Authenticity and LinkedIn

If “authenticity” and “workplace” don’t seem to belong in the same paragraph, read on! Authenticity is a fancy word for “being yourself.” Of course when you’re in a professional setting you want to be the best VERSION of yourself, but this should never mean being fake.

In fact, authenticity is a big part of what we strive for in workplace culture – whatever your background or life experience, you should feel free to be authentic.

How does this apply to LinkedIn? You should always be cultivating your profile (not just when you’re looking for a job or trying to impress a prospective customer). But if the “About” section is full of business blah-speak, you’ll sound just like everyone else, a victim of a marketing consultant! (Hint: If the words “strategic” or “innovative” appear there, you might want to take another look.)

If you look at Scott Sternberg’s LinkedIn profile, you’ll notice that the “About” section starts with the following sentence: “Hello, my name is Scott Sternberg. Thank you for reading my profile.” Huh? That seems unnecessary. Busy executives reading LinkedIn profiles want to get right to the point, don’t they? Where’s the info about Scott’s strategy / expertise / executive experience? That comes later. Here’s a quick story about Scott.

In my previous role (marketing manager at Vaisala Inc.), I had arrived in Paris on the afternoon of November 13, 2015. I was there ahead of my team to set up for a trade show. That evening, terrorists killed more than 100 people in the attacks that centered on the Bataclan rock club. I was fine, but my family was worried about me. The rest of our team wasn’t due to arrive for 2 days. At 5 a.m. on Saturday, my cell phone rang – it was Scott, who had just been informed by one of my colleagues that I was on location where the “breaking news” was happening. Although he could easily have delegated the responsibility to HR or our travel team, Scott stayed up all night personally monitoring the situation and didn’t rest until he knew that I felt safe and understood what company resources were at my disposal.

So when I read “Hello, my name is Scott Sternberg. Thank you for reading my profile,” I heard Scott’s authentic voice. I’m sure that a “professional job coach” would have told him to begin his profile with some combination of keywords, but Scott values gratitude, and he cares about the person who’s reading the profile. He made a decision that being authentic is more important than sounding like a recruiter’s version of a CEO.

So when you’re writing your profile or posting things on LinkedIn, be professional, but be authentic. You’ll stand out from the crowd in ways you may not have imagined. 

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