The 2016 LinkedIn @Work study found that only 35% of people feel comfortable talking about their professional achievements. And yet 87% of recruiters want to see an interesting summary on your profile!
As a professional resume writer, I am surprised by the number of LinkedIn profiles that cross my path that are either incomplete or complete, but totally ineffective or boring.
The purpose of this is guide is to provide a few simple tips to help you set-up or tidy-up and maintain an effective profile in less than an hour. I’ll also let you know what you don’t need to do.
LinkedIn is more than a traditional resume that simply recounts your employment history in static form. LinkedIn is a dynamic space to promote what you can do or hope to do in the future. Use it to find clients, a new job or market your business.
The vital sections of your LinkedIn profile include the Photo, the Headline, a personalized URL and the Summary. Your experience, of course, supports these vital sections, as do your recommendations and skill endorsements.
LinkedIn is a very user-friendly and effective professional tool, but only if you use it correctly. Sure you can upload a video, but if it is a terrible video, why bother? Only take on what you can showcase effectively and efficiently. Setting up an All-star profile on LinkedIn does not have to be a huge time-sink!
Follow these simple tips and you will be the owner of an effective and complete LinkedIn profile.
BOOM! It’s almost like magic!
Your photo does not have to be professionally taken, but it does need to be professional.
The first mistake is often to ignore the photo. We skip the photo, we upload an ancient photo or we use something unprofessional. All three are a big “no-no.” That said, you don’t need to get hung up on getting the perfect photo — just get a photo that is professional and approachable.
Ideally, your face and nose should be looking slightly towards the center of the screen, so you appear friendly and approachable to viewers. If you are looking to the left (away) you may appear distant and closed off. A gentle or genuine smile or a simple neutral look is best. Avoid sultry or goofy (unless of course, those looks fit your industry). A selfie is okay, but it’s best if you can get a friend or family member to snap a headshot with a neutral background.
Do it now. Brush your hair. Apply some lip gloss (or not!). Put on a professional top. Snap-it. Crop-it. Post-it. Done.
This is where you create the job title you wish to have, not necessarily your current job, but what you want to do!
After your photo, the Headline is the second place people will look when perusing your LinkedIn profile and it is vital that your “headline” is clear and concise. This is your brand statement! It can also be a slogan, if your business has one that is short and sweet. The headline is limited to 120 characters and optimized for 40 to 80 characters. However, don’t start here…first, let’s work through your summary and experience, we will come back to this key component soon. I promise!
Many people don’t realize that LinkedIn provides the option to have a customized URL that you can then put on business cards, your resume, your website or your email signature. When you first create your profile you are assigned an URL that consists of your name and some random numbers and characters. Delete the characters and see if you can just validate the URL with your name. If you have a common name, this may not be possible. If this is the case, add an initial or try reversing the order of your first and last name. You can also add modifiers, such as “consultant” or your business name; however, don’t get too crazy, as it may not be possible or practical to revise your URL in the future!
How to personalize your URL:
First person, active voice. At the most basic level, think of it as a classic 30-second elevator pitch: Who are you? What are you accomplished at? And what is your goal or offering? The summary can be longer than three or four sentences, but only add content that builds out these three concepts. Avoid writing about your past experiences and accomplishments in the summary. Your work history does this on its own.
If you are a business owner, consultant or freelance provider, you can include your offerings in the summary, but take the time to ensure that what you share is an effective marketing pitch and not just a listing of skills or products. LinkedIn is a sales profile, so think of your summary as an opportunity to brand and sell yourself. If you are looking to change jobs or transition careers, use words and phrases that highlight your transferable skills. If you have a professional manifesto, start your summary with it!
Let’s look at an example from Big Bird. Preparing for PBS to lose its funding, he has decided to move into the field of professional mediation:
Hello, My Name is Big Bird. I am an oversized friendly bird from Brooklyn that excels at making friends and solving problems. I love bringing people (and monsters) of diverse backgrounds together and finding common ground. Invite me to lead your next staff retreat. I will have everyone singing, dancing and working together in no time at all!
Now it is your turn. Right now take 5 minutes and jot down a quick “elevator pitch.” Done? Okay, now take your elevator pitch and set it aside. We’ll come back to it later. Next, you need to do a bit of online research.
