Alas, as much as I love LinkedIn, and recommend the site to people constantly, I’m still mystified by some of the changes they’ve made to their navigational structure and user interface over the years!

For example, I’m shocked that the three most valuable features of the system (the Advanced People Search, Answers, and Companies pages, in my opinion) are no longer obvious and directly accessible from the top toolbar of the site — as they used to be in the past.  As a result, I’ve encountered scads of LinkedIn members who aren’t using these features on a regular basis or even aware that they exist.  And as for those “power users” of the system who do become well-acquainted with the above features, even these folks often miss another very useful part of the site that used to be given top billing, but has since been shuttled off to interface oblivion.  I’m referring to the Service Providers feature of LinkedIn.  Have you discovered this feature yet?  If not, it definitely might come in handy in certain cases, whether you’re using LinkedIn for job-hunting purposes or from a more general business or sales perspective.

The Service Providers page, which you can check out here, is more or less a “yellow pages on steroids” that provides you with a list of vendors, consultants, and professionals-for-hire across 23 different service categories — ranging from recruiter to career coach to dentist to attorney to handyman — and then gives you the ability to sort the list of vendors by the number of recommendations/testimonials they’ve received from people you trust.  So no matter what type of consultant you might be looking for, to help you out with a need or project, there’s a good chance you can turn up some killer referrals via this page of LinkedIn, versus taking your chances on the old-fashioned yellow pages or on the vagaries of a general Google search.

When you access this page and click on the service category that interests you, don’t also miss the fact that you can “change location” in the top right of the page to focus only on professionals in your local area — versus those located anywhere in the world at large — and that you can also click on the four tabbed options (You/1st/2nd/Globe) to narrow the list down to only those folks who come highly recommended by you personally (strange that you’d forget this), by your close circle of 1st Degree connections, by the broader pool of 2nd Degree friend-of-friend connections, or by people (the globe icon) from across the entire LinkedIn system.

What’s kind of weird, too, is that you then must click yet another link to sort the vendors who come up by “Top Results” instead of by the default “Date” setting.  Why the powers-that-be at LinkedIn would think the average person would be more interested in finding a consultant with the most recent recommendation versus those with the most overall recommendations makes no sense to me, again.  But once you fight through the steps above, you’ll end up with a terrific list of vendors to choose from, and will have the confidence of knowing that other people you trust personally vouch for these providers.

So again, I’m not sure what rationale LinkedIn would have for intentionally trying to hide such a practical and useful feature of their own website, but regardless, I thought that pointing this tool out would therefore be a great tip to share with all of you, if you hadn’t already discovered the Service Providers page, yourself!