When writing a recent column on words to avoid on LinkedIn, I solicited input from recruiters, hiring managers and coaches and was soon reminded of what I call the biggest LinkedIn controversy.

I heard from several people that they hate it when someone's summary story -- the about-the-author type section below your name and job title and above your experience -- is told in third person. It sounds pretentious, they say. Egotistical.

Say what? Don't see it.

He/she vs. I. Everyone has a strong opinion. It's like the debate over the serial comma, also known as the Oxford comma. (I'm a serial comma hater, and that will never change.)

I used to be a proponent of the summary story written in first person. It is my career after all, and I own it. But a few years ago I switched to third person, and here's why.

It's about brand.

We all know about brands and how sometimes people are brands. But not just Madonna or Obama. You and me.

Amy George, lifelong writer and accredited public relations professional, is my brand. I want people to remember my name in connection with what I do. I want people looking for help telling their stories "in ways that lead to bigger, better things" to remember Amy George is one to know. 

When you read a bunch of profile stories that go "I do this..." and "I did that...," how do you remember who's who?

Your name reinforces your brand. Use it. Save first person for your resume-sounding experience section, where you can say "I do this..." and "I achieved that..." 

It sounds less boastful.

Reading "I" over and over again can sound boastful. When you lead off your LinkedIn profile with "I," "I," "I," it can be a big turn-off. If you use the third person, it can sound objective. Of course, your summary story can still sound braggadocious if you string together a bunch of self congratulatory phrases like "award winning," "strategic thinker," "proven leader" and so on.

So it's not enough to use third person. You have to take a step back and tell a story. I think third person allows you to be more objective and straightforward in telling your story and not feel so braggy.

Further, I recommend telling a story that connects your entire career narrative. These stories can often stretch back as far as childhood. For example, in my LinkedIn profile I write about getting a typewriter in kindergarten. When working on clients' LinkedIn, I always ask for stories from when they were kids, and there's almost always a connection to what they're doing now. By telling a story in third person and connecting all the steps in your career, you won't sound like you're bragging. You will help readers of your profile put it all together.

It's your ready-made professional bio.

Finally, what's really great about having your LinkedIn summary story in third person is that when you are asked for a professional bio, it's right there, ready to go. Imagine you are speaking at a conference or your alumni magazine is writing about you and your bio is needed. Voila. How many professional bios are written in first person?

In fact, I try to put myself in this mindset when writing clients' LinkedIn summary stories. I imagine I'm introducing that person to an audience. Maybe this person is about to give a speech or accept an award. This mindset helps me to find those common career themes and tell a story about what makes this person stand out in their work and their life.

If it still seems weird to have your LinkedIn summary -- or that of someone you are interviewing or thinking of hiring -- told in third person, do this one thing. Grab the nearest book and flip to the back to read the about the about the author page. It's written in third person, right? I rest my case.

Published on: Mar 5, 2019