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Is Your "About" Page Real, or Just Real Phoney?

About pages - they're everywhere these days.  Whether you have a bio on your company's site, you own your own business and have to tell people who you are, or simply have a bio via twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, you've got choices to make regarding how you position yourself.

Are you an expert, a working (wo)man, or something in between?  Remember - if you leave bio toolsAbout-me-2 blank, you're still making a choice - you're telling the world that you're afraid to take a stand.  If I see that as someone who hires a lot, that's OK, I just think you're a nice compliant sort- but I probably have zero expectation that you're going to come in and WOW me if you're not brave enough to position yourself via something as static and available as an "about" page on LinkedIn.  Job history only on LinkedIn?  Cool.  I'll be back when I need a safe choice.

Why is the "About" page on my mind?  Because Jason Seiden brutally hacked some poor unsuspecting company that clearly didn't get it.  More from JasonSeiden.com:

"What happens when personal branding goes too far? When it leaves others (aka “me”) with the impression that you think you’re MORE THAN AWESOME; YOU’RE A PIVOTAL PLAYER ON THE MOST PHENOMENAL, BESTEST, MOST PERFECTEST TEAM EVER CONCEIVED IN SOMEONE’S WHOLE BRAIN.

EVER. That’s how I felt when I read Brill Street’s About Us page—I got that, “Yep, they’re the best… just ask them!” feeling inside.

And there’s their wunderkind Talent Manager, who makes me want to hang it all up and go fetal in the corner. Armed with a Bachelor’s in cognitive science, she “thoroughly understands the mind” and “has become an expert in the areas of Talent Acquisition, Career Coaching and Organizational Development.” Wow. If there’s one thing I’ve learned after 6 years of studying management at the world’s foremost business institutions, nearly 2 decades in and around entrepreneurs, executives, managers, recruiters, coaches, and OD professionals, and hours upon hours reading papers by guys like this and meeting guys like that, it’s that I could never master all three of those areas in my entire lifetime, even if I tried."

When I first read Jason's post, I have to admit, I thought it was a little mean.  Then it grew on me, and I learned from what he shared and basically decided you have three choices when it comes to an "About" page and how you position yourself:

1. Go with the Brill Street approach.  Say you're the expert even if you're not or at the risk of seeming plastic to the world around you.  LOTS of companies and people doing this.

2. Tell the world who you areTell the world who you are not.  Be confident in the fact that by not trying to be all things to all people, you'll be more attractive to the people who are really looking for what you have to offer.  This is similar to the Seth Godin "tribes" approach, and it's clearly the authentic way to go.

3. Be scared.  You think the Brill Street approach sucks, but you just don't have the moxie required to tell the world who you are/aren't. 

I've got news for you.  #2 is the only way to go.  It builds trust and authenticity, but it requires you to tell the world what you think sucks.  Take a stand.  People like it and the people who don't won't be nearly as active in being critical as you think they will be.  I reworked my LinkedIn bio and came up with this:

"Who am I? That's an easy question - I'm a VP of HR type who has led HR practices in Fortune 500s and venture capital-held startups. I work for a living, and believe if you aren't an active recruiter/talent agent as an HR pro (regardless of title or position), you're overhead. I cringe when peer HR types act like administration is job #1 and allow it to dominate their professional identities. I cringe again if they make no attempt to be an active recruiter.

BOOM! If you like that description, you'll like me. It's that simple.

I'm also among the most transparent HR pros you can find, and here's why. I care so much about the art of HR that I've started two blogs (www.hrcapitalist.com and www.fistfuloftalent.com) with the goal of building a community I could learn from. I've been putting my thoughts down every business day for 3 years.

That means what you see is what you get. I can't hide, and if I ever pulled the blogs down, Google would probably haunt me forever anyway."

Let me know what you think, because there's no such thing as a perfect "About" page.  There's only Brill Street pages and blank pages.


Jason Davis

Good, relevant topic here. Going with the Brill Street approach and self-describing yourself as an 'expert' across any discipline is a bad approach, in my opinion. Even worse if you are claiming expert status across a wide range of disciplines, such as Talent Acquisition, Career Coaching and Organizational Development, as Seiden pointed out. There will always be someone who knows more than you, or more than your company, so making grandiose statements exposes you to judgment from potential candidates, clients, and peers before they can even figure out what it is that you are really offering.

Good food for thought here for individuals and companies alike.

Judy Toa

Good advice, and good timing for me. I did consider the "Brill" approach but decided it sounded just a tad too arrogant, although in my case my description is accurate. Will take the #2 approach, then. Thank you.

Ryan Martin

Well said Kris. I agree completely that business owners need to boldly state what they are experts at. I work in the real estate industry and it simply isn't good enough to state that you like houses and want to sell them. You need to tell people that you specialize in condos, waterfront homes, or some other specific niche. People want to work with specialists.

Janet L. Falk

Be a little different, in a positive and memorable way.

My website and my Linked In profile both refer to round pegs, square pegs, and then I am an octagonal peg. I don't fit the mold.

At a business social event, I overheard a former client talking about someone (me, perhaps?) with a peer at another firm. He said "octagonal peg." I kid you not.

Donna, LinkedIn Profile Writer

I think it comes down to transparency and personality. So many people just copy and paste their resume... and it reads robotic. I believe in a conversational narrative spoken from the heart. Certainly be confident but not obnoxious, it's a fine line.

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