Why I Changed My LinkedIn Profile To Be All About My Failures

I’ve changed my LinkedIn profile to concentrate on nothing but my career failures. At this point you’re probably wondering why. So let me explain where I’m coming from.

Failure has an almost heroic status nowadays. Since Harvard Business Review published its ‘Failure’ edition in April 2011, it’s been the topic of so many blogs and books it’s impossible to keep count.

Most of the content out there is focused on the business leader or entrepreneur, probably stemming from Silicon Valley where it’s widely regarded the concept got its wings. It’s therefore pretty strange to me that if failure is this amazing concept for businesses to celebrate, then why shouldn’t a business’ employees also celebrate it?

A check of some of the famous advocates of failure from the famous HBR April 2011 edition, such as: Amy Edmondson, Francesca Gino, Gary Pisano and my personal favourite Rita Mcgrath (she must be one of the most employable people on the planet) tells me that none of them have any mention of failure in their LinkedIn profile.

In fact, I haven’t yet found anyone else who speaks about: their challenging times, the hurdles that they’ve overcome, the times they’ve bombed, the troubling periods they really learned from. Yet we’ve all experienced these things, and I happen to be one of those people who believes it’s these types of failure that truly define who we are.

Here are the benefits I see of celebrating failure on LinkedIn:

It shows experience

Most employers prefer someone with experience most of the time. And what is work experience? It means you’ve done things before in previous role that are assumed to mean you’ll add more value in your new role. It’s very likely the things you have done before will be steeped in failure. Quite often, you only learn how to do it right after doing it wrong at least once (the parents amongst you will have undoubtedly seen this in your kids).

It shows a strength of character

As we know, sh*t happens all the time, so it follows that organisations want to employ someone with resilience. It’s important when the chips are down that employees can stay motivated and driven to find the path to success. Someone who is comfortable with the fact that things don’t always go right first time will show bucket loads of resilience to the wider world.

It’s your authentic voice

LinkedIn profiles are often the epitome of an inauthentic voice. Users spend time crafting a profile, which is usually achieved by copying someone else that they think has a good profile, following advice that they’re given in social selling workshops, or putting into practice blog posts like this that they’ve read.

Todd Henry’s recent book ‘Louder Than Words: Harness the Power of Your Authentic Voice’ is a powerful body of work. I’ve really seen how impactful this can be recently. I’ve had great sessions over the past few months with my colleagues. Sitting down with people and letting them know exactly how you’re feeling, being forthright when your performance hasn’t been up to scratch and how you think collectively that you can make things better can be a really powerful force. Authenticism helps build empathy, empathy builds trust, trust builds relationships, and relationships build success in your love, life and at work.

By baring all of your warts up front, it also signals to your connections, employer and would-be employers that you’re honest. If you’re willing to get everything out in the open in a public way, they’ll be more likely to think that you’re someone they can count on. That still means something to a hell of a lot of people.

It tells your story

We only have one life, which means we only have one narrative. You can go about trying to tell someone else’s story, but do you really want to go through life that way? Getting comfortable with where you’ve come from, your experiences and how they’ve shaped you, will give you a powerful narrative that people will respect.

Overcoming adversity is a hallmark of many great stories. It wouldn’t be a great film if the guy sets out to get the girl and marries her the next day without any hardship. As humans, we want near-misses, facepalms, drama, and trauma to captivate us.

Research from Deborah Sole and Daniel Wilson of Harvard University in 2002 found that storytelling was the most powerful knowledge-sharing medium to convey norms and values and build trust and commitment.

What happens if it’s a disaster?

Nothing. No one will die. You can always change a profile back. Through trying something new, it might open another door of opportunity. And for me that’s enough of an exciting thought to give anything a try.