This is part one of a four part series on LinkedIn. Be sure to visit tomorrow when we discuss strategies for connecting on LinkedIn!
LinkedIn is one of the world’s most influential social networks and, when it comes to professionals, it stands heads and shoulders above the rest. With more than 360 million members around the world, and claiming one in three professionals in the United States as a member, LinkedIn is the perfect place to connect, network, search for a new job, and be headhunted for jobs you never knew existed.
But all of this depends on having a profile that works.
What do we mean by works? Well it needs to be three things above all else:
Get them wrong and you’ll be left twiddling your thumbs in the same old career and dreaming of what could be. Get these three things right and you’ll be on your way to LinkedIn success.
Build the Perfect LinkedIn Profile
Constructing a profile on LinkedIn is not difficult. Just like a Facebook profile, a Twitter profile, or any other social network the company has an onboarding process that will walk you through the basics. You’ll enter your name, add in details of your work history, some more details of your education, and be pushed to make some initial connections. If you work though this onboarding process you’ll end up with a profile.
But if you’re reading this then we’re guessing you’re not going to be satisfied with just ‘a profile’. More likely you are the type of person who wants the perfect LinkedIn profile, the one that will gain attention from your network, help you communicate your experience in an effective way, and maybe even open the door to new career opportunities.
And if that’s the sort of profile you’re looking for, we can help. Here’s ten tips representing a step-by-step guide on moving from LinkedIn user to LinkedIn superstar, a roadmap to the perfect LinkedIn profile.
1. Profile Picture
You do have the option of using LinkedIn without a profile picture – but why would you? Remember that LinkedIn is not about gathering friends but about making connections, and who wants to connect with a faceless individual? Your photo is one of the first things that people notice about your profile and, as such, should be one of the first things that you optimize. Ideally your photo should be a professional, head and shoulders shot that shows your whole face. Don’t use a ‘selfie’ (it’s far from professional) and don’t use a full body shot – these render horribly as LinkedIn thumbnails. Keep it crisp, clear, clean, and demonstrate that you understand the difference between social networks that are all about fun, and social networks like LinkedIn that are about business.
2. Profile Headline
Your LinkedIn headline follows you across the site: everywhere your profile turns up in a search, every post that you make, and every group you join it’s there. Indeed, along with your name and your profile picture, it is one of the only pieces of information that almost everyone using LinkedIn can see about you. As a result, you need to be sure that the message it presents to the world is the one you want to present. If you are happy in your job and not looking for anything new, then leaving it as your current position and company can work well. If you are looking around for new options then changing up your headline to align with certain keywords can be a good idea. Ensure that you avoid grammatical errors and that you can back up claims you make in your headline with the details in your profile.
3. Contact Information
LinkedIn allows you to add contact details to your profile and you should take advantage of all of the channels that are available to you. After all, if LinkedIn is about connecting and networking, people need to be able to find you. Adding your email address is mandatory, but the perfect LinkedIn profile will include additional email addresses, too. For example, if you’ve signed up to LinkedIn with your professional email, add a personal one so that prospective recruiters can contact you away from work. Add your website, your Twitter feed, links to your SlideShare account, too, if you like. And also don’t neglect the ‘old school’ contact information such as a physical snail mail address and a telephone number. Not all businesses will contact you via Twitter, so make it easy for them by giving them plenty of options to choose from.
4. Personalized URL
LinkedIn will automatically assign you a URL but be warned: it’ll be ugly. Luckily LinkedIn allows you to personalize your URL to make it a little more memorable and a whole lot cleaner for business cards, resumes, and in-person networking. When you personalize your URL make sure to use your full name (first and last) or some derivative of this. Hence, personalizing to johndoe, jdoe, or johnd are good options. Personalizing to something like marketingwizard, networkingkingmaker, or johndoelookingforwork are all to be avoided. Like everything else on the site, you need to keep things professional and your personalized URL should reflect this professional approach, too.
