Embracing Your Whole Story on LinkedInNov 15, 2022
Are you someone whose career has been full of twists and turns? You’re not alone. While sometimes, it can seem like everyone else took a linear path to get where they are today, chances are, they didn’t! Very few of us know exactly what we want to be when we grow up at the beginning of our careers. In fact, it might be the case that what you do for work now wasn’t even a job title when you were starting out.
My Winding Career Journey
I, for one, couldn’t have predicted being where I am today. If you had told me as a college student at Clemson University that I was going to launch McMillion Consulting, I might have laughed in your face! My career actually began as a graphic designer in the print industry through two internships. While I had a great experience, I realized quickly I didn’t want to stay in graphic design. After graduation, I accepted an executive assistant role as part of a pathway toward a more sales-focused position. I soon discovered I had an aptitude for leadership and for sales. After selling a million dollars of ink on paper during a recession, I had the confidence to pursue other sales and consulting positions.
Along the way, I developed all the skills and experience I needed to launch my own business. Fast forward several years, and here I am, helping clients connect with purpose as a LinkedIn speaker, consultant, and trainer. My career might look like a long and winding path, but everything I’ve done has led me to where I am today.
Leaving Out Your Backstory is a Missed Opportunity
Often, I meet clients who feel sheepish about their “past lives,” whether that’s because they used to work in a completely different industry or because, for whatever reason, they’re ashamed of where they started. In these situations, clients sometimes opt to remove past positions from their LinkedIn experience altogether.
In 99% of cases, I think omitting your backstory on LinkedIn is a mistake. Why? Well, first of all, when you don’t fill in the gaps for people, you give them the opportunity to make assumptions. Leaving out your years of experience can look like you weren’t working, even though you really were. (P.S. - If you did take time off, you can talk about that in your profile, too.) Secondly, it’s just the truth. Whether or not you like your professional trajectory, I’m always an advocate of being honest with your experience, especially on LinkedIn. Finally, “cleaning up” your story by removing the messy parts could actually hurt you by taking away something that sets you apart or gives you an edge over people who did take the more linear path.
Plus, you never know what will resonate with people when they read your LinkedIn profile. When you connect with them for a conversation, you might be surprised to learn that they related to or were interested in something in your past more than your present role.
Seemingly Unrelated Experiences Often Share a Thread of Connection
Your past might be more connected to your present than you might think. Not long ago, I worked with a client, let’s call her Jill, who worked as a receptionist at a telecommunications company. In The Profile Transformer™ process, I noticed that she had no prior experience listed on her LinkedIn profile. When I asked her why, she said she had worked as a waitress and bartender before joining her current company and didn’t think it was appropriate to include it.
When we discussed her past roles a bit more, I helped Jill to see that her time in hospitality had actually prepared her well for her current job. As a waitress and bartender, she had to lead a team, communicate with customers, and provide good customer service—all qualities that made her an exceptional receptionist! We ended up adding Jill’s full work experience to her profile and tailored the descriptions of her past roles to the strengths she continued to exhibit at the telecom company.
Sometimes people refer to me as the “fairy godmother” of LinkedIn because I give them permission to tell their stories.
How to Connect the Dots of Your Experience
Sometimes, we get so set in our versions of our work narratives that it can be hard to see them from a different angle. If you’re having trouble connecting the dots between your prior roles and your current role, try this sprint technique.
Grab a piece of paper, and set a timer for two minutes. Spend that time writing down all the qualities, skills, and attributes that were necessary for a past role. Then, reset your timer for two minutes and do a similar brain dump on your current role. Ask yourself, “What attracted me to this role?” or “Why was I hired?” Stop the clock.
Now, look at the lists you made for your past role and for your current role. What do they have in common? My bet is that there are more overlapping descriptors there than you initially suspected. These are the qualities and skills you’ll want to use to help weave the story of your career in your LinkedIn profile.
Get Started Embracing Your Whole Story Right Away
Wherever you came from to get where you are, your story is worth telling. If crafting your LinkedIn narrative feels like a daunting task, you don’t have to do it alone or all at once. My digital course, The Complete LinkedIn Profile Course™, will walk you through how to prepare, build, and launch your profile in bite-sized video lessons. It couldn’t be easier to revamp your LinkedIn profile the right way at your own pace.
If you’re interested, you can find the course and learn more about what you can expect on my website. As a special treat, I’ll even throw in a free special offer ($697 value!) when you purchase the course.