Don’t be scared by keywords. It is easier than you think to optimize your own profile.
Keywords need to show up in your profile in several locations: your headline; your summary; your work experience; and, your skills. Before writing your profile or even simply cutting and pasting your experience from your resume, spend 10 to 20 minutes online building a keyword list that may be used by LinkedIn’s own s Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) in your field. Make two lists, one that is for job titles and a second for job skills. Start by using LinkedIn Job search to find 3 or 4 job postings that appeal to you. Next move to Google. Jot down at least 15 words and skill-set phrases that are prominent in these job descriptions. Now, rewrite your summary (and even your job title) using these keywords and phrases.
Let’s go back to Big Bird and his desire to transition out of television and find a job in mediation. Big Bird’s elevator pitch sounds pretty good at first. He has written up a resume and completed his LinkedIn profile. His headline reads: “experienced mediator.” He has submitted his profile to numerous organizations, but no one has responded.
Let’s take a look at Big Bird’s original summary and see what might be amiss…
He is clearly experienced and enthusiastic, but why can’t he find a job? Maybe he has not selected the appropriate keywords! If you go to LinkedIn and search “Mediation” you will find that the number of jobs listed for “Mediator” is close to zero; however, if you enter in “Behavior Intervention Specialist,” LinkedIn returns over 1,000 jobs! Quite the difference.
After looking through a few job postings Big Bird’s keyword list should include a revised job title and the words: facilitate, intervention, effective, evaluation, collaboration, positive, and support strategies. This is Big Bird’s new summary, can you see how much more effective it will be?
I am an accomplished Behavior Intervention Specialist that excels at facilitating positive interventions that bring people (and monsters) of diverse backgrounds together to support collaboration and create positive teamwork. Invite me to lead your next staff retreat and I will not only get everyone singing and dancing, but I will also ensure your employees understand how to be both effective and empowered members of a team!
Now it is your turn. Take your original summary, look at your keywords and your ideal job title and incorporate them into your summary. Double check your grammar and your voice. Make sure to keep everything active voice and concise.
Now that you have your keywords, your job title, and you have written an effective summary, it is finally time to rewrite your headline. Big Bird’s might be as follows:
Accomplished Behavior Intervention Specialist
At the most basic your Headline should be your ideal job title. If you would like to add in a complementary adjective, such as “accomplished” or “expert” go right ahead! This is not the place to be humble. If you are comfortable with words, feel free to be more creative, as long as the Headline remains searchable for your keywords and job title.
Depending on your comfort with LinkedIn’s online form, I generally recommend that individuals complete their job experience in paragraph form rather than using bullets. Formatting mistakes are a huge online eyesore and will not be to your benefit. Instead, type your experience in your favorite word-processing software. If you already have a well-constructed resume, don’t hesitate to cut and paste directly, but make sure you have included your keywords from the last section. Spell check it. Edit it. And then copy and paste to LinkedIn.
Don’t take too much time on this part. Unless the job was particularly high level or held for many years, 3 or 4 sentences generally suffices for each position. Later you can go back and fill out your experience. What is important today is that you GET IT DONE. Make sure you correctly type company names so that if the company has a logo uploaded, LinkedIn should automatically pull it into your profile. Be honest. If you are not, your co-workers and past employers will notice in a heartbeat!
If you are not currently employed this may negatively effect your profile rating and move a once “All-star” profile down to an “expert” level. If possible, figure out an honest way to add current experience. Do you volunteer every week? Are you a consultant? Do you run a side-business from home? If not, don’t dismay, this won’t prevent recruiters or hiring managers from finding your profile.
Don’t leave these blank. But also don’t stress about listing every detail right away. To start, list your most significant points of education and maybe a few volunteer jobs or an award. If you have the time and the means, feel free to upload PDFs of any awards or diplomas and link them to your profile.
Everyone should have a minimum of 3 recommendations.
