What do you do about someone who just about stole your LinkedIn profile?! I've run into "Amy" at a few networking events and noticed afterward that she kept looking at my online profile. At first I was flattered, but I finally looked at hers and found that she has posted, almost word for word, MY profile job description!! I was trying to be nice and introduce her to people at some industry events because she's new and a little socially awkward but began distancing myself after she asked for my contact list (!). Now I'm angry. How can I handle this? I worked hard on my profile and don't want her passing it off as her own!
Extending a helping hand to "the new kid" is kind, but yes, giving over your LinkedIn profile and contact list is the killing sort of kindness. Hopefully you explained to "Amy" that your contact list would do her no good because it's comprised of associations you've built. A good contact list is not just a string of company titles, phone numbers and email addresses —this basic information is ideally attached to faces, interests and areas of expertise. It includes relationship history. Handing Amy a personal contact list is akin to giving her a storage locker without the combination necessary to open it.
And now she wants your profile? With the website growing by 175K profiles a day (and garnering 25 million daily profile views according to LInkedIn), your online profile is a critical career tool —but it's also a very personal one.
Understand that Amy's actions are the maneuverings of an uncertain and slightly desperate person. While perusing profiles for inspiration or structural ideas is smart, the copy/paste thing is rather "5th grade math class-ish." The significant difference is that at this stage of life there are professional reputations at stake rather than test grades and TV privileges. It was wrong then, it's almost unconscionable now.
So, what are your options? Well, you could report her to LinkedIn. People do, and there's a link for that. Based on the screenshots you provided, it seems fairly clear that she shopped your profile, lifted some sentences and only rearranged the ordering. But it sounds like you're bound to run into her again, and it might be difficult —or at least awkward— to inflict a LinkedIn ban on a colleague.
My first step would be to contact Amy directly. Perhaps you could even explain the situation in terms of its impact on her own professional reputation: "Hi Amy, I checked out your LinkedIn profile and noted its similarity to my own. Normally, I might be flattered, but we move within the same circle and I fear that many will note the identical language and think that you're talking about me! You have some terrific abilities and accomplishments that are unique to you, and those are the things that should be highlighted in your profile. Please take the time to rework your profile description without the language used in mine. I understand that it takes a lot of time to get it just right, but it will be worth it to establish your own professional presence. Thank you! Nikki."
Even better? Phone her. The under-confident can be expert email evaders. If you manage to catch her, boil it down to: "Hi Amy! Good to see you at (fill in the blank). Say, I checked out your LinkedIn profile and noticed that it's just like mine! That's going to confuse a lot of people. Would you please take care of that?"
Yes, she could deny it, in which case you retreat to the first option of alerting the powers-that-be at LinkedIn, but at least you've given her the benefit of the doubt and a chance to do the right thing. Perhaps her mimicry was the inadvertent outcome of a harried schedule and blurred judgment. Perhaps someone else wrote her profile for her. Perhaps your "wake up" call will prod her to prioritize the creation of her own distinct online profile. Congrats on crafting an attention-grabbling profile —may it facilitate exciting career opportunities for you!
*For those of you wondering "could this happen to me?" —of course it can. One easy way to check for plagiarism is to use LinkedIn's advanced search option. Copy and paste a phrase of your profile —in quotes— into the key words box, hit search and hope that your own profile is the only one that comes up in the results.
If you have a question for Heather, email her at Heather@heatherdugan.com and maybe she'll answer it in her next column!