Ask yourself this question: Am I in an emotionally abusive relationship with my LinkedIn profile? Before you roll your eyes into next week, yes, I'm absolutely serious. Do you have a LinkedIn profile that presents you as the worst possible version of yourself? Has your LinkedIn profile somehow morphed into the mean girl in your 8th grade English class who seemed to make it her mission to constantly humiliate you, with a self-satisfied smile on her pretty lips? Is your LinkedIn profile bringing to the surface of your psyche all the angst and self-loathing you thought you left behind in the hallways of your high school? Does just the thought of your profile make you so uncomfortable and anxious that you avoid it, and by extension, any chance of really investing in and profiting from your LinkedIn network?
In my business, I help people reinvent themselves, both professionally and personally. Therefore, I tend to spend a lot of time on LinkedIn, which can make me want to start drinking vodka, neat, at 8:00 a.m. I want to start drinking, for example, when I see profiles of people with ohh, 500+ contacts, who are unemployed, or under-employed, or I'm not honestly really sure what it is they're doing, because well, neither are they. I want to start drinking when new clients give me their resume, and then we connect on LinkedIn, and I find myself thinking, "Hmm, these are two very interesting women, and it'd be nice if one day they actually met and become friends."
Listen, I don't work for LinkedIn, and at the end of the day, it's just a website, not the Holy Grail; it can't save your life. Only you can do that. But maybe that's the larger point: there's so many talented people on LinkedIn, who don't seem to recognize themselves. And because they don't recognize their abilities, they disdain their achievements as marginal, at best, and so they can neither value them, nor promote them. If you don't value your abilities, it's unlikely you value yourself. And if you don't value yourself, it's unlikely anyone else will.
LinkedIn is a platform for people to promote themselves so they can promote their careers, but that's virtually impossible with a bad profile. Think about it from the POV of hiring managers: the work day is only eight hours long. That's not a ton of time for HR people to both do their day jobs, and also to wade through profiles that seem to deliberately obscure people's skills, as they try to divine talent appropriate for their openings.
What if you used the actual organizational process of fixing your LinkedIn profile as a way to take stock and take responsibility for both the good and bad in your career? What if improving your LinkedIn profile could allow you to articulate and by extension, remind yourself, of your skills, talents and achievements, in order to extrapolate, and figure out what you liked and didn't like in your career so far?
Three Ways to Fix Your Career by Fixing Your LinkedIn Profile:
1. Understand why you're on LinkedIn in the first place: The clearer you are regarding what you're looking for, the easier it is to create an organized strategy and achieve your goals. If you're just on LinkedIn because everyone else is, sorry, that's not good enough. That's when you end up phoning it in and wasting your own opportunities. Look through your own profile: which jobs did you enjoy and why? What skills and talents did those jobs demand of you? Start identifying your past experiences to build on them. You have to identify your professional goals so you can create a strategy that will help you attain them.
2. Write your profile from the POV of your ideal reader: A great LinkedIn profile alerts the reader that the writer knows what she's talking about. It shows as much as it tells. It tells the reader that the writer could go straight from the interview, to the job. I'm talking about a profile that is highly relevant and useful to its designated industry. Spend some time on LinkedIn, see what other people in your industry are posting, what issues and ideas are they discussing, what matters to them? How can you write your profile and position yourself to intelligently contribute to your industry's ongoing conversations?
3. Help Linkedin to help you: As Marshall McLauhan famously said, "The medium is the message," so shape the message of your career to best suit LinkedIn's format. Take charge of your story, and use all of LinkedIn's tools to best promote yourself with a structured, linear narrative. Tell your story so that your ideal reader will find it interesting, informative, and relevant to their hiring needs. Recognize that LinkedIn isn't Facebook, it isn't Twitter; LinkedIn is a promotional platform that I would argue works best for certain types of professionals. If you can't adapt your message to LinkedIn's medium, go out and find a better way to promote yourself and create the opportunities you need.
In a sense, consider your LinkedIn profile a sort of analogy for your life. If you sit around waiting for someone else to take charge, and "get" you, and your talents, and give you a plan for creating the career that will let you shine... welp. You'll probably be waiting a long time. And while you're waiting, you're probably going to be stuck working for someone who doesn't care about what you want. Hear that sound? That's the sound of all your unique and wonderful potential going to waste. There are many people in the professional world who desperately want all that you have to offer. But before you can impress them, you're going to have to impress yourself. Don't sit around waiting; you're worth the effort today. Tell me what you think in the comments, or please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!