By: Jean South

I spend a lot of time on LinkedIn — it’s part of my job. While there, I see many veterans and military spouses using LinkedIn very effectively to brand themselves and position themselves as the next key employee at their target company. But I also see those who use it very, very poorly, hindering their chances to make a good impression with potential employers. So in this article, I wanted to talk about how to use LinkedIn the right way and avoid making some common mistakes.

LinkedIn is NOT Facebook! Do not treat it as such! This is NOT where you and your friends hang out to chat about politics, how ineffective the VA is, or what guns you want to buy! This week I have seen posts of suicide hotlines (good intentioned, but belong elsewhere, like Facebook), opinions about The Donald, and profile pictures that show an individual taking a selfie in a bathroom mirror! PLEASE DO NOT DO THIS! Imagine you are a hiring recruiter from a Fortune 500 company. You want to hire someone who understands how to represent themselves in a business environment. They will avoid even considering someone who cannot do this on a social network for professionals.


This brings me to my next point. Use LinkedIn as it was designed to be used – as a PROFESSIONAL social media tool. Remember, everyone who reads your profile likely fits into one of the following categories: your potential recruiter, your potential boss, your potential HR director, your potential colleague, or your potential direct report. Everything you post will inform the impression they have of you.


The standard rules of the workplace should apply here:

  1. No politics, religion, or sexually/racially charged comments.
  2. Only say things you would want your boss to hear you say.
  3. Only say things you would want your colleagues to hear you saying about them.
  4. Only say things you would say to the recruiter or HR Director’s face while interviewing for a job.
  5. Don’t get too personal – this is not the place to show pics of your family vacation unless it directly relates to a professional experience or lesson learned.


Bottom Line: All LinkedIn content should bolster your professional image.


Before every post ask yourself:


  1. What does this tell others about me?
  2. How will it help me land my perfect job?
  3. How could my posts be misinterpreted?
  4. What will future clients think when they see this?
  5. How can I ensure I put my best foot forward with this post?


Carefully censoring yourself in a professional environment is not being phony. It is being smart. In the military, you are taught to follow long-standing traditions, manners of dress, and professional courtesies. While perhaps not as strict, the private sector is no different. Look at the profiles of peers and leaders in your industry to get an idea of what is acceptable.


Do yourself a favor as you venture into social media to tell the story behind your personal brand — know the difference between the platforms and don’t use LinkedIn like Facebook.

Author - Jean South

Jean is a Marine Spouse, the daughter of two Army Veterans, and a former FBI Special Agent. As an FBI Agent she focused on Russian Organized Crime. She transitioned out of Government service in 2014 and joined McChrystal Group, founded by General Stan McChrystal, where she was a consultant and recruiter. She founded Hire Served in 2016.

Want to take it to the next level? Speak with a live mentor!

We recommend these mentors based on the content of this article.

Kevin Gilson, MBA, CSM

Exiting the military can be a challenge. Moving from active…


Available for a Mentorship Call

Meagan Kut, CSM, CSPO

I'm trying to figure it out, too, let's do it…


Available for a Mentorship Call

Karen Santiano Francis, MS, CMCS

Military Spouse Advocate. Mentor for veteran spouses, retiree spouses, spouses…

Fort Washington

Available for a Mentorship Call

Abby Peeler

Prior Air Force Contracting Officer | Defense Tech


Available for a Mentorship Call