While I’ve never had the distinction of being summoned for jury duty, just yesterday I joined the ranks of another somewhat random club of people—namely, those LinkedIn users who suddenly have their search capabilities frozen due to the “commercial use limit” the site decided to institute a few years back.

What does this issue involve, exactly?  For those not aware of it, here’s a description of the phenomenon from the site itself: “Reaching the commercial use limit means your activity on LinkedIn is likely geared towards commercial purposes, like hiring or prospecting. The commercial use limit is based on your search activity since the start of the current calendar month. It takes into account (but is not limited to) non-name searches, mobile searches, searches outside your network, frequency of searching, viewing suggested profiles, and other factors. Until your limit resets next month, your search and suggested profile viewing experience will be limited. You can wait for the limit to reset on the 1st of each calendar month, or you can upgrade your account for unlimited high-powered searching.”

Frustratingly, LinkedIn won’t tell you HOW many searches you’re allowed to conduct for free—and there’s no way to know how close or far you are from the limit at any one time.  So for those folks like myself who suddenly run into this restriction (ironically, due to my attempts to evangelize and promote the LinkedIn tool to others) there are only a few options you have for addressing the matter:

#1) As LinkedIn would obviously prefer, the most direct route to removing the usage limit is to step up and upgrade your account to a paid premium subscription.  Take note, however, that the most inexpensive plan the site offers—the ‘Job Seeker’ plan—does not (based on my reading of the plan description) affect your usage limit at all, so purchasing this plan will not resolve your problem.  You’d need to step up to the ‘Business Plus’ plan for $47.99/mo to obtain unlimited search capability.  Alternatively, you could try the ‘one month free’ offer the site provides (if you’re a free user, look for the ‘try Premium for free’ link at the top right of your LinkedIn page) to get around the issue, temporarily, and then cancel your subscription before the month is up if you don’t suspect you’ll hit the limit again, going forward.

#2) Alternatively, and depending on the exact time of the month you run into the “commercial use limit” issue, you could simply abstain from using LinkedIn’s search capability until the first day of the following month, when your usage limits will reset.  While you’d still be able to run certain kinds of searches on the system in the meantime, such as looking up individual people by name and such, you won’t be able to run more detailed searches for people with certain titles, industry backgrounds, and the like.  So if you can limp by until the next month without this functionality, great.  If not, and you rely on LinkedIn as a critical ongoing weapon in your job search efforts, you might just need to suck it up and run with option #1 above—embracing it as a cost of doing business (or job hunting) today.

#3) Lastly, after poking around the web using the search here, I found a few obscure suggestions regarding other potential workarounds to this dilemma—such as using Google “x-ray” searches to turn up data on peoples’ profiles or searching using LinkedIn’s mobile app version, which one person claimed didn’t face such limits.  Honestly, though, I didn’t find any of the suggested solutions to be very practical for most users.  Not only are most of them way too complicated and technical for most people to implement, but the results seemed pretty clunky, since you’d typically have to work through a list of profiles one by one, versus being able to review an entire set of people at once and make immediate filtering adjustments to revise your search.  So to me, rather than resorting to these kinds of heroic and time-consuming measures to bypass the limit, it’s probably smarter for the majority of people to just pony up for a premium subscription if the need arises—at least for the length of their job search, when the need for access to the site is most pressing.

In closing, while I’m not particularly happy about suddenly becoming a member of the “commercial use limit” blacklist on LinkedIn, it’s at least prompted me to research the issue further and share a few thoughts on the subject with the growing number of users encountering this restriction.  Hope the above tips are helpful and if any of you out there have additional observations to share regarding the topic, or have uncovered any other potential workarounds, please don’t hesitate to post a comment!