LinkedIn is the most poignant kind of PR: your personal reputation, writ large, in front of current, past and future employers and anywhere from a few hundred to many thousand of your professional peers.
So what could go wrong?
Plenty, according to LinkedIn expert Wayne Breitbarth, a speaker, consultant and the author of "The Power Formula for LinkedIn Success: Kick-start Your Business, Brand, and Job Search." From Breitbarth's research, which I received from him via email, and from my own experience in communications, here are seven of the biggest mistakes we still--amazingly--continue to see.
Are you guilty? Read on.
1. Forgetting to de-select the "Notify your network" alternative
It's the note that helpfully alerts every one of your contacts when you make a change to your profile.
Like leaving your job to "freelance." (Translate: the position didn't work out. You were probably fired.) Or, nearly as bad, you're notifying your network of every little change you make to your profile, sometimes multiple times every day.
Heads up, people! You can deselect the "notify your network" option, for a while or forever, while you go about your private updates under cover of darkness. Then turn it back on when you have something important to share.
2. Fudging the facts on your profile; then attempting to keep it a secret by blocking your boss
Is it really worth the risk of falsely claiming you were let go in a RIF when you were actually fired?
Or taking single-handed credit for the fact that the last place you worked was acquired?
Or "I designed Prince Charles and Diana's wedding cake." (Translation: I attended the school where the cake was made and helped to pick out the fruit.)
Here's a message from Mars: Do you really think you can block all parties who would know the details? (Consider the former Yahoo CEO whose faked credentials made their way to the SEC. Yes, his Yahoo career is now gone.)
Plus, blocking a current or former boss is likely to make them curious about what you're trying to hide. Besides, they can still see you.
They walk to somebody else's station. Or easier still, they log out of LinkedIn and then look up your name and LinkedIn profile on Google. Bam. (Few people think to also block the info from being find-able by the public through search.)
Here's another thought worth considering: Employers are allowed to respond to questions of fact in a reference. "A RIF? I don't think so. Responsible for that acquisition? Um, no."
Stick to true and defensible facts in a LinkedIn profile. Save the blocking function for bullies (in which case, you should report them as well).
3. Leaving UFOs (Unintentionally Funny Occurrences) in your profile
"I pay careful attention to details." (Awkward when your profile has misspellings, grammatical errors and an inadvertent link to your former company's site.) "I won this award three times." (Four occurrences listed).
You get the picture.
You may not get that job, but you'll leave the visitors to your page entertained.
4. You forget that a LinkedIn DM to multiple recipients is, essentially, a group text
If you inconsiderately post your article to 37 people to encourage them to like and share what you've done, all 37 will see each other leave the group conversation, one by one, some with expletives and spam reporting attached.
5. Under "Jobs>Preferences>Let recruiters know you're open to new opportunities," you check "Yes," without thinking
If your employer or a recruiter for your employer has a LinkedIn Recruiter premium account, they can search by this entry. They will assume (most likely correctly) that you're either window shopping or about to jump ship.
6. You fail to list your most important current job first
And it's so easy to fix. Just click the up/down arrow next to the job entry you want to move. Then hold and drag the gray vertical bar.
7. You forget to include your business email and phone number in the "Advice for Contacting" space
Without them, people outside your first level network may not know how to reach you. Your loss.
My thanks to Breitbarth for the research and fun. As a writer friend of mine likes to say, "Stupidity has no upper ceiling."
If you're guilty of any of these seven mistakes, the best step you can take in the next five minutes is to find these errors and fix them today.