If you’re like most LinkedIn users, you probably log into the site, look at your Home page and status feed, and start reacting – clicking “Like” on articles that resonate with you, issuing "congratulations" notes, offering comments, or gathering ideas for your next LinkedIn article.
But did you realize these simple actions form a personal branding message visible to everyone?
Employers, recruiters, peers, and hiring managers can now quickly see what interests you, who you’re connected to, what political movements you support, and the manner in which you express your personal opinion.
Here’s how it works:
The most recent 3-5 LinkedIn actions you undertake leave a digital trail on your Profile that’s displayed even before others see your work experience.
This means employers or any other interested party will read your latest thoughts or see evidence of your mood before they even see where you work! This LinkedIn activity can be more telling than anything you put in your profile.
More importantly, these items stay on your Profile PERMANENTLY. Look at your own (or another user’s) Profile under "Articles & Activity." Click "See All Activity" and you will see a list of all past actions – even if you’ve already forgotten what they were.
Now that you know these high-visibility LinkedIn actions are tied to your personal brand message, here’s some ways to handle them for an optimal professional image:
Issuing a Like on LinkedIn seems innocuous at first. After all, what’s the harm in digitally high-fiving your colleagues or reaffirming another person’s article content?
As it turns out, plenty.
For starters, if the content you Like refers to any politically charged statements, you could be catching the eye of a person who disagrees with you.
In addition, your Like on a work-related topic (whether it’s a meme about the difficulty of Mondays or a funny joke about habits of most bosses), could stand out to an employer who views your Profile... and dissuade this person from reaching out about a great-fit opportunity in a more conservative corporate setting.
However, you can restrict hitting Like to professional topics or discussions that might actually tell employers something else about your abilities and career goals, rather than showing all your thoughts to LinkedIn’s 600+ million members.
If Likes point to your social, professional, political, or community preferences, Comments absolutely reinforce them. By commenting on articles, you’re serving up an inside look at your thought process and ability to communicate well.
An off-the-cuff careless reply to a provocative article or to a Reply to one of your Comments, can spell trouble for your job search.
It’s best to keep Comments to a neutral tone if you’re in the midst of an active job search. This isn’t the time for taking a stand on hot-button topics.
If you believe in a concept enough to share it, you’ll fare best if it aligns with your profession or a new trend in your field. Otherwise, shares can distract your Profile viewers from your message of credibility and experience.
When you share a news item, article, or post on LinkedIn, your actions imply endorsement. At the very least, this public announcement should be on a topic related to your skills or a development at your employer.
If your job search seems stalled, take note of your activity on LinkedIn as a possible cause. Don’t make the mistake of thinking these actions “go away” after you’re done. Instead, carefully plan a LinkedIn activity strategy that conveys professional strengths and tells prospective employers why you’re a qualified candidate.
Job-Hunt's LinkedIn for Job Search Expert Laura Smith-Proulx, Executive Director of An Expert Resume, is an award-winning executive resume writer, national columnist, author, LinkedIn and SEO enthusiast, and past recruiter. Laura is author of How to Get Hired Faster: 60+ Proven Tips and Strategies to Access the Hidden Job Market. Follow Laura on Twitter at @ResumeExpert and on LinkedIn.