Mea culpa.  It’s my fault.  I think I totally jinxed things when a few months back, following Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn, I joked that the site really had nowhere to go but up given some of the recent (bad) decisions I thought they’d made regarding how various aspects of the tool were being handled.

Well, the joke’s on me.  Or possibly us.  Since if you haven’t heard, LinkedIn has announced the single biggest site makeover they’ve ever conducted, including a complete overhaul of their interface along with numerous key adjustments to the site’s functionality.  I first got wind of these changes about a month or so ago, and wrote them off as unfounded rumors, but lately more and more reports are coming out confirming that they’re for real — and if you haven’t yet seen them, it’s because (like most web updates these days) they’re being rolled out to certain user groups at a time, versus all users of the site at once.  So while I literally haven’t seen the new interface pop up yet on my own account, or had any clients report seeing it, I know other consultants who have already run into the new screens and been a bit mystified by them.

What’s going to be different?  Rather than reinvent the wheel, myself, I’d recommend you review the comprehensive breakdown of changes involved that was compiled in the excellent article here written by Viveka von Rosen at LinkedIn Into Business.  She does a great job explaining the alterations taking place and providing screenshots of the “old” versus “new” site components.

The good news, potentially, is that the site seems to be streamlining their menu systems and getting rid of some minor features that nobody really used all that often, anyway.  So while veteran LinkedIn users like myself could easily kvetch about how things “used to be” and gripe about their cheese being moved, I can understand why the site might want to make things a bit more simplified, approachable, and easy to navigate given the millions of people who are fairly new to — and somewhat intimidated by — the tool.

The bad news?  I mean the really, really bad news from the perspective of the average job hunter?  The powers-that-be (according to reports) have apparently decided to make almost all of the “advanced” search features — the absolute heart and soul of the site’s true value proposition — now only available to premium subscribers.  So if you’re a job seeker who wants to run a detailed search for sales managers in the biotech field, recruiters in the financial space, or HR directors in Hoboken, you now have to uprade to one of the premium packages such as the $65/month Sales Navigator plan.  Obviously when you’re between jobs, and seeking your next paycheck, such a requirement may simply not be something you can afford.  Or at the very least, will represent a sizeable hit to your monthly budget.  But unless some sneaky workarounds arise or a potential competitor emerges out of nowhere, it sounds like you’re going to have to pay to play if you want to go beyond the site’s rudimentary capabilities.

What’s more, rumor has it that one will no longer able to use standard Boolean operators like AND or NOT in constructing certain searches — gutting one’s ability to eliminate unwanted results — and they’re also getting rid of things like the ability to tag/categorize contacts, take notes on your individual connections, save your searches for future use, and the like.  Again, it’s all spelled out in Viveka’s article above, should you care to go through it.  There’s also a similar article with w further thoughts here, written by Bridget Weide Brooks.  But beyond that, the silence is pretty deafening.  There’s not even much mention via LinkedIn’s own blog or communication channels about these changes yet or how users might successfully adapt to them.

So again, just wanted to give everybody a heads up about what I’ve heard and let you know that I’ll be sending out additional articles on the new interface — and my recommendations on how to use it — once I actually encounter it firsthand and get the chance to experiment with it.  Who knows?  Perhaps there’s a silver lining behind some of these alterations or some positive aspects that haven’t been reported yet.  All in all, though, my initial impression is that LinkedIn has decided to finally go into full capitalist mode (which is obviously their prerogative) and restrict the most powerful and useful features solely to the ranks of recruiters, sales professionals, and other folks willing to invest at that level.

I’ll keep an eye on things, as always, and let you know my recommendations on how best to use the tool from a job search perspective, soon as the new changes take root and the dust settles…