LINKEDIN: IS IT OKAY TO REVEAL YOUR FAITH-BASED ACTIVITIES?

A general counsel friend who was updating his LinkedIn profile queried me as to whether it was prudent to list his activities related to his Catholic faith.  He was concerned about turning off legal recruiters and potential employers by

John F. Kennedy

revealing his substantial commitment to his church and faith-based organizations.  I kidded him that he was not Jack Kennedy running to become the first Catholic president of the United States.  We have come a long way from 1960 in terms of religious prejudice.   But he does raise an important point.

Diminishing Religious Discrimination

Last year, there were some people who thought Chicago would not elect a Jewish mayor and that notion seems laughable now.  Commentators have noted that Republican primary presidential candidate Mitt Romney has to overcome an anti-Mormon bias among significant conservative and evangelical  elements in his party.  Muslim Americans certainly have to contend with stereotypes.  We have elected our first African-American U.S. president, so should we be concerned about residual religious bias in the social media market place?

I certainly do not dismiss the fact there remain various degrees of discrimination and bigotry whether it be religious, ethnic, racial, etc.  Should that fact dictate what we reveal about ourselves in our LinkedIn profile?

Appropriateness of Religious Information

If your non-business pursuits reflect your substantial commitment to your faith-based activities and you want to share your religious interests publicly, then by all means you should do so. However, if you want to proselytize your religion on your LinkedIn page, then you will likely alienate potential employers or customers. LinkedIn, after all, is about business. If your religion is a big part of your public identity or you are a clergyman, rabbi or imam, then listing your religious activities certainly makes sense.

Your Story on LinkedIn

For many executives and professionals, their references to religious related organizations simply round out a picture of their non-work related, nonprofit, and charitable endeavors.  For example, I list the fact I was president of St. Joseph Seminary at Loyola University of Chicago Board of Advisors and that I am a member of the Queen of All Saints Basilica Men’s Club (including being an assistant Webelos Cub Scout Den Leader at the Basilica.)  Although I do not wear it on my sleeve, I am proud to be a Roman Catholic, and revealing that fact tells people something about me – it contributes to my story.

Your LinkedIn profile is a piece of your narrative.  Executives and professionals should think carefully about how they craft their narratives.

As I said in a previous post about putting your photo on your LinkedIn profile, if someone wants to discriminate against you because of your age, looks, ethnicity, race or whatever, you would not want to work or do business with that person anyway.   I would add religion to that list.

Use of Commonsense

As is in everything in life, moderation is the watchword.  If your career pertains to faith-based organizations, then a long list of religious-oriented activities would make sense.  If you are an executive for a Fortune 500 company and a 100% of your listed activities is religious based, you may limit your potential opportunities within your company as well with other employers.  The more well-rounded your employers’ perceive your experience, the better.

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