With SharePoint 2013 comes your own personal profile space in an area called your My Site. My Sites were originally introduced in SharePoint 2007 as simply a user profile, upgraded with limited social functions in SharePoint 2010, and turned into a much more legitimate social networking experience with SharePoint 2013.
Your profile—also known as the About Me section of your My Site—is your own little spot to show people who you are, what you do, and how to get your attention.
Think of it as an internal version of LinkedIn on your work intranet. It’s private, so only your colleagues and others who have access to your SharePoint network can access it. But it serves a similar purpose as LinkedIn or Facebook for networking with your colleagues.
Why your My Site profile is useful
Think social networking at work is pointless? Think again. It’s actually becoming more and more critical in a modern workplace, especially as so many professionals—with diverse skills and backgrounds—are located remotely, traveling regularly, even living across the globe.
Big picture-wise, it’s important for your colleagues to know who you are and, more importantly, who they’re talking to when they’re working with you. This is especially true if you don’t work in the same physical space as them. Your My Site profile does that.
And let’s admit it: if you use Facebook or LinkedIn regularly, you’re probably just as guilty of looking people up as I am. If you’ve ever done that, you’ve proven my point. Social networking has its uses. And it can be a productive tool to add to your work day.
There’s really only one use case for your My Site profile: sharing information about yourself with other people. But it’s not just your name, phone number, and email address. There are a number of fields that you should fill in so others can find you in the future, whether they’re looking specifically for “the business analyst in Marketing” or “someone experienced with Excel macros”. Let’s cover them here.
Just a quick caveat: the fields available to you in your My Site may not match the ones listed here. Or there may be a lot more. In an effort to bring more context than SharePoint offers out of the box, these fields tend to be customized before IT departments launch them. So you’ll likely have more. Or you may not. (And if you don’t, you should ask IT for some more. It can really help with findability of experts.)
SharePoint usually pulls its My Site information from Active Directory (AD), which is the system most organizations that employ Microsoft tools use to keep track of all their employees, their employees’ information, and how their employees are connected to each other (at least on the IT side; AD isn’t exactly an HR tool in my experience).
So, if you go to your My Site (click your name in the top-right corner of the page, then click “About Me”), it will pre-populate some information for you. This information—usually your name, phone number, email address, and maybe even your manager, office location, and job title—usually can’t be changed. And that’s because it’s pulling from AD and you don’t have the ability to change that information without going through your IT department (in most cases).
Your photo may be pre-populated from AD, but you can update this if you want. Just be aware that your photo won’t sync back to AD or other apps that pull the photo from AD. (Microsoft should consider this as an official complaint on my end.) So if you use a different photo here, it will show up in SharePoint, but not Office, Outlook, or Lync/Skype unless you have your IT team update AD as well. If they don’t insert your photo for you, or photo usage is voluntary, then no worries: just upload your photo straight to your My Site.
There are, however, other fields that you’re able to—and should—update. (How-to steps are listed below.) These are the ones we care about and that you should start playing around with:
- About me: This is your space to write about who you are, what you do, and what your passions are. It’s not unlike the “objective” section of your resume or the “summary” field on your LinkedIn profile. It’s intended to contain prose and be more human than most of the other information you’ll find in your My Site.
- Example: “I’m a proud mother or two, loving wife, skilled at a lot, and perfect at nothing. I’ve worked in the Project Management Office for the last three years and was recently promoted to lead the team that will be expanding our service line within the Northeast Region. I’m skilled in resource planning, risk management, scheduling, and team development, and I’ve spent a lot of time in budget forecasting and account management. I work out of the New York office but spend a lot of time in Boston and Philadelphia as well.”
- Ask me about: Add your most relevant skills and experience here. These are things you’re best at, that you consider yourself an expert in, or projects that you’ve worked that would be useful to colleagues looking for someone with relevant experience. These items will be included at the top of your profile in a sentence that promotes using the SharePoint Newsfeed (or Yammer, if you’re using it) that states: “Feel free to mention me in a post or ask me about [your ask me about items].” Use the suggested terms or create your own.*
- Examples: “graphic design; logo design; brand standards; visual identity; marketing” or “project management; risk analysis; Microsoft Project; scheduling; 2016 executive budget”
- Past projects: List some of the big-ticket work you’ve done and specifically call out the projects you worked on. This both gives context to how you’ve used your skills and also connects peers across the company who worked on the same projects. Use the suggested terms or create your own.*
- Examples: “2012 website redesign; social media launch; IT governance development; 2014 server consolidation”
- Skills: Identical to the skills field on LinkedIn, this is where you can put pretty much any talent you have. (Might want to keep it PG.) Anything from the subject you spent four years studying in college to a minor tidbit you learned about yesterday. Just remember that tip about resume writing: don’t say what you know, say what you want to do. If you don’t want people asking you about C# programming, don’t include it in your skills list. Fair warning: these lists can become long and seem arbitrary. But hey, people have a wide range of skills these days. Use the terms suggested or create your own.*
- Example: “project management; public speaking; meeting facilitation; Microsoft Excel; technical writing; internal communications; Microsoft Office; Microsoft Project; SharePoint; copy writing; Skype for Business; marketing; social media marketing; Facebook; Twitter; LinkedIn; strategic communications; writing”
- Note: if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you have the right to include SharePoint in your list.
