Export LinkedIn Profiles and Connections to VCard or Sync

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    This Post is over a year old (first published about 3 years ago). As such, please keep in mind that some of the information may no longer be accurate, best practice, or a reflection of how I would approach the same thing today.
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    Date Posted:
    Jun. 05, 2020
    Last Updated:
    Jun. 07, 2020
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The vCard file format (often used with the extension .vcf, for Virtual Contact File) is a standardized way of storing contact information, such as name and telephone number, in a text based file. Since it is standardized, vCard files generated by one application, such as Google Contacts, can easily be read by another, such as Microsoft Outlook.

This article discusses the various ways that you can export profiles from LinkedIn as a vCard file, so you can add them to Outlook, Google Contacts, iOS, etc. It also discusses alternative ways to sync LI contacts / connections between different platforms.

Alternative Methods

Before I get into ways to generate vCard exports, I first want to cover some alternatives that are less technical and complex for most users, but will work if your goal is simply to sync contacts from LinkedIn to an external contact book.

Alternative Method – Native Sync

One less complex option that is available to LinkedIn users is to use the native sync feature. LinkedIn offers a built-in sync feature that synchronizes your LinkedIn connections with different external services; right now only the following are supported (accessible via your “Manage Sync Options” page):

  • Google (aka Google Contacts)
  • Microsoft Outlook (both Work and Personal)
  • Mobile Devices (through official LinkedIn App)

To my knowledge, the Outlook integration is the only option that allows for bi-directional sync, where LinkedIn connections will get exported from LI to your contacts, whereas the others only support importing from your contacts to LI.

The other major downside here is that you are giving LI a lot of your private information when you setup a sync, and many people might not be comfortable with that level of trust.

Bidirectional sync on mobile used to be supported, but has been deprecated.

Alternative Method – Third Party Services

Although there is a limited number of native contact sync integrations built-in to LinkedIn, there is a growing number of third-party services (usually paid) that have their own integrations built with LinkedIn’s API, or the new Sales Navigator system.

Warning: I have not tried, nor do I endorse, any of the following. Use at your own risk.

Alternative Method – Scrapers

I really would rather not discuss this much, as I can think of very few good reasons to engage in this type of behavior, and hundreds of bad reasons to do so. Plus, scraping PII data off LI is, in general, against their TOS, and is a great way to get your account banned or limited.

There are enough bad things in life; please don’t scrape and spam from LinkedIn results.

Generating Exports and Converting To vCard

If you don’t want to use a synchronization service, and want to manually pull contacts from LinkedIn into a different program, your options are somewhat limited, especially since LinkedIn is restrictive in allowing PII data to flow out of their platform.

CSV Export from LinkedIn

If you want to bulk export all your LinkedIn connections contact data, you can do so, via the Request Archive feature of LinkedIn’s Privacy controls.

You can follow this step-by-step guide on how to request the CSV file, and then, once you have it, you can do any of the following:

  • Import into another program that accepts CSV inputs (Google Contacts, Outlook, etc.)
  • Use option above, and then export back out of the program in a different format (such as .vcf)
  • Use a converter to bulk convert the CSV rows into a different format such as .vcf

Warning: Most of your contacts will likely show up in your export without an email address, even if you can see their email when logged into LinkedIn; this is due to a privacy settings specifically for downloading contact data. See the footnote in this LI answer page for details, and this article that explains the policy change and why so many people have email export disabled.

My Tool – Exporter Chrome Extension

I previously built a Chrome Browser Extension (linkedin-to-jsonresume) to export any given LinkedIn profile to the JSON Resume format; this is a schema for representing Resume information (work history, education, etc.) with JSON. Recently, I was asked if I could add vCard exporting to it, which is what actually prompted me to write this post, as I first wanted to research existing solutions before I spent any time writing my own.

I ended up adding basic vCard / VCF exporting support to the extension, which landed in my v1.1.0 release.

Please note that my extension is primarily focused on exporting an individual profile, and does not support bulk exports.

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