Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile

LinkedIn is arguably the single most valuable social media channel for prospecting, networking with industry peers, hiring great talent, and finding a new job. It is therefore surprising to see that few people truly leverage this channel to its full extent and still make common mistakes when filling out their profiles.

Anyone visiting your profile is there to obtain a quick impression of who you are, find out what you do, determine what makes you unique, and ensure you have the right background to support any claims you make. A profile should address those inquiries in the same intuitive, formal order in which they occur, and without making visitors have to scroll up and down to find them.

In other words, your profile information should unfold to sequentially answer the following:

  1. Who are you? (Profile picture and Title/Headline)
  2. What makes you unique? (Summary)
  3. Prove it. (Experience – and everything thereafter: education, recommendations, etc.)

Who Are You?

When people first land on your page, your profile photo and headline are essential to creating a first impression. If they are unprofessional or vague, then people of interest may move on or misjudge you regardless of your experience. Anyone who plans on publishing articles should be especially mindful of these details, as readers often look up authors to gauge who you are and whether they can trust what you say.

Keep the following in mind when adding these elements:

Profile Photo

A photo conveys more information than many realize – for better or worse. While it doesn’t have to be a professional photograph, it should represent how you would like to be perceived, both in your current and future roles. If you’re trying to establish yourself as a professional, steer clear of overly informal photos in favor of business attire against a preferably neutral background.

  • Frame your entire head from the shoulders up
  • Face forward, and keep your eyes on the camera
  • Choose color photos

Background Photo

Another way to set yourself apart from the herd and further amplify your narrative is to add a custom background photo. Use this space to reinforce your personal brand and visually support the written portions of your profile. A good background photo could for example illustrate the communities you serve, the benefits you bring to your customers, the tools of your trade, or simply be a solid color or abstract texture (other than the default LinkedIn image).

Title / Headline

The headline should simply be your job title. Ensure that it’s sufficiently descriptive and concise to immediately convey your current role. “Manager,” for example, is too vague; Are you managing people, projects, or processes? Include a simple, classifying adjective for specificity: “Hiring Manager” or “Project Manager.”

Here are a few quick style tips:

  • Keep it below 120 characters
  • Express your career focus and components of work
  • Avoid qualitative adjectives like “results-oriented,” “proven,” or “dedicated.” Reserve these for the summary and experience sections.

 

Example of a strong professional headline according to career experts at Harvard: Research Scientist | Ph.D. Candidate | Data Analytics, Biotech, Pharma

 

What Makes You Unique?

The About or Summary section is where you can highlight your expertise by describing how you contribute value, showcase your personality by conveying your passions and motivations, and distinguish yourself creatively by telling your story. Essentially, you should offer insight into what makes you unique, your career aspirations, values, and personal traits. It’s also helpful to briefly include how others would describe you.

Similar to the profile picture, the bio is a personal element that helps create a first impression. Remember, you’ll have plenty of space to specifically list your job functions later, so focus this section on conveying your voice, personability, and the impacts you’ve made in your career.

Here are a few quick style tips:

  • Be authentic: Stay away from jargon and buzzwords
  • Write in your own voice as it aligns with your professional goals and industry standards
  • Don’t be afraid to write in the 1st person.
  • Don’t exceed 3 short paragraphs (Ideally, readers should be able to skim it in 30 seconds or less)
  • Include core skills, strength, talents, interests, and industry keywords

 

Example of a strong profile summary (“About” section) according to career experts at Harvard: 

I’m a research scientist working to better understand how neural activity motivates and shapes human behavior. My expertise includes project design and management, data analysis and interpretation, and the development and implementation of research tools. I enjoy generating new ideas and devising feasible solutions to broadly relevant problems. My colleagues would describe me as a driven, resourceful individual who maintains a positive, proactive attitude when faced with adversity. Currently, I’m seeking opportunities that will allow me to develop and promote technologies that benefit human health. Specific fields of interest include data analytics, biotechnology, and pharmaceuticals.

 

Prove It.

After giving visitors a taste of who you are and what you bring to the table, you have to make good on that promise with concrete descriptions of past and current roles, special skills, and smart connections. Aim for a profile that is at least 75% complete and includes some searchable content or industry keywords.

The Job Description

Consider this section an informal resume. You want to list who you’ve worked for and what you’ve done at each organization. Unlike a formal resume, you’re free to structure this however you choose; for instance, chronologically, by industry, or by any other connective thread that best highlights your skills, strengths, and professional goals.

If you choose to list companies you’ve worked for, remember to describe your role rather than the company. What were your responsibilities? How did you add value? Did you improve sales by an impressive margin? Did you create a successful strategy or department? Define your contribution in measurable results whenever possible.

Here is an example a job description under a particular title:

  • Assisting companies in identifying and overcoming operational, growth, and financial challenges
  • Responsible for direct cash flow forecast that integrates with income statement and balance sheet, running sensitivity analysis, advanced financial analysis and account reconciliation

Accomplishments, Skills, & Recommendations

These sections are a great way to showcase the expertise you’ve gained from your experience, bolstered by colleague endorsements. As your skills and accomplishments evolve over the years, try to keep these elements as current and relevant to your professional goals as possible. Depending on how advanced you are in your career, it’s good practice to start weeding out older skills from early jobs that are no longer relevant to the core competencies you want to highlight. By reducing the clutter, you ensure your most impressive talents stand out.

Refining core competencies also ensure their likelihood of getting endorsed. Endorsements and recommendations from colleagues add authority to self-proclaimed skills. Don’t be shy about reaching out to current or former colleagues – especially those you’ve had a good, close-working relationship with. Return the favor by endorsing and recommending them as well. Here is a helpful recommendation template guide to make the writing process easier.

Your Network

It’s important to network and make good, lasting connections, as these are a testament to your past work, relationships, and status in the industry. However, it’s far better to have quality connections rather than merely a large quantity. That said, you don’t want to be midway into your career without having built sufficient relationships. A good rule of thumb is to have a network size that is at least 10x your age. (If you’re 30 yrs. old, that’s 300 connections; 40 is 400, and so on).

Finally, try to cultivate relationships both within your industry and across others – you never know how they might intersect and what opportunities may form. When requesting a connection, customizing the invitation with a personal note goes a long way and increases the likelihood of acceptance. In a sea of messages that read: “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn,” letting the recipient know why the connection is meaningful to you will add value to your request and make it stand out. Here are some helpful templates to use depending on your relationship to the individual you’re reaching out to.

Be an Active Member

You and your career are continuously growing and evolving; regularly update your profile to reflect that.

Don’t sit back and watch. LinkedIn (or any social media channel) is just like any in-person networking. In the previous section, I discussed the importance of cultivating and maintaining an ample network. This is partly achieved by staying active, such as by sharing updates and interesting and relevant content.

Strengthen relationships within your network by engaging with their ‘recent activity.’ For instance, by liking, sharing, or commenting on what they post. If they engage with you or your content, show your appreciation with a ‘like’ or brief reply to a comment.

You can also join groups and connect with people who share common skills, goals, experiences, and industry affiliations.

 

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