Your Personal Brand Online and the LinkedIn Privacy Dilemma

by Meg Guiseppi on April 28, 2014


LinkedIn Privacy and Confidential Job Search

How private can you keep the changes you make to your LinkedIn profile?

Here is one of the most frequently asked questions by my c-suite and senior executive clients who are in a confidential job search, and need to complete and/or update and brand their LinkedIn profiles:

“How do I keep my employer and co-workers from finding out I’m updating my LinkedIn profile, indicating I’m job-hunting?”

The quick answer is that you can’t truly hide the fact that you’ve made changes to your profile.

You could solve the problem by making your profile content completely “private”, but that kind of defeats the purpose of having a LinkedIn profile in the first place.

Keep your profile entirely “public”, so it’s open to search. You want people to find your LinkedIn profile — loaded with plenty of brand-supporting content — when they Google “your name”.

Turning off your activity broadcasts and changing the option for who can see your activity on their homepage, will avoid alerting your network to changes you’ll make.

You’ll find these options on the Privacy & Settings page in the drop-down menu at your photo avatar in the upper right-hand corner of your profile:

  • Click on “Profile” and under “Privacy Controls”
  • Select “Turn on/off your activity broadcasts”
  • In the pop-up, unclick the box for “Let people know when you change your profile, make recommendations, or follow companies”. Close the box.
  • Then click on “Select who can see your activity feed”
  • Select “Only you”.
  • When you’re done making profile changes, go back in and click the box to turn on activity broadcasts, and change your activity feed back to “Everyone”.

That solves your problem, right? Take these steps and no one will be the wiser.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

In the LinkedIn Help entry Showing or Hiding Activity Updates About You, you’ll find the following:

While you can limit most of your notifications, the following notifications will be posted regardless of your activity settings:

  • Adding or changing your profile photo
  • Connecting with other LinkedIn members. Note: You can turn the notification off when you make a new connection by hiding your connection list
  • Group Activity – You now have the option to turn this off within your Group settings, if you don’t, an activity will post. Learn more about preventing updates when you join a group
  • Sharing content
  • Following a company
  • Upgrading to a Premium account (doesn’t apply to Job Seeker account)
  • Following an Influencer, Channel, or Publisher
  • When you “Like” shared content

Let’s say you don’t make any of those particular changes, so LinkedIn isn’t going to jeopardize your confidentiality.

There’s always the threat that someone at your current company keeps tabs on employees’ LinkedIn profiles to suss out job-hunters.

Or that someone at your company just happens to see your profile, notices you’ve updated it, and asks you why.

I advise my clients that they should expect to be asked if they’re planning to leave the company, and have a ready answer.

They need to craft a short and sweet answer about why they’ve updated their profile, and say the same thing to everyone, except perhaps those people they can absolutely trust to keep their plans confidential.

If you tell too many different stories, you’ll have a hard time keeping track of what you said to whom.

One acceptable way to handle this is to say you’ve updated your profile to better represent the company and support the company’s brand. Beyond its job search capabilities, LinkedIn has become a valuable tool for companies.

More and more of them have LinkedIn Company profiles, and encourage their employees to have LinkedIn profiles and become brand embassadors for the company by networking through LinkedIn. And LinkedIn has become more accepted as a career management platform, aside from job search.

Although I caution executive job seekers to be careful in the way they use LinkedIn if they’re searching under cover, I also stress that they overcome their fear of being found out.

The value of LinkedIn is such that the benefits far outweigh the risks.

More posts about the value of LinkedIn:

LinkedIn, Personal Branding & Executive Job Search: Perfect Together

2 LinkedIn Personal Branding Tips You Don’t Know

LinkedIn Groups and Personal Branding: Showcase Your Subject Matter Expertise

Personal Branding: How to Brand Your LinkedIn Summary Section

photo by Frederic Poirot

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Meg Guiseppi May 1, 2014 at 6:46 am

Thanks for commenting, Greg, and for the important point you’ve made. Promoting your company and employer, while reinforcing your personal brand, is a great way to put your unique ROI out there, without jeopardizing a confidential search.

2 Greg Johnson April 30, 2014 at 9:57 pm

Great post Meg! I especially like that you explained how the privacy settings actually work. One thing to think about is if your activity is used to build your knowledge on trends and best practices in your industry and function, and at the same time, referencing and promoting current activities of your company, it will not necessarily raise red flags, but allow you to develop and promote your personal brand.

Leave a Comment


Previous post:

Next post: