If you’re trying to make professional connections, LinkedIn is clearly the place to be. Everybody’s there, everybody’s connecting.
But I’m surprised at the number of people who haven’t given much thought to the image they’re projecting.
LinkedIn is kind of like printing your resume and plastering it on every bulletin board on the planet. It’s visible to over 70 million users, but … why should they care? And are they going to look at you positively as a result?
One of the problems is that you can only have ONE LinkedIn identity, but in fact people show a different face in different contexts. To your colleagues and boss you’re viewed one way, to your family another, and to a company you’re interviewing with – what? So the first choice you have to make is how many of those identities you want to try to cover in your LinkedIn profile. Many people choose to use Facebook for family and friends, and LinkedIn for professional relationships.
The next question to answer is: Why would someone want to find you? Sure, you’re linked to a number of people; are these the people who are actually going to hire you for your next job? Or are they more likely people who could RECOMMEND you to a hiring manager? People will recommend you if you’re helping them in some way, and they view your help as a valuable thing.
On LinkedIn, that help will come in the form of participating in discussions, and helping people to link with each other. This involves a lot more than just posting a profile, it’s hooking up with individuals and groups, and contributing to their discussions in helpful ways.
One of the core concepts of modern social networks is that you can never forget that you’re projecting a certain persona, that it’s broadcast to everyone on the planet, and, thanks to Google, it will be remembered forever. A classic mistake is to jump into a discussion before you understand the social norms of the group, and say something snarky or a little off-center.
Believe me, very few of us have the skill to pull off subtle nuances in the written word, especially when the audience includes people you haven’t established any relationship to. Far better is to ask yourself before posting anything:
Is this within the norms of this group?
Would I be embarrassed if my mother read this?
How might this be misinterpreted by someone who doesn’t know me?
Your LinkedIn image is a precious investment, one which helps to increase your exposure to future colleagues, bosses, and customers. Craft it carefully, keep it up to date, and keep it consistent with how you’d like to be viewed in the professional world.