Please Do Not Put That You Worked At Denny’s On Your LinkedIn Profile

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As I write this, I’ve just seen the LinkedIn profile of a young professional who listed “server” at “Denny’s” as a past job. If you are a lawyer—or want to be one—at any company other than Denny’s, then this is a terrible career move. Yes, that sounds harsh. And I’ve probably upset some very fine people who’ve worked at Denny’s.

However, the purpose of your LinkedIn profile is not to list every job you’ve ever had. The purpose of your LinkedIn profile is to promote you as a professional—whether someone who’s retired on top and ready to mentor the next generation of lawyers, or an established attorney, or up and coming talent, or somewhere in between. And so everything on your LinkedIn profile should support that image of you—or what we call “your brand.”

Before adding any job to your LinkedIn profile, ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Who is the target audience of my profile? If you’re on LinkedIn (or other professional networking sites), then your target audience includes current and past employers, potential employers, current and past colleagues, classmates, actual and potential clients, media and the press, thought leaders, bar association members, other lawyers, government investigators, opposing counsel, family and friends, alma maters, and the general public. These are all audiences you should consider when putting together your profile.
  2. What professional image will most resonate with my target audience so that I can be successful in my career? Generally, you want to be seen as a technically outstanding lawyer who is easy to work with and well connected, who has had an upward trajectory, and who has demonstrable interest or experience in serving a specific client profile. Depending upon your individual career goals, you may have some variation on this that emphasizes other skills like strategic planning or business operations.
  3. Is the job consistent with desired image? Is your target audience more likely to contact you because you were a server at Denny’s? Will they offer you employment as an attorney, leadership opportunities, or the like because you were a server at Denny’s? Will they trust in your intelligence, legal abilities, business acumen, or ability to solve their problems because you were a server at Denny’s?

Let’s be clear: working at Denny’s is nothing to be ashamed of—it just isn’t consistent with where most lawyers are trying to go with their careers. But we’ve all been there. We’ve all done entry-level (or lower!) work at some point. So take your work at Denny’s off your LinkedIn profile and save it for when you’re having a glass of wine with friends and joking about all the odd jobs you had as a young person or to pay the bills. Which is what I do with my first real job—caring for horses and mucking out stalls as a stable hand at a day camp. That’s right—many people have jobs where they feel like they “shovel crap” all day. I spent a summer literally shoveling it. But you won’t see that on my LinkedIn profile!