I am writing this post to get feedback - especially from military folks and veterans - about an idea I've got for making LinkedIn a bit more welcoming to folks in uniform. Please feel free to comment, and to share with your own network.
Personally, I believe that military service is - or should be - a sacrifice that individuals make for the benefit of society. And I think that we have an obligation, in turn, to help those veterans as they transition into civilian careers.
Today that means showing them how to use LinkedIn to network, build online relationships, and connect with opportunities. But as many of us have seen, it can be hard for these folks to "translate" their military experience into a meaningful LinkedIn profile. Even though, in some cases, their audience may be a recruiter who is prior military. It just seems like a lot of information gets lost in that translation.
The night before last I had a (crazy?) idea for a new LinkedIn feature that might make it a bit easier for military folks to promote their experience. (My focus is on the US military, but I think the concept could probably be applied internationally.)
In the military, your rank determines your salary and where you sit in the chain of command. And that, of course, is what most folks today include in their LinkedIn profile, along with the units that they served in.
But what about the medals you were awarded for the various challenges, assignments, contributions, and achievements throughout your career. These awards form a sort of shorthand for someone's time in the service, and they are a really important part of military culture. But as useful as these "racks" are for military folks to communicate their accomplishments to each other when they are in uniform, I can see no good way (today) to include them in your LinkedIn profile.
Wouldn't it be cool if there were a "rack builder" feature on LinkedIn, so that when I list my military service, and the Navy logo pops up automatically, I have the option of including my rack of ribbons.
Well, for purposes of illustration, I've provided a picture of my rack for the 5-year stint that I did in the Navy. Unlike my rank - which had little to do with where my civilian career has taken me - it tells a story about the situations, actions, and results of my time with that employer. You know... the stuff that really matters to civilian recruiters.
Other sailors (and maybe Marines) can look at this rack and size up my career in an instant. Three deployments at sea, spent a bunch of that time near the Arabian Gulf and Yugoslavia, recognized as a high achiever twice, and went for four years straight without getting caught doing anything too bad. Also, probably not a very good shot because I don't have a marksman ribbon... and those things get handed out like candy!
Granted, this feature might not be of much use for most civilians (unless it came with a decoder ring) but I think it could be an easy way to add a huge amount of information that is missing from my current profile. Especially if I were just getting out of the service, and trying to communicate my achievements to build an online professional network.
What do you think? Would this feature make LinkedIn feel more welcoming for military folks? Would you want to put your own rack onto your LinkedIn profile? Would it make it easier for recruiters to connect with military candidates? Feel free to add your comments below.