The online professional profile has risen in importance and relevance since the social media phenomenon took the technology world by storm at the beginning of the new millennium. LinkedIn led the charge of companies catering to the millions of working (and nonworking) professionals throughout the globe. And roughly four years after its birth in 2002, its critical mass audience has driven the need for the conscientious professional to give credibility to the power and influence of the medium.
In today’s market, social media professional profiles are heavily scrutinized by employers, hiring managers, clients, potential clients, HR, recruiters, friends, colleagues and others who lurk behind the scenes to get the professional scoop on You. So what you reveal…or don’t reveal about your background can have a material impact on how you are perceived as a professional.
The level of detail professionals include in their social media profiles covers the spectrum – from every nook and cranny to a glimpse from the stratosphere. A profile that contains the kitchen sink can overwhelm a reader – and create negative impressions – like you are insecure, have poor judgment, are desperate for a job; “over-lawyer” matters, and/or don’t have good prioritization-editing skills. In addition, excessive data can turn off a reader and cause him/her to skip through most of it (and potentially important information) or click through to the next name.
On the flip side, a “skinny” profile provides little insight into You as a professional, which could lower your marketability in the eyes of those judging you. A lack of information might also be perceived as though you are hiding something, aren’t detail oriented…or simply don’t care. And those scouring LinkedIn for top candidates will often bypass a profile that does not educate enough. There are professionals who are not concerned with these consequences and believe that the basics are good enough. But as social media raises the stakes for career management, “good enough” is a rapidly ineffective standard.
So neither extreme is recommended. The key is to communicate your salient points and strike the right balance of detail when doing so. How? Below are a few suggestions to help guide you:
Identify Your “Selling” Points.
Before you write your profile, identify the top points you want the world to know about your background. Are you a privacy expert? Have you taken a company public? Are you experienced in a broad array of legal areas? Have you managed a team? Are your clients a list of Corporate Who’s Who? Did you work full time while attending night school? Are you fluent in Mandarin? While there may be 1000 other great things about you, pick and prioritize a manageable number to highlight.
A Clear and Concise Narrative.
I’m a big fan of leveraging the profile narrative to communicate important points about a background and addressing questions (i.e. why you are currently unemployed). Keep the content organized, succinct and easy to read. There are usually word limits, but if not, limit yourself to 3-4 short paragraphs. In addition, a narrative for each job in your work history is not necessary. But if you want to include information…and it is value-add, keep it to a few sentences max.
Social media recommendations pack a minimal punch…unless the person tooting your horn is a big name with a big title or someone who is important to other constituencies you want to impress. So omitting the kudos will not negatively impact your marketability or career. If you choose to include them, keep them short and few in number (1-3).
Include Complete Work History and Education.
The purpose of a professional profile is to tell your story. So it’s important to paint a comprehensive picture of your professional life. This includes a complete work history and education. Providing names and dates only for historical information is sufficient.
Activities and Awards.
Your accomplishments and outside professional activities (which could include select work product) can also be important to include. But keep information brief and relevant…and prioritize.
A photo is not a must, but it can facilitate your positive impression and best foot forward…as long as it’s professional. More professionals are opting for no photo, which can work too. I’m not a fan of kooky/zany snapshots or those with animals – because they can be risky. But if you want the world to know that you are a cat person, go for it.
At the end of the day, the appropriate type and detail of information you include on your professional profile is a judgment call. And a breather can give you more clarity: After you’ve completed your profile, walk away for a day or two and then re-approach with a fresh pair of eyes. Have others review for feedback as well. Then revise accordingly.
A professional has a finite number of tools s/he can control to influence a best foot forward. The online professional profile is one of them. And today, the staggering influence of social media has catapulted the importance of on-line personas – and made them an essential component in effective career management. So dedicate the time and effort to craft the right profile – one that showcases your strengths…but leaves the kitchen sink at home.