No question about it, the average job hunter can’t afford to be frivolous with their money.  And when it comes to LinkedIn, as I’ve blogged about several times in the past, a paid premium subscription isn’t an absolute requirement — and you can still accomplish almost everything you need to do on the site, with no problems, as a completely free user.

As the old adage goes, however, sometimes you need to spend a bit of money to make money — and for those able to afford it, there’s always the option of upgrading to a premium LinkedIn membership such as the “Career” or “Business” subscription packages.   These account types, which run $30-60 per month, offer some additional nice-to-have features and can help you get a little more horsepower out of the system.  But we’ve trod that ground in the past and I’ve already discussed these packages to a certain degree in the articles linked above.  What I’ve never written about, however, is the truly elite level of membership — the “Sales Navigator” package — which runs $70-80 per month depending on whether you get a short-term or long-term subscription.  Is that account type worth even considering?  Does it make any sense in terms of an investment, for a serious job hunter, and provide any additional useful functionality in terms of the employment-finding process?

Having demoed this account type for a weeks now, myself, here’s a quick breakdown of what this account level (which again, may simply not be an option for some people) adds to the party — and how it could potentially enhance the success of those job seekers who choose to invest in it:

“Current Title” Search Functionality: While many folks don’t realize it at first, any time you run a standard search on LinkedIn to find people with a specific title (such as recruiters and hiring managers) you’ll receive results from people who both currently have the title in question, as well as for those who used to have the title in question.  This is true even if you use the special title: prefix before a particular term you’re targeting.  As a result of this, while far from worthless, many searches end up being a lot more scattered than they might initially appear.  If you upgrade to LinkedIn’s “Sales Navigator” (SN) package, however, you can directly specify a “current title” phrase to find any users on the system who are holding a given job function now, versus at some point in the past.  Personally, I find this option very useful and that it eliminates a lot of frustration.  But is it something you can’t live without?  Probably not.

Enhanced Company Search Options: Additionally, while free LinkedIn users can produce a basic list of target companies, filtered by city and keyword, it ends up begin far easier to create a precisely-targeted company prospecting list if you have the SN subscription.  Not only do you gain access to search filters not available with other account types (such as the ability to filter companies by revenue level, headcount growth, technologies used, industry category, etc.) but you can directly search for companies in certain locations — which is a  challenging step to accomplish, for free.  So while I wouldn’t go as far as to say this feature is indispensable, and there are certainly lots of others tools/databases out there for researching company possibilities, it’s still an awfully handy option to have on hand, if you’re able.

Saving, Tagging & Taking Notes on Contacts: If you invest in a SN subscription, you also gain access to a feature that used to be free — but that LinkedIn eliminated as a free option many years ago — which is the ability to take notes on any individual contacts on the system and also categorize (tag) groups of contacts for easy reference.  Additionally, you can “save” profiles for later view, even if they aren’t one of your existing 1st Degree connections.  Personally, I don’t use these kinds of features much because I simply don’t trust any online site to be the “repository” of my networking information (it’s too valuable) but I can understand why sales people — or the occasional job hunter — might want to take advantage of these features.

Search by Postal Code: An additional feature that some might find useful — and some may not — is the ability to search for people and companies not just by broad geographical areas (like the “Greater Seattle Area”) but by specific cities and zipcode radii down to a 10-mile range.  So if you’re, say, only interested in finding companies in South Puget Sound or in the Bellevue/Redmond area, you could be much more precise about this factor using the SN package

Search by Groups: While I’ve shared my suspicion for months now that LinkedIn may eventually get rid of the “Groups” feature — given how much they continue to de-emphasize it — with the SN package, you’re given the ability to search for  people based on the LinkedIn Groups of which they’re a member.  So if you wanted to see who belongs to the “Cloud, Saas & Virtualization” group or the Seattle Chapter group of “Marketing Executives International” you’d have the ability to do so — and then could make contact with them, either using your InMail credits or by contacting them directly through the Group’s home page, if preferred.

Tracking Company & Contact News: Want to cyber-stalk people or companies, to a certain degree? If you’re an SN premium user, you can flag any specific person or organization on LinkedIn you want to follow and then hit a series of links that will alert you to any unfolding changes/developments related to these parties.  Critical?  No.  But if you’re really into networking, and want to know every last development (e.g. new hire, news mention, new job posting) related to a given contact or company, you’d have that ability with this package.

Years at Current Job/Company: Last but not least, and perhaps the most intriguing of ALL the features you’d gain access to with a Sales Navigator subscription, this package allows you to run a search and see who has changed jobs or companies recently.  So if you’re looking for a Director of Finance position, for example, you could run a query showing you every person in Seattle who has landed this kind of role in the last 90 days — or the past year — and then note where they used to work with the thought being that their former company might still have an appropriate need, opening, or pain point you could resolve.  In all honesty, I haven’t yet had any clients experiment with this approach, but theoretically I think it has a lot of potential since companies these days can take a loooooong time to fill jobs and if somebody recently left them for greener pastures, this could easily signal an unpublished opportunity.

So there you have it — a quick rundown of the top job-hunting features you’d have available if you had the desire, and means, to upgrade to one of LinkedIn’s top subscription packages during the course of your search.  Or elected to check out a 30-day free trial of such a subscription, presuming you haven’t already used that benefit yet on your account.  All in all, none of these capabilities is absolutely essential — and you’d have to judge the eventual ROI for yourself given your own search strategy — but based on my own explorations of the package thus far, I’ll confess, it resolves some chronic frustrations that free users face and opens up some interesting new self-marketing possibilities!