LinkedIn Strategies: Don't Be Afraid to Show Your Whole Self

Posted by The Editors on September 14, 2011
LinkedIn Strategies: Don't Be Afraid to Show Your Whole Self

When my dad asked for tips for a LinkedIn profile update a few weeks ago, the first thing I did was ask for his resume. My dad’s eager to learn more about the social web, but hesitant to give up much information about himself; for this reason, I figured some good bits from the more traditional version of his resume hadn’t made it online. I was right.

My dad’s resume showed some solid proof that he’d been a leader and an asset throughout his career, yet none of it appeared on his LinkedIn profile. (I mean, he’s kind of a superstar!). Step one was clear: Update the Experience section with the numbers to prove his drive and success, along with keywords targeted to the positions he’s seeking.

He liked my advice. Done.

When talking about what else we could do with his LinkedIn profile, my dad then stressed what he didn’t want reflected: his age. He just doesn’t want to be judged so fast—he wanted a chance in a job interview to show the number doesn’t matter.

Applying for jobs as a 55+ candidate can be as daunting as it is for an entry-level job seeker: A recent graduate fears her lack of experience takes her out of the running for many jobs, the senior-level candidate fears his years in the workforce will do the same.

A lack of confidence among older job candidates also stems from the concern that job recruiters will make two assumptions: He costs too much and he’ll only be around a few years before retirement. (Lack of technical skill is another, though not in this case.) Considering the rate at which the younger generations expect to change jobs, I’d think a recruiter would feel confident that my dad is no more likely to leave a position in three years than someone half his age.

The whole age thing, as it relates to my father, seems crazy to me. Too old?! My parents haven’t slowed down at all. They listen to great music, travel, try new restaurants, hang out with friends—just about everything I do. These are not “old people.” In fact, my dad’s more physically active than I am, hitting the gym a few times a week and taking “dawn patrol” trips to the beach to surf when the waves are good.

When some of his former coworkers found out about his long-boarding sessions at the Jersey Shore, they invited him on a weeklong trip to Costa Rica. He almost went. These guys were in their 30s.

This brings me to Step Two of my LinkedIn profile makeover recommendations: Show more of who you are outside of work. Why not tell people you enjoy surfing? This didn’t go over quite as well.

My dad’s a humble man about everything—well, everything except the pulled pork he’s mastered using the smoker in his backyard. He doesn’t talk much about himself, so the idea of posting something at all personal on the Internet is far outside of his comfort zone. He says providing this kind of detail would make him look like a “poser.” But he’s not. And here’s the thing: Surfing is an activity that keeps him young. It also keeps him a little more balanced, or even-keeled, than others. It shows he takes risks. In my opinion, these are qualities that must shine through in his LinkedIn profile.

If I can convince my dad that personal interests are worth sharing, I’m hoping that means I can convince you humble or skeptical readers too. Assuming that I have, here are tips to incorporating extracurricular activities into your profile:

1. Rather than put an activity like surfing in Specialties, which should feature work-related skills, type it into Interests. Mix work-related skills with a couple of more personal or extracurricular ones, to show a complete picture of who you are.

2. As always, be authentic. I would not have advised my father to include surfing, if it wasn’t something he’s passionate about. Don’t stretch the truth to present a certain image (I’m soo passionate about sustainability! I volunteer every week! I play the glass harmonica!) if you can’t contribute—intelligently—to a conversation about that topic. 

3. Include interests specific to the industry you’re in or want to enter. If you’re interested in social media (marketing, IT), gardening or cycling (B-Corps), or oil painting (creative or design jobs), use the Interests and Summary sections to make that known.

Finally, get out of that comfort zone and use social media to develop a strong personal brand—one that isn’t limited to what you do between 9 and 5. As Dave has said before, you never know what might spark the attention of a recruiter.

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