the first sentence.]
[Note: Linkedin changed the military “Job Seeker” membership upgrade process in November 2014.
This thread has been updated with the new procedure. ]
Looking for a job on Linkedin?
This program has been around for a while in different incarnations but it’s been difficult to figure out. It’s almost an urban legend: everyone knows someone who got a free five-year Premium membership. Or wait— maybe it’s just one year. And they had to be a veteran. An unemployed veteran. Or wait, maybe they just had to be seeking a job in the tech industry. Linkedin’s staff would upgrade you right away, or maybe it would take them a few days to get around to you, or maybe they were just automatically upgrading everyone with the words “military veteran” in their profile.
The old programs were badly publicized and difficult to understand. For every veteran who got a free upgrade there were at least two more verbally peeved veterans who couldn’t get Linkedin to help them out.
All of those older programs are superseded. Linkedin’s latest version is simply one year at the Premium level with a “Job Seeker” badge. Technically it’s only “free” by supplying a credit card number and remembering to cancel it before the 13th month. The upgrade is handled by their social media team where real people communicate with each member who’s seeking the upgrade.
What do you get from a premium membership? Yeah, I know– you get a job. But while that happens you gain the following privileges:
- Five “InMail” messages per month to recruiters
- Seeing the names of people who’ve viewed your profile
- “Top of the pile” applications to recruiters
- A cool gold “In” icon by your profile
- Salary data
- Group support and webinars
I have to hand out a cynical kudo to Linkedin for simultaneously supporting veterans… while potentially exploiting a few of them to improve the company’s revenue. This “free upgrade” creates a new arms race. If you and thousands of other drawdown veterans upgrade to this free status then our applications can’t all end up on the top of the recruiter’s pile. However, any veteran who doesn’t sign up has pretty much guaranteed that their job application will be at the bottom of the recruiter’s pile. During a drawdown.
Yet Linkedin knows that a few of us won’t remember to cancel our membership, or we’ll get accustomed to the new level of convenience on the hedonic treadmill. Pretty soon that $29.95 monthly fee won’t seem so bad— after all, look at the value we’re getting!
With that logic, I have to reluctantly recommend that you improve your job search by applying for this free upgrade. Once you nail that dream job, however, please remember to cancel out!
Don’t worry about my application. I signed up just to see who’s looking at my profile learn more about the program.
After I’ve seen enough then I’ll cancel it and drop back down to the Basic membership level. July 2014 update: I canceled the Premium membership with no problems. Here’s the process:
See the link at the top of this post, but here’s some helpful tips in your account:
1. Be a U.S. military veteran. This is not open to military of other countries. This is not open to veterans of other occupations. You might not have to be an American citizen, but you have to be a U.S. military veteran.
2. Complete your Linkedin profile. Your profile has to document that you’re a U.S. military veteran. How you show that is up to you– a simple “U.S. military veteran” line entry in your profile, or a list of all the commands you’ve been attached to, or your rank, or a portrait photo in uniform, or anything else which persuades people that you’re a veteran. Make it easy for Linkedin’s staff to figure this out– they may not be military veterans themselves, and they don’t need to see a DD-214, but they have to feel comfortable that you’re a military veteran.
3. Fill out the Linkedin Premium membership “Job Seeker” free upgrade request form at this link. (This was instituted in November 2014 and again in September 2015. For those of you who remember the old instructions, they no longer apply.)
3a. (Optional!) For additional support & help, join Linkedin’s “Veteran Mentor Network” group. It’s a closed group, so you’ll have to apply to the group manager and wait for their approval. It might take a few minutes or it might take a day. Linkedin may limit your membership to 50 groups, so if you’re at that limit then you may have to drop a couple of groups to finish this upgrade. After you finish the upgrade process, you can drop the upgrade groups and rejoin your other groups.
4. Join the subgroup “LI Job Seeker Subscription” of that Veterans Mentor Network. It’s another closed group, so you’ll have to apply to the group manager and wait for their approval.
