We’re constantly being told we should be authentic on LinkedIn and many people are left wondering just how authentic should they be? Confessing your criminal record and an inability to hold a job for more than a month or two (not that I’m equating those two things necessarily) may not be your best move. There are some items in your background that might be worth sharing.
And the answer for each of you on how personal you should get on LinkedIn is likely to be “it depends”.
Option 1 – No LinkedIn profile
Option 1 (not really an option to me) is to not have a LinkedIn profile at all. In general, I think it’s appropriate to maintain a presence on LinkedIn, at least from the time you graduate from high school throughout your professional life and even through your retirement. I know 80-year olds who are still actively involved in volunteer work and value the opportunity to stay connected and perhaps even do fund-raising for their causes through LinkedIn. You can be clear that you’re not interested in opportunities (though isn’t it flattering you’re still being asked?!) but still let your many professional connections from the past know what you’re doing and allow them to stay in touch.
Option 2 – Be Boring but safe
You could have only the facts in your LinkedIn profile – your job title, company, previous jobs, education, and skills. And perhaps you might add a brief description under a few of those headings. Can you see me yawning? Adding nothing to your profile that gives me a chance to know more about you and what your goals and interests are is a waste of my time to even look at your profile. Maybe your title and company inspire salespeople to want to sell to you but it does not inspire anyone to want to get to know you/do business with you/hire you.
Option 3 – Take a few risks
I appreciate seeing profiles that share a little about your professional journey – how you got to where you are and what your professional interests are. I might like to know a little about your outside interests if it gives me insights about you. Knowing that you’re an active volunteer in your community or an active member of a number of professional organizations is all good to know. Seeing you share a little about your training for a marathon or taking additional classes all tell me something about you that only enhances your reputation. There used to be a section called “Interests” where you could add hobbies and other interests. That section no longer exists. This additional information belongs either in your summary or perhaps in the accomplishments or projects sections.
Option 4 – Take more risks and win big
What I really love to see on LinkedIn is the content you share. Like, comment and share other people’s posts on LinkedIn. It lets me know you’re active on LinkedIn and also gives me the opportunity to engage in conversation with you. I can get a sense of your interests, of what matters to you, what we might have in common and whether you’re a thought leader in your industry. If you’ve written recommendations for others, it might show me as much about what kind of manager you are as the recommendations written about you. Adding a video of yourself speaking or a PowerPoint portfolio of some of your work can be a powerful way to give a sense of your personality and your professional presence.
Bonus Points: Write original content and share as articles on LinkedIn. I’m immediately impressed when I see you’ve written something that shows your knowledge or expertise and your view of the world. Please be sure it is original content! Even if it was originally published somewhere else (an online magazine, your own website, etc.), please copy and paste the content into LinkedIn. By all means, reference where it was originally written but don’t make me have to click again to get to the content! And remember that shared content from others belongs in the “share an article, photo, video or idea.” You immediately lose credibility with me if you share someone else’s content in the “write an article” area.
Option 5 – Overshare
I want to know a little bit about your personal journey that influenced your career. But there definitely is such a thing as too much information and too much inappropriate sharing on LinkedIn. Referencing time off to care for elderly relatives may be appropriate to explain a job gap but a long saga with the details of caring for them as one after the other deteriorated and passed away is just too much information for LinkedIn. Adding part of a testimonial to your summary or job description may be great but including the whole page is too much. Liking, commenting and sharing nothing but things such as what people are doing for their vacations or what they’re eating is not adding to your reputation. I’m not a big fan of quotes and inspirational statements but I know some people are. I recommend you share such content with some restraint – both in quantity and in the type of content.
Know your industry
If you’re in a very conservative industry, you might want to be a little more cautious in what you share. If you live in or do business with a very conservative part of the country/world, you might want to hold back a little on flying your freak flag. For most of you, you can probably afford to be a little more open than you currently are.
I would love to talk with you about the benefits to you of having a great profile on LinkedIn, how to use it without it taking up more time than you can afford, what’s appropriate for you to share on LinkedIn, and how I could help you with your professional goals. Please schedule a free 20-minute strategy consultation to see how I might be able to assist you.