Q: I know having a complete, detailed LinkedIn profile is key in a job search, but my work is so restricted by confidentiality agreements that I’m left with nothing to distinguish me from the masses. I feel like I’m losing out on opportunities. Is there anything I can do to demonstrate what I’ve done without breaking contracts or company policy?
A: Employers with strict confidentiality agreements have been known to restrict their employees’ use of LinkedIn, sometimes to nothing more than their title and company name. This not only means employees can’t name company clients, they often can’t even provide details of how their individual work affected sales, products, or team process. If you’re trying to get a new job and want to describe your accomplishments in full, this can seem like a serious roadblock. If you stay within your industry, people will likely recognize the standard confidentiality issues that your industry requires, and be interested in you based on employer and title alone. If you are leaving the industry, getting creative with your LinkedIn profile and using your network become even more important.
First, seek advice and examples from your industry contacts. Talk to others in the industry to see what has been acceptable in their LinkedIn descriptions. Consider reviewing the profiles of all of your employer’s alumni to see what, if anything, has been acceptable. What have others done to get around the restrictions without breaking confidentiality? You might find that you can use a description of similar experience at a former company (with a more relaxed social media policy) to highlight your current skills and successes. Or you can find alternative places to convey important aspects of what you do without being specific. You might wish you could say “I saved $500,000 per year due to process improvements on our three-year project contract with Alpha Company,” but then you would be revealing details of company financials and name-dropping clients. Instead, use other sections of your profile—the summary or maybe an Interests or Projects section—to show the same accomplishment in a different way: “I improve workflow on software-related projects to achieve significant savings.” Think about what keywords need to appear in your profile and find an appropriate alternative place to work them in.
Remember that LinkedIn is not a static platform—it’s meant to be dynamic, and you can capitalize on that with some strategic activity. You can shape your professional image by sharing relevant articles that reflect upon your skills and interests, liking posts by colleagues in your field, and commenting on topics you consider yourself to be a thought leader on. You can also link to any external websites that might let you illustrate your skills. For example, if you’re a graphic designer who can’t list any details about the work you do for company clients, you could instead link to your own website to demonstrate your talents.
As you look for ways around your company’s policy, be careful about who you ask—there may be some sensitivity internally if you start asking your manager or current colleagues about what is or isn’t acceptable. Connecting with former employees of your company to see what their strategy was will be your best bet. Just make sure your creative approaches still respect the confidentiality policy!