Before you go any further, know that thought leadership isn’t merely claimed. It’s earned, often by acclamation. Simply calling yourself a “thought leader” doesn’t cut it.
“A thought leader has to be declared a thought leader by someone else,” writes entrepreneur John Rampton, founder of payment processing firm Due.
Even the most successful thinkers and doers don’t achieve thought leadership status overnight. Among the many public-facing assets aspiring thought leaders cultivate is LinkedIn — as in, the ubiquitous social platform for professionals. As you set your sights on professional prominence, implement these seven LinkedIn best practices.
- List Out Your Entire Relevant CV, Back to the Beginning (of Your Current Career Track)
Don’t make the mistake of limiting your LinkedIn CV’s focus to your most recent two or three roles, or only those roles you’ve held with your current employer. At a minimum, list out every role relevant to your current career track, no matter how junior or tangential to what you’re currently doing. You want people who look up to you to see precisely how your career has progressed; your track may well harbor lessons for their own upward mobility.
- Tout Your Alma Mater
Even if it’s been decades since you last saw the inside of a classroom, don’t neglect your alma mater. Joining your university’s LinkedIn network is a great way to connect with other alums, including thought leaders in your line of work.
- Blend the Personal and the Professional
Don’t be afraid to get a little personal with your LinkedIn posts. No, this isn’t your diary, but you can and should look for opportunities to tastefully blend the personal and the professional. Case in point: last year, serial entrepreneur Kris Duggan published a heartfelt “in memoriam” for a former associate and mentor who’d recently passed on. Here’s to hoping your next personal-professional publishing opportunity isn’t born of tragedy.
- Step Outside Your Comfort Zone — But Not Too Far
Don’t obsess about staying in a super-narrow professional lane, particularly if your expertise is narrow or inscrutable to all but a relative handful of observers. Just as you look for opportunities to bring a personal touch to your LinkedIn publishing, seek out subjects that touch — but don’t smother — your day-to-day. Around the time he published his remembrance, Duggan wrote an essay about the productivity impacts of America’s polarized politics; though he’s not a political scientist, he had little trouble mapping his personal experience onto the issue.
- Note Non-Core Professional Activities That Establish Credibility
Do you volunteer on weekends? Sit on the board of charitable organizations serving your community? Mentor young professionals looking to follow in your footsteps?
Whatever worthy causes or initiatives you support, make sure your LinkedIn profile has something to say about them. Not only does touting your extracurricular activities humanize you, this relatively low-stakes step draws much-needed attention to causes that could likely use more of it.
- Give Your Employer Props
Tout your employer, too. The LinkedIn profile for Indra Nooyi, chairman and chief executive of PepsiCo, has a lengthy above-the-fold hagiography of her employer. The implication is as unmistakable as it is well-founded: that Ms. Nooyi, who leaves in October with an impressive record, has been responsible for more than a little of PepsiCo’s success during her dozen-year tenure at its helm.
- Connect With Other Thought Leaders
Carve out 10 minutes each week to seek out and connect without other LinkedIn thought leaders, even if you don’t know one another professionally or personally. The greater the effort you make to connect with those doing work similar to your own, the more likely you are to come across opportunities for growth — or find your next business or employment opportunity. As the old saying goes, your network is your net worth.
What’s Your LinkedIn Secret?
You know deep down that there’s no magic key to a successful LinkedIn presence. If there were, we’d all have stellar profiles, and there’d be no need for articles like this.
This isn’t to say that some prominent professionals (and more anonymous folks too) haven’t more or less figured LinkedIn out. Social media management isn’t rocket science, after all. Most LinkedIn stars seem to have a simple secret sauce — perhaps with just a handful of readily available ingredients — that makes all the difference between “meh” and “wow”.
If you put your mind to it, you too can have your own LinkedIn secret sauce. Who knows? Maybe some of the tips on this list will make the cut.
Founder Dinis Guarda
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