Hiding In Plain Sight

The Invisible ManAh, it’s that time of year! You know, beer fests and Halloween. I don’t know about you, but it’s actually Halloween that most fires me up!  Not only is it good fun, but it also offers rich symbolism and abundant metaphor. So much so, it inspired me to write a couple of posts that apply eerie – and even ghoulish – themes to career success.

This first post focuses on avoiding the fate of The Invisible Man in managing your online presence.

Meet Griffin

In the classic novella by H.G. Wells, the main character, Griffin, is a man consumed with his greed for power and fame. As a scientist, he believes that “…if a person’s refractive index is changed to exactly that of air and his body does not absorb or reflect light, then he will be invisible.” Of course, he decides to carry out this procedure on himself. And voilà! He becomes invisible. But there’s one small problem. He can’t reverse the process. This, of course, leads to mental instability and his ultimate death!

Avoid Using Camouflage

Being able to hide oneself does not, of course, require becoming invisible. Actually, the ability to hide in plain sight is built into nature. It’s called camouflage. It’s a protective adaptation that allows organisms to blend in with their surroundings.

Camouflage may provide survival advantages in the wild. Yet, blending in is a huge disadvantage in the world of work. [Tweet This] In fact, if you’re a consumer of career and business advice, you know the emphasis is not on fitting in but on standing out. In today’s competitive world, the thinking goes, you need to discern and leverage your personal brand across a range of media – and especially on line.

Sadly, it seems most people don’t do this. Or, at least don’t do it well. Many people set up online profiles, typically at LinkedIn, which virtually guarantee they remain invisible. [Tweet This]  There are various reasons for this, including a failure to complete their profile or include a professional photo. Beyond that, I see three critical errors that virtually guarantee they remain undifferentiated and hidden. They:

Cut and paste a resume or bio. Yes, there are still career advisers who recommend this, but it’s not the best use of your online real estate. It may seem that emphasizing your transferable skills makes sense. It doesn’t. People simply don’t read resumes to understand your skill set. So, the more your profile looks like a resume, the less attractive and compelling it will be. [Tweet This]

Rely on corporate buzzwords. Yes, we’re talking SEO! Sure there is some value in having certain words and phrases show up on your profile. Still, to overload your profile with key words is kind of like buying dozens of lottery tickets. You still may not win. In fact, a buzzword packed profile can keep you hidden just as effectively as Nature camouflages her creatures.

Use a formal third-person voice. Probably an outcome of making your resume or bio your profile is that it is done in third-person. Third-person language sets a boundary of formality. Maintaining a façade of formality can keep people from finding a reason for wanting to know, like, and trust you. [Tweet This]

Manage Your Optics

Unlike our pal Griffin, you can reverse the process. Where he couldn’t achieve better optics, you can. And to do that, start by being more open so people can see you for who you really are. Here are three tips to help you do that:

Tell your story like … a story. Just because a bio or profile is about you, doesn’t make it your story. Telling your story means revealing the key events of your life journey that changed you, and includes failures as well as successes. By conveying your twists an turns, you let your audience know what it is that made you who you are, today, and what makes you good at what you do. Your story is the ultimate differentiator because it only describes you. [Tweet This]

Use plain language.  The main purpose of your profile is to establish a human connection. Jargon simply does not do that. While you may think it’s a sign of professionalism to present your vast knowledge of business and industry terms. It’s not. In fact, jargon is a turn off, and can alienate readers.  Besides, the mark of a true professional is ability to find simple expressions for complex ideas.

Write in first-person to engage others. Writing for the social web means writing in first-person; so, you can use personal pronouns (“I,” “me,” and “my”) to convey who you are. Think of establishing your online presence as your way of introducing yourself at an event. You don’t use third person there, don’t do it on line. If you want to connect with other people, you must first be a person – and talk like a person.

Frankly, showing up as the person you are can lead to more emotional connection and trust. [Tweet This]  When you convey your identity more openly you achieve better transparency. And that’s a whole lot better than invisibility.


What steps are you taking to become more visible? Leave a comment and let me know. And stay tuned for my second Halloween post. I’ll be looking at how a career lesson from the zombie apocalypse of World War Z  applies to you.

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