How do you talk about your past on LinkedIn? It’s easy to look at the Experience and Education sections on your LinkedIn profile as the “resume” part of the profile. There’s a slight problem, though. No one wants to read your resume. Even corporate recruiters and headhunters don’t want to read a resume. But then how are you supposed to talk about your past work life?
Your Profile Isn’t Your Resume
Much of this confusion stems from the fact that the LinkedIn Profile did start as a kind of online resume. In its early days, LinkedIn was a way for professionals in Silicon Valley to keep track of each other because it was an environment where short-term stints were the norm. It was a short hop from there to a place where people could be found for work. It stayed that way for a while, and it’s what most people on LinkedIn were doing when most of us first created our account. (Even if it was just because someone had invited us to connect.)
Even though the platform has changed and evolved since then, most professionals still think of LinkedIn primarily as a job-finding tool. And it makes sense to add your resume to a job-finding tool, doesn’t it?
These days to think of your LinkedIn profile as a fancy resume is to think of YouTube as just fancy television. There are a wide range of new activities and interactions that it enables. In the past, you would only use a resume when you were looking for a new job. Now someone can look at your profile whenever they need to interact with you. That could be when they are thinking of hiring you, hiring your company as a vendor, or even just partnering with you on an internal company project.
Tell Your Reader a Story
This is why it’s important to craft your professional story. The Experience section provides a place to share the narrative of your career arc. You don’t list your past jobs just to fill in the blanks, but to show how you got to where you are today. Your past experiences are what supports everything else that you are saying in your profile, from your headline to your summary.
If you just import your resume, you’ve lost out. When was the last time you talked to someone who just wanted to curl up with a good resume? Of course you haven’t heard that, because resumes are usually dry, convoluted collections of facts and figures couched in “resume-speak”, a language that isn’t used in everyday life. When was the last time you used “results oriented or task focused” when talking to your friends? Nobody wants to read a resume.
When outlining your experience, use language and structure that will encourage people to actually read it. Your current position will have some similarities to your summary, obviously, because it’s what you are doing in the present. There’s an opportunity to talk more in-depth about your role on a day to day basis and about the company that you work for. Don’t assume that someone can look at your job title and know what your responsibilities are. At the same time, though, don’t go overboard. People aren’t at your LinkedIn profile because they couldn’t find your autobiography on Amazon. They want the basics. Two to four sentences is enough for your current position.
Talking About the Past the Right Way
Avoid glossing over your past positions. The jobs you held in the past are how you got the experience that you use today. In fact, that’s how you should structure what you say here. Write a sentence about what you did at a past job, and then spend a few sentences telling your reader what you learned there that makes you awesome in your current role. Keep it simple and succinct and focus on transferable skills and experiences. And no bullet points! It’s not a resume, and since you don’t talk in bullet points you shouldn’t write in bullet points here, either.
It can sometimes be challenging to figure out if you should include certain jobs, especially if you’ve been in different industries or if you’ve had long career. My suggestion is to include anything that’s relevant to your current role. If you’ve been in your industry for 20 years, your college summer job delivering newspapers doesn’t need to be there…unless you are now an editor or writer at a major publication. So ask yourself, does sharing this job help my audience understand why I’m good at what I do, or not?
Filling in Education can be pretty straightforward, but there’s a few things to point out. First off, make sure you use the right dates, and that really goes for your positions too. Include your graduate work, and especially if you are in the same area that you grew up in, add your high school. You never know when someone is a fellow alum. Include all of your major academic endeavors. For on-going professional development, licenses, and other training, use the Certifications section.
The goal of your Experience and Education sections is to give a fuller picture of your professional narrative. It fills in the details to the structure that you’ve outlined in your Headline and Summary. Every professional has a story to share…so share your story!