Alas, I’m coming to hate the concept of “A/B testing” where websites constantly tinker with things, behind the scenes, leading some groups of customers to have access to certain new screens that are being rolled out — while other groups of customers continue to see the same old interface.

Case in point: for years, I’ve stressed the importance of packing one’s “Specialties” box on LinkedIn with at least 20-30 relevant keywords as a critical step in getting your profile found by employers/recruiters/customers on the system.  The other day, however, I was working on a client’s LinkedIn profile and noticed the Specialties box was totally missing from his screen.  It just wasn’t there.  I looked high, low, and under my desk.  I logged out and logged back in.  I even went back to check my OWN profile, just to be sure I wasn’t crazy, and sure enough, my Specialties box was still sitting there under my Summary section — right where it’s always been.

And now that I’ve heard this same issue reported a few times from other users on the system, I think it’s a fairly safe bet that the LinkedIn Specialties section isn’t long for this world.  I’m not sure when they’re going to pull the plug on it, but the day’s inevitably going to come.  So for all of those existing LinkedIn users who want to prepare for this new reality — as well as those new users who can no longer access the Specialties box at all — here’s what I’d recommend:

1)  First, if you no longer can see the Specialties box show up when you edit your LinkedIn profile, you’ll want to make sure your Summary and Experience sections are PACKED with all of keywords you want to be “findable” around on the system.  For example, in my Specialties box, I currently have this block of keywords running:

Career counseling | career counselor | career coaching | career coach | outplacement services | career guidance | job search training | interview training | resume writing | cover letter writing | career planning | career management | career marketing | career exploration | career change | career assessment | job lead generation | job search strategy | personal branding | interview preparation | interview coaching | LinkedIn training | job offer negotiation | personal branding

If my Specialties box suddenly got “raptured” and went away, however, I’d immediately compensate by adding a new paragraph along these lines to my Summary section:

Key areas I specialize in include: career coaching, outplacement, career guidance & strategy, job search training, interview training, resume & cover letter writing, career planning, career management, career assessment, job lead generation, job search strategy, personal branding, LinkedIn training, job offer negotiation, and personal branding.

While not all that elegant, I’d definitely add this sort of “text dump” to my Summary to ensure my profile comes up when other LinkedIn users search for any of these competencies.

2)  Secondly, and even more important in the big scheme of things, you’ll want to add the optional “Skills & Expertise” section to your profile if it’s not on there already.  You’ll find this feature by opening your Edit Profile screen and clicking the “Add Section” link right under your initial gray information block.  Once you insert this section into your profile, you can pick up to 50 skills from the built-in competencies database that LinkedIn has developed.

Here’s a screenshot of what my “Skills & Expertise” section looks like, as an example:

Ultimately, this section is going to be a HUGE deal.  What I strongly suspect is happening is that LinkedIn has realized they’re missing out on a multi-million-dollar revenue stream — the chance to sell employers and recruiters a searchable database of over 140 worldwide professionals.  Up until now, this hasn’t been very feasible because there’s no standardization.  One person can say they do “strategic planning” and another person who does the exact same thing could instead call this same skill “strategic visioning.”  Once they get everybody to update their profiles, however, and nestle their skills into these tight little new boxes, they’ll have a goldmine on their hands.

So if your Specialties box suddenly disappears, or you want to just get out ahead of the curve and be proactive, I’d suggest you follow the two “workarounds” outlined above.  Taking these steps will help ensure your profile continues to stay at top of the charts — at least until the day eventually comes when the A/B Testing team at LinkedIn hits us with another surprise!