I have always contested that LinkedIn is the business equivalent of Facebook. However, in both of those social networking models, there is a fundamental difference as it relates to me. The sheer size of my business network compared to my social network requires the necessary toolsets that LinkedIn provides. It provides not only a framework for connecting professionals but also presents an opportunity to collaborate across multiple industries and disciplines like no time before through groups and connections. LinkedIn is now a required business tool in my opinion no different than Office, eMail, Business Contacts (i.e. old school Rolodex), Reference Materials, and your number one business card – your resume.
The resume has evolved a lot over the years. However, when you talk to many, they tend to still focus on the basic elements: work history, STAR stories, and keeping it down to a few pages. While these are still valid points to consider when putting together your resume, they only partially achieve the real goal which is Personal Branding. Personal Branding in my opinion represents the next evolution of resume writing and career development.
How does Personal Branding apply to the knowledge worker and how can LinkedIn help with your Personal Branding?
When I think of an interview, I quite often think of an actor doing a reading for a part in a movie. Their resume equivalent is their picture and key roles they have played in the past. What quite often separates the successful actors from the multitude of applicants, is their Personal Branding. When a key actor is considered for a role, not only is their past acting roles important, but so is their understanding and ability to play the current role, their ability to generate tickets sales based on who they are, their ability to market and discuss the role with the public, and the list goes on. In simpler terms, when it comes to key acting roles, the casting agent is looking for the complete package. This is where Personal Branding comes into play for an actor, an athlete, and other professionally branded “star”. They must present themselves no differently then a company would present itself to the public as they themselves are a business (e.g. answer the question, “why do I matter to you?”). Branding applies to all fronts, so it should come as no surprise that branding now applies to the knowledge worker.
So how does Personal Branding apply to LinkedIn. Like many of the aggregator sites that exist out there, I see LinkedIn playing the role of the aggregator for all things related to me and my profession. While they are nowhere near at that point yet in their evolution, I do see them playing a large role in the aggregator market in the near future. I see LinkedIn as a replacement for outdated mindsets such as a personal career webpage (in itself a fairly new concept). What LinkedIn provides that a personal career webpage cannot is the web 2.0 social networking fundamentals that come from an interlinked structure.
When you look through the average LinkedIn profile, you get a basic resume feel. This is where I think the average user is missing key functionality and capabilities at presenting themselves in a much bigger picture. Those profiles in my opinion represent the minimum an actor would bring to a casting call to use my previous example. To differentiate yourself in a tighter market, you need to present far more of your value that is possible within normal means. This is where LinkedIn as a form of Personal Branding plays its role.
I have worked over the last couple of months trying to make my LinkedIn profile as much of a representation of my professional self as possible. Whereas my work history presents the diversity of the organizations that I have worked for and the evolving responsibilities that have come from that, these elements are equally found on my resume. This to me was not enough. As with the Internet, its value is in its content and its distribution. All the standard profile provides is the equivalent of a fixed content web page from the 90′s. I found that the standard LinkedIn profile is like a standard resume (and quite often worse). It only presented a shallow view to one that would partner with me on their company’s evolution. It is my belief that for such a partnership to be successful, more is required and my LinkedIn profile contributes to this.
So Personal Branding to me is more than just a marketing term, it is a fundamental necessity to provide accessible depth of character and knowledge to those that wish to do business with you. It is a callback to the old mindsets where you are more than just a number or a name on a piece of paper. It is a collection of information relevant to you and your current and future (and let us not forget, past) colleagues. This collection of information is your Personal Branding and it is what separates you from the crowd (IMHO).
Reading List by Amazon
I read as often as I can, and I tend to focus on Management Theory books. I found that it was important to those that I work with or may work with to get a sense of what knowledge I have gained via reading. The reading list provides a very convenient way of tracking your library as well as the ability to provide insight on the books you have read. I see this as a mix between a Book Blog and an insight into what management theories I find facinating and would call upon to resolve issues. This information is impossible to gather in a standard resume and LinkedIn allows quick access to this information right off my profile. I have had numerous discussions with people that have read the same book and we always seem to have a more detailed discussion when we both know we have the same basic knowledge. This is partially the point, you are able to have far deeper and more constructive discussion with someone when you already know some of the basic theories they subscribe to. The Amazon Book List provides a means to apply Personal Branding to my expanded knowledge that is not visible on a basic resume. Sadly at this time, LinkedIn seems to only provide access to this to your connections as it is not visible from your public profile. This would be an option that I would gladly push to my public profile.