- Schools, Birthday, Interests, others: These are generally self-explanatory. They give you the opportunity to connect with colleagues on a more personal level. Use the terms suggested or create your own.*
- For schools, I find it useful to include the full name of your alma mater and its acronym. For example, I include Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and RPI because people may input either. You may even want to include the mascot if that’s better known.
- For interests, include anything you like to do outside of work. Running, gardening, volunteering, etc. are all great things to include. It may seem like little value, but I’ve seen affinity groups start just because a couple folks stumbled across people with similar hobbies and began hanging out. It’s great for helping new employees assimilate in the culture. (If you’re in management, you should promote this. For the love of God, push it with your people.)
*These fields will suggest terms live as you’re adding content. Some items will be job descriptions, others will be keywords that SharePoint suggests automatically. Feel free to choose already-existing items or create new ones. At first, when you add a new item and finish it with a semicolon, SharePoint will turn it red because it doesn’t recognize it. That’s fine. Just keep adding your keywords and save the changes. The new items that didn’t exist in SharePoint’s dictionary will be automatically added. Just be careful when adding new things: don’t make them too similar to already-existing ones and … spelling counts!
How to update your My Site profile
Pretty simple, really:
- From any SharePoint site in your network, click [Your name] > About Me in the top-right corner of the page.
- You’ll be brought to your profile page, i.e., the About Me page. Click the edit my profile link.
- Start entering your content. There are usually two areas you should consider: Basic Information and Details. You choose what you want to include. And you can choose whether to share with everyone, your colleagues, your manager, etc.
- Click “Save all and close” when you’re done.
Your information will now be sniffed up the search engine and people will be able to find you based on the keywords you entered.
Many of these fields give you the option to share with everyone, just yourself, or in some cases just your work group or manager. Choose the appropriate option. Then again, if you don’t want something shared (like the example below, perhaps?) then just don’t enter it.
Also, when someone comes across your profile, they can click any of the terms you’ve input. This will automatically run a search for people in your network with that term included in their profile.
To be clear, it’s literally a search for that term, refined to only include people as a result. You could actually run the same search separately right from any search box if you’d like. All I’m saying is it’s not some magically compiled list of people that HR put together or anything. It’s a simple search result page just doing its job; nuttin’ to see here.
- First and foremost, the ultimate best practice is to have your profile filled out so it actually adds value to your organization!
- Picture: This is my pet peeve. No avatars, no photos of your cat, and don’t use your last family portrait, either. Your photo needs to represent you in a professional manner. Make it a photo of you, centered, cropped square, close to your face. No other photo type is acceptable in my humble opinion. I don’t care if you don’t like zoomed in photos of yourself. If I can’t figure out who you are when the photo pulls through in other apps, what was the point of using the photo? And if you’re not one for having photos taken of yourself? Sorry, others have the right to know who they’re talking to. You can’t stop them from seeing your face in real life, so don’t hold them back virtually. (Note: In some systems, this photo will be pre-populated from your IT’s Active Directory system, which houses all of the people information. The photo gets pulled to Office, Lync/Skype, and sometimes even your computer account, so you may not have a choice.)
- For the “Ask me about” and “Skills” fields, each one is its own “category” as far as SharePoint is concerned. In “Ask me about”, feel free to use multiple-word concepts. Just separate them with a semicolon.
- If a category doesn’t exist, spelling counts! You can’t be found if you spell terms wrong. And if someone else wants to use a similar term, your misspelled abomination will be suggested to them, which, if they’re lazy and just go with it, will promote your poor practices. Or maybe I’m just picky for spelling.
- If a category is already available, don’t make a new one that’s only slightly different. Unless it’s misspelled. Be a friend and tell the offender of the misspelling. (You can search the misspelled term from any search box, refine your search to only show people in the results, and you’ll find the brazen individual(s).)
The “skills” and “ask me about” fields usually bring about some serious debate. I say above to include topics you’re an “expert” in. Many in management positions will scoff at the idea that anybody could add any arbitrary item regardless of qualifications or skill level (or what managers are likely concerned about, misrepresenting a lack thereof).
Managers sometimes equate your ability to add skills to your profile to being a comparable study to their succession plan (if they have one). Your My Site is not that. Your My Site is an informal record of who you think you are and how you think you can help others, given the projects you’ve worked and the skills you’ve honed.
Providing more information—even if it may be a tad flawed or exaggerated—is better than providing no information. Even if you’re not actually the expert, you likely know who is. So if someone finds you thanks to a SharePoint search of “grant writing” and you’re not the best person to talk to, you can point them to the person you know who is. It’s still a win for everyone.
Anyway, this isn’t some formal anointing of the god of a given skill set; it’s simply a description of the work you’ve done and skills you’ve gained doing it.
What you type in many of these fields matters: others can use the same terms once you’ve used them for the first time. Once you create a term, it gets added to a database of available terms to choose for other employees. So, spelling counts.
SharePoint Social Networking Series
SharePoint 2013: My Site Profile | Blog | Tasks | Newsfeed/Yammer
Delve (Office 365): Profile | Story (blog) |