Many employees fear that their boss is watching their every move on social media and are afraid to update their LinkedIn profiles. Other employees update their profiles and openly express an interest in new career opportunities while they are employed. The first group of employees are limiting their ability to promote themselves. The second group risks being fired by their employer. Depending on your employer’s social media policies, a LinkedIn update can land you in trouble. John Flexman was an executive at a gas exploration firm based in England. He uploaded his CV to LinkedIn and checked the box indicating an interest in “career opportunities.” His company accused him of inappropriate social media use and ordered him to remove his CV. Flexman thought this was unreasonable and resigned. Flexman’s situation is not common in the United States because employers do not own your LinkedIn profile as they do in the United Kingdom. Nevertheless, there are cases where employers have monitored their employees’ use of LinkedIn. It is possible to confidentially use LinkedIn during your job search while you are still employed.
Promoting yourself on LinkedIn IS part of the job search
A complete and branded LinkedIn profile is the best way to connect with others, stay relevant, and expand your network. However, many people are afraid to update their LinkedIn profile because they fear their employer will become suspicious of their activities. This robs a person of the opportunity to truly optimize their profile in a way that will generate more qualified leads, better opportunities, and will put their career on autopilot. Many of my clients have received offers for promotions within their companies because they have effectively articulated their value. They promote their value as an employee while promoting their company.
Content is your greatest asset on LinkedIn! Do not be afraid to post industry-relevant content and to share your knowledge in groups. Balance the content you share in order to promote yourself and your company. Share the stories where you saved the day, but also use your status updates to express gratitude for being surrounded by and supported by a great team or leadership. Your next boss would love to picture him or herself on the receiving end of such praise. Keep your praise authentic and make sure other people would be able to validate what you say as truth. Use status updates to simultaneously promote yourself, your colleagues, and your employer. Update your status by writing about problems you solved, your nuggets of practical wisdom, and giving colleagues the credit for a great performance.
Keep your direct job search activities hidden
When you use LinkedIn to job search and you are employed, do not openly announce your job search-related activities. This means not mentioning you are looking for a new employer in your status updates and in groups. While it is better to find a job while you are still employed, we know from our results that with a powerful and effective brand campaign and system you can viably land a new job within 10 to 12 weeks.
Although it is possible to turn off all broadcasts of your LinkedIn activity, these decisions are often made from fear and limit your success. The questionable activity to your employer comes from adding connections from the competition. If your profile is locked down to the point where almost nothing is visible, your employer may become suspicious. You also miss the opportunity to network or to be found by potential employers who are actively looking for someone with your skills, and perhaps even your network.
Adding connections from your company’s competition may raise red flags with your employer. In this type of scenario you do want to practice discretion, especially if you plan to transition to a competitor. If you are connecting with the competition, view the profiles of others anonymously by changing what others see when you have viewed their profile. Temporarily turn off broadcast activities when you follow companies for whom you want to work. This action is temporary because you do not want to alert your current employer to a direct job search activity. Otherwise, keep notifications on when you engage in your regular LinkedIn activity to raise your visibility on the network.
Joining job search groups will alert others to your intent to find a new employer while you are still employed. Avert this by not allowing anyone to see you belong to job search groups and make sure these groups are not visible on your profile by changing the order they are displayed. Also, temporarily turn off notifications for groups whenever you join a job search group. This allows you to freely join groups without notifying your network.
If you are using a company e-mail address on LinkedIn, switch to a private e-mail address immediately. Leaving your employer means that you will lose access to your e-mail, and as a result your LinkedIn account. In fact, I recommend this action even if you do not have plans to leave your company. Anything could happen!
Imagine a few scenarios:
- A job seeker keeps his or her job search activity completely under wraps on LinkedIn.
- They check out and follow competing companies.
- Their profile and all LinkedIn activities are completely hidden.
- Their confidential job search will not alert their current employer, but they are invisible to potential employers.
- A job seeker updates his or her profile to promote themselves and their company.
- They are actively looking for work and are employed, but they do not mention direct job search activities.
- They are not afraid to highlight their accomplishments.
- Their profile is a beacon to potential employers and it is not long before they begin to receive interview requests and even job offers.
Which scenario would you choose? You do not want to scream to the world that you are actively searching for work while you are currently employed. Carefully updating your LinkedIn profile will make your transition quicker and pain-free.