Take a moment to look back over your career. Even if you are “new” to the workforce, you’re likely to see a hotchpotch of connected experiences. There will be paid and unpaid work, some volunteering maybe. You’ll have passion projects that took weeks or months of your time – like the time you decided to build your sister’s website to save her money, only to find that after it’s all up and working, she took a new job and was no longer interested in “going freelance”. There may even be whole folders of documents filled with words that one day will become your great business, breakthrough book.
Now, take a look at your LinkedIn profile and ask yourself – what’s the story it tells?
I have been saying this for years – but it’s a fact that grows stronger over time. Your resume is as dead as the tree it is written on.
In 2016, you are what you publish.
LinkedIn as an inbound channel for your personal brand
I used to think of LinkedIn as a place of business, connection and social selling. It was a vastly under-utilised space where a strong profile and a good network would help you stand out from the crowd. But a crowd it certainly is. It is the place where careers and connections collide.
In short, LinkedIn has become the “internet of careers” – the internet that we look at when we are looking to find a job, an employee or a customer.
But these days, LinkedIn has a broader agenda, transforming from a massive database of resumes to a business publishing platform and a social selling engine. Every person with a profile can publish their thoughts, ideas and status updates just like Facebook. Or Twitter. Or Google’s Blogspot (remember that?!). And with the opening up of the LinkedIn Pulse publishing platform, there has literally been an explosion of content – some of it written by individuals and some of it written by ghost bloggers. Some is pure PR spin. Some is heartfelt and personal. There are even birthday notifications (as a side note, I find this mildly disconcerting).
And while this has made it more difficult for the average person to attract and engage potential business collaborators, clients or employers, there is still a great opportunity to use LinkedIn as an inbound channel for your personal brand. What does this look like?
- Share the message, own the destination: Ever noticed how everyone’s profile on LinkedIn looks the same? Makes it hard to stand out, right? Like all good strategy, I suggest you share the message – post your insights, presentations, speeches and updates on LinkedIn by all means, but own the destination – have a website or a portfolio that keeps track of all you do. Use that destination to more fully contextualise your work, purpose and outcomes. I use gavinheaton.com as a catch-all for my activities and ServantOfChaos.com as a showcase. DisruptorsHandbook.com focuses marketing-led innovation and practical strategy. And everything that is posted on one of these sites is cross-posted to LinkedIn.
- Treat your LinkedIn summary like an elevator pitch: Can you describe your job, best projects and outcomes in 30 seconds? Rather than writing a career summary for your LinkedIn profile, write a summary of how you can help clients, employers and business partners. Make it less about you and more about the value you create.
- Write case studies on your best projects: Sure LinkedIn’s publishing platform is a hot mess of content, but every time you publish an article, it reaches into the feeds of your network. That means that people you know, or would like to know, are learning more about you. So give your networks something worth reading – warts and all case studies of the projects you’ve worked on. Include the passion projects, the skunkworks and even elements of your day job that is reasonable to share. Showcase not just the results, but the workings of how you delivered value. Connect the dots, tell the story and bring the dull parts to life with anecdotes, quotes and images.
- Treat yourself like your #1 client: Imagine you are writing a brief for a client – except that client is you. Determine your value proposition, key message and proof points. Put your best storytelling foot forward and explain just why you are the best person for the job/project/collaboration. Just remember, it’s hard work. Keep refining your message. Get feedback. Listen honestly and always seek to improve.
For more great ideas on building your personal brand, take a look through this presentation from Leslie Bradshaw. It’s chock full of practical suggestions that can help you shift from being a “thought leader” to a “do leader”. And in a world where you are what you publish, it’s not about the what you say, it’s all about who believes it.