What does a “professional network” look like for you? For many, LinkedIn may come to mind.

LinkedIn was the first of its kind to market with its model of the professional network effect. Now in its 16th year, LinkedIn has been around longer than Facebook and has outlived its social media peers - Friendster and MySpace. We take a look at its successes, it’s shortcomings and what will take its place in the new world of work.

Before LinkedIn, there were CVs, career fairs, networking events and professional organisations. Many of which were cumbersome, elitist or exclusionary. LinkedIn offered up a platform for anyone to make a professional profile and connect with business contacts, recruiters, hiring managers, potential employers and employees.

What Made LinkedIn Successful?

LinkedIn has maintained an enduring network effect due to a steady stream of students and recent graduates entering the workforce each year. In the past it was normal for individuals to have a job for life, but the last few decades have seen job-hopping and career changes as trends on the rise, therefore increasing the levels of engagement on LinkedIn’s professional network.

The platform’s business model allowed for it to be highly monetizable beyond traditional advertisements, with its option to charge job seekers and businesses for a premium subscription to unlock more insights and capabilities.
The New World of Work

Creative expression, online influence and extreme optionality manifesting as remote work, calendar flexibility and the freelance economy are redefining the world of work as we know it. Anyone with a Wifi connection, some spare time and a splash of creativity can build just about any type of tech-enabled business. The gig economy is exposing a need for better finance and productivity tools for self-employed workers and companies using subcontractors.

What Are LinkedIn’s Shortcomings?

The way individuals present themselves on LinkedIn centres around a digital CV that showcases a snapshot of their professional credentials. However, this format fails to reflect other insights on an individual's true potential for a job role.

For example perseverance, collaboration skills, “side-hustles” and professional skills developed during spare time. Although LinkedIn has the ability to link to Dribble, Github, Substack, Behance and others, its initial CV format is lagging behind the information gained from emerging new platforms where you can share skills and have a thriving community critique your work.

The New Community-Led Professional Networks

SaaS (Software as a service) tools that invest in community are delivering a more enticing and valuable experience for their users. These professional networks have an emphasis on shared interests, peer education and collaboration. Let’s look at some examples:

  • Dev.to for developers
  • Girlboss for female business owners
  • Figma Community for designers
  • Okappy for field service work

These SaaS tools are able to deliver daily useful information to their users, paving the way as the leaders of new professional networks. Not only do most of these platforms have public facing profiles, but they also have the ability for users to share work in the form of open-source designs, templates and projects. Okappy does this too with it’s editable job-sheet templates and ability to send and receive digital job-sheets with videos and photographs of the work completed.

When the users of these platforms build up their portfolio or profile, grow their following or network and contribute to the community via a forum or community chat, they build a personal track record that opens the doors for new opportunities. Many SaaS companies have seen this trend coming from a distance and have been adapting to towards it. The future of work is one of productivity, collaboration and creativity; where the platforms of everyday work execution are transforming into the new professional networks for industries.