5. Profile Summary
At the top of every perfect LinkedIn profile is a summary. It’s here you get a few lines to explain to people viewing your profile who you are, what you do, why you are on LinkedIn, and what they can expect from connecting with you. To optimize this summary there are a couple of points to keep in mind. First, write it in the first person. Don’t be tempted to speak about yourself in the third person (‘John Doe exceeded all his targets in Q1 2015’) and, instead, own your achievements (‘I exceeded all my targets in Q1 2015’). Second, be sure to use the keywords that you would like associated with your profile. This will help you appear higher in searches that recruiters and users make on LinkedIn. Third, as your summary is available to some users you have not yet connected with, be sure to include at least one means of contacting you in your summary. Add a phone number, a website, and email, or another social media account so that a user who has not yet connected with you – and so therefore lacks access to your full contact information – can get in contact with your directly.
6. Work Experience
Completing the work experience section on your perfect LinkedIn profile is often difficult. Some users with extensive career histories don’t know exactly how far to go back, and others with less extensive resumes are tempted to pad their work history with jobs and experience that don’t exactly match the reality. As a guide, all significant positions in the last ten years should be included in your profile, which probably means the summer jobs you worked when you were 16 can be excluded. For younger, less experienced users, include your internships and work placements; this will help demonstrate that you are willing to work, and that companies are willing to work with you. Don’t inflate the job title of describe the job responsibilities in terms that are unrealistic. Be clear, be honest, and don’t forget to use and re-use those keywords that you want associated with your profile here, too.
As well as demonstrating your practical work experience with your job titles and job responsibilities, LinkedIn also gives you the chance to present specific projects that you were either responsible for delivering or on which you worked as part of a team. Including these on your perfect LinkedIn profile is a good idea because it adds weight to the claims you make in your work experience section. Hence, while in your work experience section you explain that you were responsible for web design, in your projects you can list the specific web design projects you worked on, connect the LinkedIn profiles of others who worked on the project with you, and provide real social proof as to your capabilities. Be selective in the projects that you mention and be sure to include dates, team members, and company details in each of the projects you list.
LinkedIn allows – and even encourages – other LinkedIn users to endorse you for skills. These endorsements take only a click of the mouse and so, all alone, are not that valuable. However, when dozens of your connections have all endorsed you for the same skill, this speaks to your ability in a way that recruiters and future connections can quickly understand. Your connections can endorse you for skills you have listed yourself or for skills they believe you have. While it is gratifying to have people endorse you for skills you never thought to include on your perfect LinkedIn profile, a word of warning is in order: keep your endorsements relevant to your profile, and to the professional environment of LinkedIn. if someone endorses you for ‘swimming’, ‘being super friendly’, or ‘emotional maturity’ and these are not things that will improve your profile, you can remove the endorsements from your profile with just a click.
While endorsements take only a click of the mouse to send your way, recommendations are a little more serious. Consider recommendations the reference letter of the LinkedIn world: they are personalized, professional assessments of your competence and written by connections of yours who are willing to put their name and face alongside it. They can be earned unsolicited but, more commonly, you need to request them from colleagues and former colleagues. The two most recent recommendations for each position that you have included on your profile are listed underneath that position in your Work Experience section, and all recommendations are displayed lower down your profile. The best way to get a good recommendation? Well, apart from being just good at your job, the best way is to go out and recommend others. Find a colleague or a former colleague who you enjoyed working with and offer an unsolicited recommendation of their work…and then follow up with a request for their own, honest assessment of your work, too.
LinkedIn allows you to offer additional social proof of your skills to visitors of your profile in the form of media uploads. You can upload images, documents, slide decks, and more to your profile, and these can help support the claims you make in your profile. Of course, the best strategy is to choose your best work and include it (tip: check with your company to ensure that you are legally allowed to share documents externally before uploading) but you need to be careful where you put it on your perfect LinkedIn profile. By default the media will be included in your summary section but it is far more likely to be relevant to a particular work experience that you have had, or to a project you have worked on. Moving it there is easy: simply upload to the summary, then click to place the media somewhere else on your profile. What you are aiming for is to make it easy for the person viewing your profile to connect the media with the section they are reading.
Getting a LinkedIn profile from ‘basic’ or ‘beginner’ to ‘complete’, ‘optimized’, and ‘attractive’ is not a time consuming process, but it is an important one. Working through each of the ten steps above will help your lift your profile from stock-standard to superstar, and you’ll be on your way to succeeding on LinkedIn.
Have your own tips? Or do you have a rockin’ LinkedIn profile? Share them in comments below or on Twitter!
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