If you are actively job searching or networking, or you work as a consultant, make sure to request “recommendations” from former clients. Actually, everyone on LinkedIn should have asked for and given at least three recommendations. Think of three people you can ask for recommendations from today. Click on “Ask to be Recommended” and select both the position and the company. You can simply use the “autofill” text and hit send, but I prefer to take a few seconds and write a brief personal message. Say something nice about when you worked together and then suggest a few items that you would like the person to mention. Make sure to be both authentic and humble.
Let’s say Big Bird would like a recommendation from Elmo:
I have always enjoyed working with you at the Sesame Street Workshop. Would you please write me a recommendation for my mediation skills? For example: “Big Bird is very approachable and empathetic. He always knows the right thing to say and is the best when it comes to resolving disagreements.”
Thank you in advance for your help, please let me know if you have any questions.
Keep your recommendations fresh. As you finish projects or encounter former clients, make asking for recommendations into a habit. At the same time, don’t just ask any and everyone. Make sure that you had a good working relationship and that the individual will be able to genuinely recommend you! When you are done asking for recommendations, don’t forget to set-aside time another day to offer at least three recommendations to your own contacts. Networking is about relationships. We need to give too, not just take!
Make sure you have identified at least 10 skills. Don’t spend too much time on this part, but don’t ignore it either. Periodically take a look at your skills and endorsements. Make sure the skills that you value the most are listed first. If you find that skills that you don’t wish to advertise are more heavily ranked, delete them or move them to the end.
Join groups. There are groups that you should follow because of their content, consider these places both an opportunity to learn, but also to share your own knowledge and build out your image as an expert in your field. If you are unsure which groups to join, look at profiles of professionals who are similar to you and note the groups they have joined and the profiles that they follow. Avoid any discussions that could become heated or unprofessional.
Did you know you can upload a background image? I wouldn’t worry about this very much. Don’t waste hours looking for something just right. However, if you are in a design field or if you have a company logo that can be used to compliment your profile this is the place to add it, but keep in mind you should only add an image if it IMPROVES your overall profile.
Sometimes less is more. You don’t need a video or anything crazy for an All-star profile. However, you need to upload at least one document to your profile to earn an All-star rating.
You can upload creative media to various parts of your profile, but I don’t recommend this for everyone. Are you a musician? Then upload some video of your music. Are you an artist? Upload images of your work. Designer? Add something from your portfolio. If you are a teacher or in a technical field, say a Business Analyst or software engineer, you can add PDFs of certificates or awards.
Not everyone needs to be creative with their media. If you can do a video well and you are confident that it adds to your profile, then go for it, but don’t sweat this section. Just make sure you upload at least one document.
The following are networking steps to take as you have the time. Remember that at it’s base, LinkedIn is a networking platform. To really make use of your profile, you should spend some time each week on LinkedIn. If you are actively looking for a job or for new clients, I would spend a minimum of 20 minutes per day on LinkedIn.
What to do during this 20 minutes? Be active, so other people see you. Share an article valuable to other people in your field. Like a few interesting things shared by your peers. And, take a look at one section of your profile and make it your “Letter of the Day.” Make sure it is complete and error free.
Even if you are not actively searching for a job, I would schedule time into your calendar at the beginning and end of each week for LinkedIn. This way you have at least two touches and time to respond and think in-between to any comments or messages. Networking is relationship building over time, so be consistent.
I generally do not recommend accepting friend requests from complete strangers. The strength of LinkedIn is really in knowing your contacts. I occasionally make an exception for recruiters or people that you meet (and admire) professionally online. Networking is about building real relationships, so use common sense and follow your gut!
Great work! Now you have a functional and effective LinkedIn profile. Please share your experiences below! If you have a question or need a clarification, don’t hesitate to ask!
If you want an All-star rating, but still don’t have one, go over your profile with a fine-tooth comb. Did you complete the skills section? Did you really fill out a complete work history? Do you have a title and a headline? Do you have a current position listed with no end date? Have you uploaded any media?
If you are having problems editing your profile or if information will not update correctly, you may need to clear your browser history or contact LinkedIn. I once had an error in my profile that wouldn’t go away. I contacted support and they somehow “reset” my page. LinkedIn also has a help section that can walk you through the steps to edit your profile.
If you found yourself stumped by your keywords or content, don’t despair. Contact me!
I help people write effective and appropriate resumes and LinkedIn profiles everyday!
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