You see a compelling, branded LinkedIn profile of a job seeker with qualifications similar to yours. It speaks to you. It sounds so much like you. You want your profile to be as good as that. But you’re not such a good writer.
You see no reason not to use some of that good writing in your own profile. Not the whole thing, just some of it.
Somehow, because it’s right in front of you, online for all the world to see, you don’t think of it as stealing. But it most certainly IS stealing.
I see this happening all the time.
Just the other day I received invitations to connect on LinkedIn from two women employed at the same company, in similar jobs.
Before accepting, I always check profiles to see if they’re appropriate connections for me.
I immediately noticed that these two women’s Summary sections and job descriptions at that company read word-for-word exactly the same.
They had either worked on the content together, or one stole it from the other. If they were in cahoots, they probably didn’t see anything wrong with doing it.
But, beyond the moral issue of plagiarism, swiping content and using it on your own LinkedIn profile, or anywhere online or off-line, is very serious.
Known across social media as duplicating or “scraping” content, violating copyrights can lead you into all kinds of moral and legal issues. This behavior can impact your personal brand, put your integrity in question, and cost you your current job, and future jobs.
Here are 7 reasons why scraping content can tarnish your personal brand and derail your job search:
1. Copyright infringement comes with expensive penalties.
In the United States, the government thinks stealing content is wrong, and makes violating copyright law a serious, punishable offense, with fines up to $150,000 for each infringement.
ANY content you’ve found online, even if it doesn’t carry a “© Copyright” claim, is automatically copyrighted to the author and protected by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which is international in scope and consistent with similar laws across the globe.
LinkedIn frowns upon copyright violations, too. Members who violate the LinkedIn Copyright Policy are subject to account termination. At the very least, LinkedIn may disable access to or remove content, at their discretion. Conversely, if you see that someone has stolen content from your profile, LinkedIn has procedures in place for you to make a formal complaint, and they’ll deal with it.
Certainly, your code of ethics should dissuade you from plagiarizing. But, if that doesn’t stop you, do you really want to risk a law suit or having your LinkedIn profile taken down?
2. A copycat personal brand takes the “personal” out of the equation.
A “personal” brand is just that. It’s associated with a specific “person,” designed to resonate with their specific target employers, and crafted to showcase that person’s unique set of personal attributes, motivated strengths, passions, and value proposition. The content you’re stealing may sound like you, but it’s really not your brand story.
You should focus on writing robust content that will generate chemistry for the kind of person you are, how you make things happen for employers, and what makes you a good fit for your target employers’ corporate culture.
3. It’s not your unique personal brand.
Branding is all about differentiating yourself. It’s not about how you’re the same as the others competing for the jobs you want. In today’s highly competitive job market, you need to stand out . . . not get lost in a sea of sameness.
The achievements you steal from someone else couldn’t possibly be the same as yours. The situations, people involved, metrics, and facts are all different . . . even if only slightly.
Your own approach to solving the problems that led to your achievements provide evidence to support your brand promise. Don’t settle for generic achievement statements that sound good, but aren’t really authentic for you. Include specific examples of your contributions.
Help people assessing you understand what specifically elevates your skill-sets and qualifications above the rest, and makes you the best-fit candidate for your target companies.
4. It may not be appropriate for your situation.
The well-written content that’s tantalizing you may not do the job your Linked profile is meant to do – aligning what you have to offer with the current needs of your target employers. You MUST research those companies to determine the key functional areas that will be important to them, and pump your profile with your specific expertise, contributions, and value-add in those specific areas.
5. It may cause you to be shut out by identity confusion and conflicts.
That LinkedIn profile you borrowed from may belong to a job seeker who is targeting the same companies you are. What do you suppose happens when the companies’ recruiters and hiring managers notice the same content for two candidates (or more, if others have stolen the content, too) they’re considering for the same job? You’ll all look like thieves, and you’ll all get shut out. Nobody wins.
6. It tarnishes your personal brand, and puts your reputation and integrity in question.
If hiring professionals find out, you could be jeopardizing your chances to land the jobs you want. What does stealing say about your integrity? What kind of employee are you likely to be if you have no qualms about scraping copyrighted content? Even if you never heard of the DMCA, you should know that stealing is wrong.
This can also jeopardize your current job. If someone at your company notices the stolen content, you may be deemed a less-than-desirable employee, and get pink-slipped.
7. Bad SEO (search engine optimization) reduces impact and authority.
LinkedIn, Google, and other search engines will view your profile as “duplicate content” and may place it further down in search results, below the “earlier” version done by the originator. Search engines penalize duplicate content!
You’re an original. Reflect that in the brand-supporting content you create for your LinkedIn profile. Authentic branding doesn’t come from using someone else’s brand messaging. It comes from digging deep and differentiating yourself.
It’s okay (in fact, it’s good practice) to look at the profiles of your competitors for ideas and help with the right keywords, but don’t be tempted to copy and paste chunks of content into your own profile.
To learn how to develop your own brand content read my 10-Step Personal Branding Worksheet.
More Information About Personal Branding and LinkedIn:
photo by woodleywonderworks