When You Want To Be More than One thing On LinkedIn

Allie2I can’t go back to yesterday – because I was a different person then. Lewis Carroll

Do you have just one job/just one career identity? If so, LinkedIn should be easy for you. But what about all the people who have more than one job, more than one career, or also work as a contractor under the auspices of their own company.   LinkedIn isn’t really set up to accommodate you, but you can manipulate it to work for you. You may have to make some tough choices, though.

Before I get into details, I wanted to let you know that I created a more in-depth video with some specific strategies, click here to request it.

You work full-time for a company, but you’re starting your own non-competitive business on the side

I have a client who has worked full time for many years as a software engineer. She found a passion for sharing her love of exploring the local countryside on the weekends with other office-bound technical professionals. Her company knows about and supports her outside interest (smart!) as it makes her an even more productive and happy worker. Consequently, she doesn’t have to hide it on LinkedIn. For her, the challenge was to meld these two roles on LinkedIn in a professional way and promote her new business, while making it clear that she has full-time employment elsewhere. To do this, we had to tell her entire story in her summary.


We positioned her full-time employment on top in the primary section under experience, and her part-time company underneath that, in the second position.  With the pre-2017 version of LinkedIn, this worked fine as both descriptions were fully visible when people looked at her profile.  With the new version of LinkedIn, only the first two lines of her summary are visible.

If you click on “see more” the two descriptions are visible. Is there something she could do differently with her summary? I’ve been telling my clients that your first two lines (225 characters) should either be a complete story and call to action and/or be so compelling that it makes us want to click on “see more”.  In the example above, my client could add a brief introduction before her computer science professional all caps headline. Perhaps it could be something like this:

“As a scientist, I lead teams to solve complex problems. I also love leading them into the nature network around the Bay area…”

And then she would have the rest of her summary as is.  That might not be quite the right wording for her but something along those lines would resolve the problem of showing both businesses in the first two lines.

Experience

We also put her full-time employment in the top/primary position under experience and her part-time company in the second position.

Should you have two profiles if you have two different businesses?

My answer to this is always an emphatic “no!” For one thing, it’s a violation of LinkedIn’s terms of service, which you signed when you opened a LinkedIn account. You also open yourself up to a whole world of confusion. Unless you have two different names for each profile and pictures that are so different, even the FBI’s facial recognition program wouldn’t recognize you! Do let me know, though, if you think you really have a case to make for having more than one profile. Maybe you’re a financial consultant during the week and a punk rock musician on the weekends. Or a CEO executive assistant who sells handmade jewelry on the side.   While you might reference “music” or “crafts” as an interest under your LinkedIn summary, I think, in these cases, you should pick a primary business to feature on LinkedIn. Then look to promote your alternative business elsewhere (perhaps SnapChat and Youtube for your music and Pinterest and Instagram for the crafts).

You can have two different LinkedIn company pages

You might have a LinkedIn company page for your psychology practice and another for your art work and painting business.   You’ll still need to choose which to feature as your primary business.

Your own consulting business with numerous contracts

What if you have your own consulting business and do contract work for other companies? Let’s look at a few scenarios.

1) Your primary business is your consulting practice

I had a client who was a very successful consultant for over 17 years. But each time she’d taken on a contract with a major client, she added them to her profile as a new “job.” This tactic had the advantage of displaying a nice prestigious logo. It also looked like she couldn’t hold a job for more than a year, instead of successfully completed projects for this in-demand consultant who has various clients.

For her, we chose to add all the companies where she’d done contract projects under her own consulting business. LinkedIn doesn’t allow much in the way of formatting, so we chose all caps to make the companies stand out.

This happens a lot in Silicon Valley, where companies hire the talent they need as contractors and not employees. In this case, I usually recommend that you position your current contract in the top experience position. If it’s a short-term contract, you may want to remove it as a separate position when the contract ends, and add it to “Clients have included…” under your own consulting business.

 3) Primary business   means two or more long-term clients at any one time under the auspices of your business.

There are advantages to having your current contracts listed as separate jobs under experience, but control the order by telling your story in your summary.

LinkedIn workarounds

When you add a new position, LinkedIn automatically inserts it in the top (primary) position and sends out an announcement to your network about your new job. You can control this scenario to your advantage. I’ve been working with a very successful group of CFOs who may work with several clients for a period of time.   Their LinkedIn profiles made it look like they were just job-hoppers rather than the representatives of a prestigious CFO advisory company. So we took these steps:

  1. Turned their “broadcast off” so they weren’t sending out notices about the changes they would be making to their profiles while working with me. Everyone should do this as a best practice. Removed all the previously completed positions that they had held under the auspices of their company.
  2. Added the completed project company names IN ALL CAPS under their own company name to add visual organization and promotion, along with a brief description of the company.
  3. Dragged their own company to the top/primary position.   If you have more than one current position listed, you can mouse over it and you’ll see three horizontal lines on the left-hand side. Grab it with your cursor and drag it into position.
  4. Wrote a summary that explained their expertise, what they did, and some of their successes, making it clear that these successes were under the auspices of their current company.
  5. Added a clear call to action that they were open to additional opportunities under the auspices of their company.

Your Activity

LinkedIn makes any activity (like, comment, share, articles you write) very visible when someone looks at your profile.  You can choose to have no activity at all and that section will remain blank but that’s a huge wasted opportunity to be seen by others on LinkedIn. (See my article about being active on LinkedIn)  So, let’s assume you want to be active on LI. What is that activity going to say about you and your professional brand? Think of someone looking at your activity section on your profile.  Are you randomly liking, commenting, and sharing articles on anything that happens to catch your attention? Do these make you look like you have a wide range of interests? Or does it simply make you look unfocused? I generally don’t tell people that they must not or must do something but I do point out the way things look and they usually figure out pretty quickly what is best for them professionally.

Please note that not everyone sees the same activity on your profile.  If they are members of the same LinkedIn group as you, they will see your group comments. Those who are not members of that group will not see those comments. This can be confusing!

People have huge challenges when they try to add details from their complicated lives and career history to LinkedIn. I haven’t even touched on what to do if you’re a career changer (whether past or current.) Let me know what your challenge is to represent yourself well on LinkedIn, along with any good solutions you’ve found.

I would love to talk with you about taking control of your profile on LinkedIn® and how I could help you with your professional goals. Please schedule a free 30-minute strategy consultation to see how I might be able to assist you.

P.S. Did you know that I also created a video on this topic? I highly recommend you watch it for more in-depth tips and strategies.