4. Wait for Linkedin’s “Welcome Message.”
to the LI Job Seeker Subscription group. Upgrade instructions (and the link) will be in that message. Give it a couple of days– the Linkedin staff goes through the group several times a week to check your profile and verify that you’re a U.S. military veteran (see steps 1-2). If the Welcome Message doesn’t show up (for whatever reason) then contact Linkedin staff by contacting Linkedin’s Alison Dorsey in this thread. Once you have the link, then follow the instructions for the upgrade.
What if you’re already paying for a Premium account? Well, Linkedin is willing to compensate you with about $350 worth of what you’re already paying for. Near the end of the month, cancel your existing Premium account (revert to “Basic” membership) and wait until the beginning of the next month.
Verify that you’re not being charged for a Premium account. Then follow steps 1-5 above and get back your Premium membership. Of course if you’ve just filled out a job application, or if you expect a recruiter to find your Premium profile any second now, then you may want to hang on for another month and try later.
There are still glitches. Some posters report seeing a $29.95 charge on their credit card. That didn’t happen to me, but my USAA credit card account shows a “$1 pending” charge from “Linkedin Corporation” that will probably disappear in a week or two. (USAA will take care of me if that doesn’t happen.)
Others report account problems with the upgrade link and can’t finish the process. Linkedin’s automated credit card processing system has trouble validating mailing addresses in the APO/FPO system, so that may require an additional e-mail to Linkedin and a phone call. Ms. Dorsey and the other Linkedin staff seem pretty responsive, though, so you can post a comment in that “Upgrade instructions” thread in step #5 and wait for help to arrive.
For those few of you who don’t have a credit card, for whatever reason: find a way to get one. Linkedin is running a business based on collecting consumer info, and a credit card is part of their database. If you can’t provide a credit card number then Linkedin won’t help you. Yes, this is a problem for some chronically unemployed veterans– especially homeless ones. Linkedin is not interested in solving that problem by removing the credit card requirement.
Is the upgrade worth it to you? Yes: other U.S. military veterans are using it and Linkedin puts their applications at the top of the recruiter’s pile. You might need to upgrade your membership with the other cool kids or they’ll get all the good jobs before you get one.
Otherwise, I’m skeptical of the placebo effect. If the Premium membership inspires you to work harder, to be more aggressive about networking with employers, and to feel more confident– then it should work great!
You might wonder why Linkedin is jumping through all of these hoops. Sure, it gets them noticed with the government agencies and employers who are finding jobs for veterans. It’s also great publicity. (Hey, they inspired me to write this post.)
I’m glad that they’re doing good things for veterans, but why did this Premium membership have to be behind a paywall in the first place? Why not upgrade every single new Linkedin member to Premium for 2-3 free months? Everyone will upgrade (just to get their application to the top of the recruiter’s pile) and a few will pay for their Premium membership after the free trial expires. Linkedin will have their personal info and can keep marketing to them after the Premium membership expires. Better yet, everyone can stop jumping through the hoops of the upgrade process. I wonder how much more quickly Linkedin’s membership (and other revenues) would’ve grown if this package had been more “free” and less “freemium”.
But that’s just my cynical perspective. One of the veterans who’s previously shared his job-search advice on this blog (and who’s contemplating his second job search in just a few years) checked in with a ringing endorsement:
“I took advantage of the one year free LI Job Seeker membership for veterans. Golden opportunity for some serious networking at an unbelievable price. I would use the bully pulpit to let everyone know. “
He had an extremely successful military career and he’s doing even better carving out his own bridge career(s). I’d take his recommendation seriously, and I’m not saying that just because I like the term “bully pulpit”!
By the way, when your upgrade is finished you could also take another classy step: post a thank you to the Linkedin team for the upgrade. You never know who’s reading that thread, and your professional courtesy may get you noticed.
Have you already upgraded your Linkedin membership? How’s it working out? Did the recruiter notice your application because of your Premium membership? Please share your story here or contact me!
Military experience to civilian careers
Starting your bridge career after the military
Military retention: “Should you stay or should you go?”
The transition to a bridge career
USAA’s Military Transition checklist planner
BizJournals: 10 Job Search Non-negotiables
Will you work after military retirement?