LinkedIn Wants to Know You Better. I do too.

You may have heard that LinkedIn now allows users to include their volunteer experience in their profiles. Of course you have – you have an internet connection and a passing to passionate interest in social good NO DUH.

This is great. It’s definitely great. Over on the LinkedIn blog, Nicole notes four specific reasons why it’s so rad:

  1. Helping others matters
  2. Test-drive your passion
  3. You never know who you’re going to meet
  4. Get noticed/motivated

The phrase “professional brand” also pops up a few times and, yes, very good points all around, all the blogs! LinkedIn’s stake in the social networking sphere is clearly rooted in career development and professional networking; no one can or should deny that the foremost purpose of including volunteer experience is displaying one’s dynamic professional value. Still, I cannot help but feel like there’s an important point being glossed over in all this talk about professional brand and career advancement.

The word “brand” calls to mind a facade – a very carefully curated avatar, a composite of one’s “best” parts that is meant to represent the whole. While I appreciate the value of a brand, I think that the conscious decision to spend time volunteering for particular causes and organizations speaks to something far more organic and revealing about an individual than their personal brand.

Including your volunteer experience on your social profile will not only potentially further your career and prove that you like the general idea of help and service, it further humanizes you, gives a clearer shape to your character than a list of your favorite bands or typing WPM can. Sure, listing your experience as a former volunteer at a children’s hospital demonstrates that you have a few morsels of free time and that you are a Good Person and every one should consider offering you jobs and cars and friendship. More importantly, though, it suggests that you – a person formed of a complex sequence of real experiences nuanced by a unique cocktail of thoughts and feelings – might have some reason near and dear to you to believe that children are neat and illness is absolutely rotten. It may also suggest that you, unlike some of us (cough cough me), don’t pass out at the sight of needles and that yours is a resilient and true mettle.┬áVolunteering your time at a homeless shelter not only says that you believe in charity, but also that you believe in the fundamental equality of all people. Whether you are advocating for green energy or gun control or pet neutering or women’s empowerment or anything in between, listing your volunteer experience gives your profile a more intimate glimpse into the human being behind the avatar – the living, breathing, thinking individual that existed long before the brand.

And I, for one, am all for more humanity.

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