How Instagram Became LinkedIn For Millennials

If asked which social media platform could help your career, you would probably say LinkedIn. But as today’s millennials rise in their professions, so does Instagram as the platform that can offer the most professional opportunities, if used smartly.

Millennials are 27-42 years old and are entering the stride of their careers. They’re the day-to-day decision-makers of their organizations; interviewing who to hire, deciding who to fire, complaining about Gen Z co-workers. The older half of the millennials are managing PnLs, responsible for ROIs, starting and selling companies, etc.

While LinkedIn serves as their go-to “crisis network” when they’re “Open to Work,” it’s Instagram where they hang out each day. For active users, the average time spent on Instagram is 33 minutes each day, while for LinkedIn it’s only 7 minutes per visit. 

We’ve all seen the “Open to Work” LinkedIn post, it generally starts like this: I rarely post here, but after an incredible chapter, it is time to close the book and look towards new opportunities…” Emphasis being “rarely post here.” 



Now shift to Instagram. It’s the place where millennials admit to “wasting too much time” scrolling through their feeds in their downtime. What they’re thinking about as they age has shifted, as their careers become more centerstage, so does the type of content they’re consuming. 

Enter the rise of the Instagram professional gurus, Adam Grant with 2.3M Instagram followers teaching us how to manage a team mindfully, Brenee Brown’s 5M followers, Gary Vaynerchuck’s 10M, the list goes on. Millennials are consuming content about how to be leaders, how to manage teams, how to have a work-life balance; these are the topics on their minds.

The types of content appropriate for Instagram have evolved. There’s still an influx of baby pictures and vacation shots, but thanks to influencers and also, Meta Threads, text-based images now proliferates Instagram feeds as well. They’re scrolling, they’re watching, they’re reading.

They’re keeping up with what their network is sharing, friends and family but also colleagues, past and present. These are the people you want to be top of mind when an opportunity arises. Looking for a new marketing manager and remembering the event pics your old co-worker shares, you think, Cindy looks like she is crushing it at Verizon, wonder if she’d have a conversation? 

In today’s virtual world, Instagram has become the polite place for colleagues to follow one another. The savvy senior analyst who follows her boss on Instagram also follows her boss’s boss. She “Likes” their pictures but more importantly, smartly gets on their radar. 

Intergenerational following on Instagram is appropriate and friendly, as opposed to a platform like TikTok which is more “friends-only.”  A manager following his 20-something direct report on TikTok is awkward, on Instagram it’s being nice.

If you’re on Instagram and not considering how it can help you professionally, you’re missing out. A few considerations to be more strategic:

  • Don’t just share the personal, share the professional side of your life. A 30% professional, 70% personal content mix is a comfortable rule of thumb.

  • Leading a team? What are your values? Your direct reports care about this above most things. Instagram is an excellent place to share values and beliefs in captions or quote cards. 

  • Haven’t figured out your voice yet? Follow professional influencers you agree with and share their thoughts that resonate with you.

  • Follow your colleagues, including past colleagues you had good relationships with. 

  • Take educated risks, obsessed with that startup? DM the founder, they’re likely going to see it. 

  • Follower numbers don’t translate to credibility. Assuming your career isn’t an influencer or entertainer, if you have 100+ followers and you post fairly regularly you are regarded as “normal.” 

  • You control your narrative, by sprinkling in your professional wins, your leadership POV, your work, you’re keeping yourself top of mind to the people who matter to you professionally the most. 

If you don’t tell your story, no one else will. Be your biggest advocate. You can be both humble and proud. Personal and professional. Be as smart on Instagram as you are in your career and you may be rewarded.

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