Rachel, who runs a consulting firm, was a recent coaching client who was very excited to learn that her highest rated facet on the Bates ExPI™ was Authenticity. “It is very important to me that I come across as my own true self,” she said. “That is my brand. I am successful because of who I am.”
Her business challenge was to grow her business by attracting the “right” clients. So, about three-quarters of the way into our coaching call, I suggested we look at her LinkedIn profile to see how she was trying to attract new business. Although my request was unexpected, she liked the idea.
I asked her to read, out loud, her headline and her summary. Her headline said she was an executive coach and consultant and her summary was a list of her accomplishments.
I asked her if her headline and summary expressed who she really is. She was speechless. I broke the silence by saying that to me, nothing she read told me about who she is or how she is different from thousands and thousands of other consultants. She agreed.
Since then, I have found that a number of clients who value their authenticity more than anything else also do not communicate their “true selves” in their LinkedIn profiles.
Of course, they all asked what to do. My answer? Just use our Authenticity facet as a guide.
Creating an Authentic Profile
The Bates ExPI™ defines Authenticity as “being real, genuine, transparent, and sincere in one's relations with others; and revealing the experience and beliefs that define oneself.”
Rachel’s profile clearly did not reveal the experiences and beliefs that define her. Like many profiles, her summary described her business and her accomplishments. Your accomplishments are important, but they do not give a feeling for who you are. They are what you have done. Besides, thousands of her competitors probably have the same list. Her “brand” was not coming through.
If being authentic is your brand, then the first thing you want others to know is who you are, what makes you tick. Then, if who you are intrigues them, they will hopefully want to find out more about your skills, your firm, etc.
For example, my headline currently states that I am an unconventional thinker and challenge the status quo. In my summary, I write, “I don’t let clients get away with shoddy thinking. I tell them what they need to hear.” People who know me say, “That’s you!” That’s what you want. You want people to tell you your profile sounds just like you. That’s when you know your profile is authentic.
My headline and summary are transparent. People get a feeling for who I am and what it would be like to work with me. Hopefully my headline makes me different. If that piques their interest, then they read on to find out more about me.
Tell Your Story
Once people have a feel for who you are, while it is important to list your accomplishments, a better way for them to get to know “the real you” is through sharing short stories, or mini-cases about you and what you have done.
A good short case gives a flavor of who you are and how you behave. Stories bring you to life. They make your values come alive. A list of accomplishments doesn’t reveal the true you in the same way.
For example, if your brand is you are a collaborator, write up a brief description of a project you worked on where you were part of a team that created something extraordinary together that no one person on the team could have done by themselves. Give people a feel for how you behave, not just the result.
Tell Your Story Through Others
By the way, if you want to list accomplishments, do it by communicating what other people say you have done. For example, “My colleagues and boss give me feedback that I am a great collaborator and problem solver.” Or, “I am often given assignments to turn around units that are not meeting expectations.” Or, “My clients tell me I deliver measurable change.”
While it may seem minor, if others say it about you rather than you saying it about yourself, it can make your accomplishments more believable. Third party endorsements can seem less self-promotional and more sincere. You come across as more genuine.
Start with the End in Mind
Remember the often-used guidance of starting with the end in mind. That is, who is your audience? Recruiters? Potential clients? Potential networkers?
Once you have your audience in mind, think about how “who you really are” would be appealing or intriguing to that audience.
Also, think about who is not your target audience. For example, Rachel has a very direct, provocative approach to coaching her clients. She tends to be very transparent about her feelings and provides lots of advice, even if it may be a little out of a client’s comfort zone. According to her ExPI™ feedback, this is what her clients love about her. So, she needs to get that across in her headline and summary.
Remember, her goal was to grow her practice by attracting the “right” clients. I made the point that if she wanted to grow her practice by attracting the “right clients,” her profile had to make it clear who she is and what it is like to work with her.
At first, she was hesitant to be that upfront with who she is. So, I asked her if her new profile turned off 90% of the people who read it, but the 10% who contacted her did so because they liked her approach, would that be ok. “Absolutely!”, was her response.
You do not want your connection requests to be from people who are not a fit for what you want. You want to be contacted by people who are interested in you because of who you are. You want recruiters to contact you about jobs where you can do what you do best. You are looking for fit, not volume. And the secret to fit is revealing your authentic self.