A Stellar, Storied LinkedIn Profile

Recently, in a LinkedIn group to which I belong, a member cited his “favorite LinkedIn profile of all time.” The profile belongs to Orrin “Checkmate” Hudson, who uses chess to turn around troubled kids, and it does the best job I’ve ever seen of using a LinkedIn profile as a platform to tell a story. And not just a story, but a compelling, inspiring story. Here is most of it:

I grew up in a tough housing project in Birmingham, AL, in the 1980s, never far from gangs, drugs, and criminal activity. Fortunately for me, I met an exceptional teacher who put me on the right path.

After 6 years as an Alabama State Trooper, I thought I’d seen some worst possible examples of human behavior. Then one night in May, 2004, the TV showed how 2 teenagers murdered 5 teenaged employees of a Wendy’s in far-away Queens, NY. Kids killing kids for money — cold blooded, execution style, no value for life — all for a lousy $2400.

Evil prevails when good people do nothing. The TV images were so awful I couldn’t sleep that night. I thought back to my own youth — growing up in a family of 13 kids — and how close I came to landing in jail for stealing inner tubes off truck tires. But an English teacher got me interested in the game of chess. He turned me around.

Watching the aftermath of a mass murder in Queens was my personal wake-up call. I decided to follow the example of my own teacher and use chess to turn around troubled kids. Nine months later I sold my business — auto sales and repairs — and launched BeSomeone.org. As of 2012, we’ve helped build the character of about 25,000 young people — our goal is one million — to inspire them through the game of chess.

The last time I wrote about LinkedIn profiles, I noted that one of the difficulties of deploying stories in profiles is that, like resumes, the profiles are usually constructed in reverse-chronological order. Granted, it appears that Hudson doesn’t seek a job; his objective seems to be to raise awareness for his organization and drive visitors to its Web site. As such, he perhaps has more latitude with the chronology of his profile.

LinkedIn profiles are usually presented in reverse-chronological order because the user wants the audience to see the most recent — and usually most relevant — career activity first. In promoting his organization, Hudson has less of a need to list the most recent first. In fact, his story does not follow a linear course. His profile is far more engaging for drawing the reader in with the challenge of his growing-up years. He then skips way ahead to a more recent career incarnation and how a classic inciting incident became the turning point that led to launching his organization.

In between the incident and describing founding the organization, he flashes back to the teacher that turned him around as a youth by sparking his interest in chess.

Skipped in the tale is how he went from being an Alabama State Trooper to owning an auto sales and repair business — but it hardly matters because the reader is so immersed in his tale.

Would a chronological — but not necessarily linear — story work in a job-seeker’s LinkedIn profile? Maybe. It helps to have a dramatic, turning-point inciting incident around which to spin the story. It also helps to write as well as Hudson does. At the very least, Hudson’s profile has opened my eyes to the story possibilities in LinkedIn profiles.