I just finished reading Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha’s The Start-up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career. It’s a great read about operating your career like a startup. I generally think that Reid Hoffman’s is one of the smartest entrepreneurs out there, and I’m supremely impressed with what LinkedIn has done, and how they’ve done it. I do take issue with one suggestion of the book, which, while good-natured, can have the opposite effect of what it suggests.
Reid suggests that individuals create their own story highlighting their competitive advantage as business professionals, which I agree with. One way he suggests to do that though is to basically create your own title. So, instead of making your LinkedIn headline “Online & Interactive Marketing Director at GrubHub”, he suggests it read more like “Experienced Marketing Manager in Online Marketing and Product Strategy”. I disagree with this suggestion entirely. My reasons coalesce nicely with my Personal Branding’s Not About You post, so I’ll reiterate a couple of those points.
First, I’ll tackle the entrepreneur case. If you are currently running your own business, it should be your goal to get that brand in front of as many people as possible. That means your optimal title would not be “Entrepreneur & Blogger” but “Founder, MyAwesomeStartup.com”, just so people see that URL. Second, if you’re not an entrepreneur, one of the key competitive advantages an employee or potential employee can have is showing other potential employers that they can be dedicated to the company they work for. So, if I know someone works for a certain startup, and has a title on LinkedIn that doesn’t mention it but only mentions things about them specifically, I know their heart’s not in that startup. That makes me question whether their heart can be in any company, or are they just all about themselves.
Part of what you are selling if you are looking for a job is that you can become part of a whole, and the best way to demonstrate that is by showing you’ve done that before. Optimizing your LinkedIn to be less company specific shows the opposite, and raises some flags. Employers want to know that you can work well with a team and develop a passion for their brand and not just your own personal brand or your side projects. These days, with personal branding being all the rage, many people can’t do that, which makes it precisely one of the competitive advantages Reid suggests you harvest in your career.