Monday, January 5, 2015

LinkedIn or LinkedOut: Can a Split Profile Work Against You?

If your career path has taken extreme detours, will an accurate and honest LinkedIn profile actually hurt your career instead of help it?

As much as people like those "3 Reasons Why.." and "The Top 10 Ways..." articles, this is not one of them. This is about only one topic. One message in fact that I received from an old friend the other day regarding LinkedIn. He reads my articles and posed what I thought was a rather interesting challenge:
"You seem to have this whole LinkedIn thing figured out," he said. "But I don't. In fact, I think being on LinkedIn is actually hurting my career -- not helping it. I'm actually planning on deleting my account. I'm going to call you tomorrow and want to see if you can convince me otherwise."
Challenge accepted.

I see articles every week on LinkedIn about improving or enhancing your profile, to generate leads, to increase your network, to get hired, to avoid getting fired, but they are all how-to articles. None of them dealt with the why. "Because everyone else is" just doesn't fly as a good reason. Nor is it the case. Not sure Steve Jobs had a LinkedIn account. Don't think Mark Zuckerberg or Marissa Mayer check their Who Viewed Your Profile page much. Nor does the town butcher belong to any groups or post jobs for sausage casing experts. So it's certainly not mandatory for everyone in business.

But for those of us in between the butcher and the billionaire - which is most of us - LinkedIn is a necessity. People join Facebook and other social networking sites for variety of different reasons. But those of us who have joined LinkedIn all have the same reason: to foster our careers and put food on the table. (Or lots of it. Or lobster. Or have it served. Or...)

But to my friend's point, an accurate LinkedIn profile with a detailed account might also be a liability if your career took a detour along the way. And whose hasn't? I started in marketing and PR, then became a journalist, then a creative director, then back into marketing and advertising all while leading a double life as a screenwriter. And that's not even a big jump as I've essentially always written for a living. But for others it can be. I know bartenders who started furniture stores, chemists who became lawyers, and lawyers who became bar-tending writers. The circle of (business) life I suppose.
"Won't that work against me?," my friend asked. "Why would a company in Field A want to hire me if I spent the past 10 years in Field B? I'll look unfocused, flighty or undependable."
Though career jumping was traditionally looked down upon, life in the new economy of wearing multiple hats now applauds if not actively seeks a diverse background. Having varied experience shows adaptability, an ability to learn quickly, and drive. It also allows you to provide a new prospective. That bartender learned how to deal with customers that made the furniture business blossom, that chemist brought nuances to the environmental law firm that no other one could, and that attorney can write crime novels that are just too true to believe.

Expect raised eyebrows from some but like having visible tattoos, there's not much you can do about it nor would you want to work there in the first place. So yes, "link in" not out and flaunt your diversity on LinkedIn. Talk about why that superfluous, seemingly unrelated experience you gained in one field makes you that much more valuable in your now chosen field.

Follow Frank Bocchino, a Los Angeles-based writer, designer, and digital marketer who helps organizations create qualified strategies that generate new business using the latest tools for lead generation, SEO, and social media.

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