These days everybody blogs or it would seem everybody does (and some would say many people shouldn’t). I have used LinkedIn capabilities to incorporate my new blog directly to my profile. Like any communications department in a company, it is important to communicate your vision and your ideas to those that would require your services. While some of the topics I choose to write about may fall in dissagreement with some of those that read it, it is a fundamental importance to communicate those ideas that you feel passionate about as that defines you among others. I have always found that the best organizations are those willing to communicate and have conversations about topics that impact them. Blogs are not a one way mechanism like the press of old. They provide numerous talkback alternatives to foster collaboration of ideas and communication of ideals. So I believe it is increasingly important to foster dialogue in a corporate world. As that is something I believe in, someone has to start the dialogue and my blog provides a nice mechanism to do so as well as to promote my Personal Branding. Once again, it would be nice to expose on demand to public profile, but the blog link will suffice for now. While not a factor to my Personal Branding efforts, the Blog Link tool that LinkedIn provides is a very nice add-on to my home page to track my connections blogs. This provides a convenient aggregator package to these blogs and hopefully will provide some collaborative capabilities in the future (talkback direct from Blog Link would be nice).
This toolset provides yet another avenue to cast my Personal Branding via LinkedIn. I have initially put together a quick slideshow outlining how I would approach a new opportunity and some of the ideas that I would bring to the table. However, this tool (and the Google Presentation equivalent) really starts to shine when you incorporate other presentations that are relevant to your industry or connections. Having said that I would likely shift to Box.net Files for that function.
This toolset is currently underutilized by myself due to lack of significant content at this time. However, the potential of this widget is wide open. From presentations, to videos, to position papers, the list goes on and on. Whether Video Resumes will hold any longstanding trend is still up for debate. Numerous sites are being built on the mindset of using full media to present yourself. If this is your cup of tea however, Box.net provides the place for you to host your visual resume. You can alternatively use YouTube, but it would be best if this option was available directly off your public profile and Box.Net like other LinkedIn tools are still managed behind your connection firewall.
Groups provide a conduit for expanding your presence without using your direct connections. They also provide a means of having other like minded individuals collaborate with you. The groups that you choose to be part of additionally can tell something about yourself that a resume would never provide. If a group that meets your area of knowledge does not exist, it is a simple matter to create one. However, as LinkedIn grows in popularity and size, the likelihood is there are existing populated groups that will meet your needs.
I choose to have my connections visible for my direct connections. Hiding them simply defeats the social networking that is LinkedIn and I believe that being able to connect people that could benefit each other. Connections also play a part in your Personal Branding as what you know is closely followed by who you know.
LION stands for Linked In Open Network. When you search LinkedIn, you will come across people with a LION metadata in their profile. LION members are open to networking will all members of the LinkedIn community and will accept your connection request without knowing you directly. While this is a great way of expanding your network overnight, there is something to be said about managing your connections. What I am proposing and planning on doing is to setup a second LinkedIn account which will be a LION-based account. This will provide access to a wider network without diluting the benefits of my personal connections which will remain as part of my primary account. Hopefully, in time, LinkedIn will provide better connection management capacilities such as Connection Types (e.g. past associates, recruiters, friends, acquaintances). These Connection Types ideally would link to the privacy features of your profile and widgets.
First off, recommendations are not the same as references and should not dilute the actual references you will be using when navigating the job market. I consider recommendations on LinkedIn as a form of validation of the credentials presented on your profile. This is why a recommendation request e-mail actually uses the word “endorse” to convey the sense that a recommendation is an endorsement and not necessarily a referral. Recommendations provide inquirers with a better feel for who you are prior to meeting you and asking for formal references. Secondly, recommendations are a great way of promoting members of your connections to a wider audience. The one thing that I would avoid doing though is excessive cross-recommendations between two profiles. I see to many recommendations being made on the same day between two profiles as a means of expanding their recommendations. To me this dilutes both recommendations if overused. Having said that, if your connection is requesting a recommendation/endorsement in kind, it is the least you can do to return the favour. Everyone will have different preferences to how they make use of recommendations and you should tailor your recommendation to the profile in question as your recommendations are found on both your profile as well as the one you are endorsing. What others say about you is equally important to what you say about others when considering your branding.Recommended Links: