Joan Didion famously said, “I write entirely to find out what I think.”

I always understood that as a writer myself. But after having helped 1,000’s of professionals craft LinkedIn profiles, I’ve also discovered that the inverse is true: If you want to find out how somebody else thinks, read what they’ve written.

Here are 3 simple things I’ve discovered about professionals just by perusing their LinkedIn profiles:

If you’re connected to your job

It may sound obvious, but a LinkedIn summary or job description that starts with “Currently the [job title] at…” provides a major—if subliminal—clue that they don’t expect to be there long. Once you see it, the tell becomes as obvious as a billboard.

If you’re proud of where you work

I’ve recently seen software that can tell a recruiter how likely a person is to leaving their job, based on when someone has updated their LinkedIn profile combined with how significant the update was. There’s another way to tell if someone’s heart is in their work, and that’s to look at what they actually write… or don’t write, to be more accurate.

A few years ago, I researched every LinkedIn profile of every employee at the top 50 digital marketing agencies (about 52,000 people). Fewer than 10% of people made any mention of their company beyond acknowledging that they worked there. Not that they didn’t write anything, it was just that what they wrote had nothing to do with where they worked.

A few years later, I repeated the study, this time looking at Forbes Best Places to Work. At these companies, only 20% of employees talked about where they worked. Twice as many as the control group, sure… but to be clear, this still means that 80% of employees didn’t even acknowledge working at a Best Place to Work.

True, LinkedIn is about the individual; but the reality of being human is that the tribes we feel connected to become part of our individual stories. We wear team colors to show off our affiliations because it matters to us that people know. And watch: when you find people who are proud of where they work, company messaging does indeed often peek through.

The whitespace here speaks volumes.

If you’re human

With Brand Amper, we encouraged people to add a person statement to the end of their summaries; mine includes this fun fact about my ability to find lost objects in certain circumstances. (You’ll have to read it to see what they are.) But humanity is not confined to the summary—I’ve discovered clues as to what makes a person tick buried in the personal interest section, job overviews, articles, and even multimedia that people have linked to.

“How you do anything is how you do everything.”

I love this quote, it’s brilliant. When you want to “how you do,” write.

When you want to know “how someone else do,” read what they’ve written.


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