Ask Nancy: How to present myself on LinkedIn to get where I want to be career wise, but not threaten my current gig?

Q:  I'm a long-time reader of your e-news and blog, and have a question for you about LinkedIn. Since it’s personal in nature, I will appreciate your discretion.  (NOTE: Names have been changed to protect the innocent.)

I recognize the value of getting on LinkedIn but have a dilemma. I am employed full-time as Marketing Director with a nonprofit agency. The job is a great fit for now, but it is not what I want to do in the long-term.

In addition, I do freelance work AND am working on a masters degree in a field that IS what I want to do in the long term (i.e. global health promotion and social marketing).

What is the best way to present myself on LinkedIn? I do not want to disrespect my full-time employer but to complicate matters, my employer and freelance clients do not necessarily know that the other exists — they just know I do my work well and on time!  

I've been struggling with this for a few months, and would appreciate any thoughts and advice you may have for me.Thanks in advance for your help.

K.P., Marketing Director, .org Serving Children and Families, Chicago, IL


A:  Frankly, I’d include it all on your LinkedIn profile, Kelly. Authenticity is the name of the 2.0 game.

It'll undermine your hopes and dreams, as well as your current job and freelance work, if a client finds out another way (vs. you putting it out there) that you have a FT job, or vice versa with your employer.

Be up front and be proud!

All the Best,

P.S. Authentic branding is critical to the success of every nonprofit Web site! Download the free Nonprofit Tagline Report for must-dos, don't dos, case studies and 1,000+ nonprofit tagline examples!

Nancy Schwartz on April 16, 2009 in Nonprofit Communications, Professional Development, Social Media, Web 2.0 | 3 comments
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  • Suzy Meneguzzo

    I get the need for authenticity but I wonder if your answer doesn’t overlook more complex issues.
    In my organization there is a clear policy about discouraging outside employment particularly where there is a possible conflict of interest. If I were to take the same action as K.P., I would likely be fired from my position.
    I also struggle with keeping some things private, ex: my interest in finding a new situation with several of my current co-workers among my connections. I don’t want to tip my hand and perhaps loose out on opportunities.
    Again, I think your answer is right regarding the Web 2.0, but not perhaps as useful as it could be to K.P. and others.

  • Hi Suzy,
    You bring up some very valid points.
    As I understand it, Kelly’s org does not have a policy forbidding employees to undertake freelance work, so that’s not an issue. If it were, of course you’d not feature that work.
    And yes, individual privacy is a key consideration in presenting oneself via social media — be it via LinkedIn, Facebook or…..
    Use your LinkedIn profile to showcase your unique skills and expertise but I’d keep any explicit job search requests on a one-to-one basis!

  • Erin D. H. Syed

    I have to agree with Nancy 110% on this one. I was facing the same dilemma myself just a little while ago and frankly lost some valuable networking time simply because I allowed the confusion to derail me. I’ve since put all of my professional endeavors on my LinkedIn page and would say that it has only helped me to gain respect as those I have connected with now have a fuller and more authentic picture of me, my background and my abilities. It worked for me, so I would also say to go for it!

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