Leaving a paid role to start your own company is a big step. Two of the most frequent LinkedIn questions I receive from people making this transition are:
- Do I need a new LinkedIn profile? I am making a career change and my past experience isn’t relevant at all.
- Should I disconnect from my existing network? Some of my connections aren’t relevant to what I do now.
The answer to both questions is “no”.
Let me explain the reason for this:
Your Wealth is in Your Network
Everyone you are connected with is just like you. They have a job, they have interests outside their jobs, they have friends and family with multiple interests and they probably have a secret desire to start their own thing just like you.
With this in mind, you can be confident that the majority of your connections will support you in your new enterprise. They will either give you encouragement for your new venture either because they know how brave a step you’ve taken or because they want to see you succeed. This is a valuable asset to tap into.
If your connection ‘likes’ or ‘shares’ a status update about your business, it could be seen by anyone in their network. Curious about your post, that person will click on your profile to see whom you are, making your profile a vital tool for your business.
And beyond this, you never know whom your connection could introduce you to. By clearly stating on your profile what you are doing now and how someone can get involved, you are opening your doors and letting word spread. If your connections see that your service or product solves a problem for someone they know, they will likely make the introduction.
Power of an Introduction
Introductions are your most powerful resource as when an introduction is made, trust is transferred from one person to another. For example, if a friend says something is good or worth your time, we are more likely to believe it than if the seller/service provider approached us directly.
Thus, for getting your business off the ground, you’ll want some solid introductions. An introduction might be for market research purposes, sales appointments or just to build your network with likeminded people.
Remember people are time poor and usually only invest their time if they are given a persuasive reason. You can secure meetings by messaging directly but they never have the same impact as when someone introduces you. A large network, no matter how irrelevant your connections may seem, could well hold someone who is connected to just the person you need. By asking for an introduction, you are tapping into the trust you’ve spent your entire career building. Leverage it to your advantage by getting clear who your ideal prospect is, why you want to be in touch with them and what’s in it for them.
The ‘Advanced Search’ function is the perfect way to find your prospects and those in your existing network they are connected to. Under each person in the results list, you will see ‘shared connections’, click on this and a drop down box will appear with your shared connections.
Updating Your Existing Profile
We’ve already identified that you want to stay with your existing profile and all the connections you have built up. So how to do you update your LinkedIn profile?
There are many considerations here including whether your existing employer knows that you are leaving the job and if it is appropriate within your existing role to include it on your profile.
The answer to this will probably differ depending on the situation. If you are starting up in competition with your current employer or aiming to become a freelancer, you’ll probably not want to add anything about the new company to your profile until you leave. However, that doesn’t stop you approaching people with InMail or sharing valuable content to create a reputation for yourself. If you are sharing things and proactively contacting people, you’ll want to make sure your profile is shipshape before doing so, even if you can’t officially announce the new company or role. You can instead build up the entries in the ‘Experience’ section with your credentials demonstrating the value you added for customers, the expertise you have and the industries you have worked in.
If you are starting a hobby business or one in a completely new field or area of interest, you should have no problem updating your profile before you leave your current job. This added information is a talking point and something that can be used to build rapport with clients, prospects and colleagues, benefiting your existing employer (not to mention you as you start to use your network to get known for what you do).
If the profile is currently being used as a sales tool within your company e.g. you are in sale or recruitment and use LinkedIn for business, you may want to consult your employer. It is likely they will say no, so plan your profile changes before you approach so you can demonstrate exactly how you want to present yourself. Use this template to help you.
Managing Your Story
Including your story is a great way to build rapport with your prospects as sharing your ‘why’ builds rapport and buy-in. Simon Sinek’s book Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone To Take Action is an important read here. By sharing your beliefs about what you do and why you are passionate about it, you are giving people the chance to get behind you and champion you in their network.
Your background is your journey, which has led you to do what you do now. It’s why you believe in what you do. Your credentials demonstrate why you are the perfect person for the job, whether that is being a new supplier, distribution channel, business coach, yoga teacher or dog walker.
The key is to think about your prospects and what they need to know to buy from you. If you’ve left a fast-paced corporate job to be a dog walker, explain why. You’ll be surprised at how much business you win compared to the person who just has their name listed in a shop window. Giving people this insight into you and what makes you tick, helps people buy from you and builds loyalty. It helps them feel they know, like and trust you.
If you’ve two open job positions on your LinkedIn profile, make sure you outline why and how they are relevant in your summary. Your summary is exactly what it says it is – a summary that ties together what you do, the problem you solve and why you believe in it. So this is the perfect place to outline why you have two open positions and have this make sense to your reader.
Be sure to place the open job role that you want the most attention for at the top of your experience list. While you are still employed, you can use this as a negotiation point with your boss by letting them stay at the top. Click here to learn how to change the order of your experience or education on LinkedIn.
So hopefully this post has answered your two most pressing questions about how to handle your LinkedIn profile while starting up a new business. If you still have questions on this topic, then please leave them in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer.
In the next article, we’ll be talking about how to build your LinkedIn profile from top to toe, including what to put on it and how.