The trick to building a polished LinkedIn profile that attracts potential employers and contacts and cements your professional reputation isn’t as mysterious or painstaking as you might imagine. A spin through some of the site’s super-users might give you the impression that you should be linking personal blog entries, joining professional groups, participating in discussions, and otherwise devoting a significant amount of time to online networking. You certainly could (and depending on your line of work, you quite possibly should).
But the foundation of LinkedIn’s effectiveness as an online professional networking site — think of it as the business world’s version of Facebook — rests on making the most of your personal profile. Whether or not you choose to use all the extras, your profile needs to hit all the basics in a way that’s useful to people who are looking for your services. An incomplete profile is like a resume submitted on notebook paper — neither worth your time to put together nor an employer’s time to review.
The secret to standing out
Simply following LinkedIn’s prompts or consulting its profile creation guide will plant your profile on solid ground. The secret to rising above the crowd? Polish each section to support the job and image you want.
1. Describe rather than label yourself.
You’re not stuck with a simple job title and company name here. You may get more mileage from focusing on your skills or experience, like “Marketing career professional with 10 years of executive support experience.” No matter what you choose, though, please don’t anoint yourself a ninja, superstar, or rock star. Those monikers were cute when they first popped up, but they’re tired and hackneyed now, and they don’t tell readers what you can actually do for them.
2. Summarize your strengths, not your work history.
Don’t waste the summary section trying to list all the jobs you’ve ever held; that’s what the work history is for. Instead, try to articulate what makes you stand out from the rest of the pack, whether that’s your years of customer service experience or the numbers and figures behind the projects you contributed to. Focus on where you want to be rather than where you’ve already been by focusing on qualities and experience that will support the work you want to be doing.
3. Don’t overdo it.
You’ll hear a lot of encouragement to update your LinkedIn status regularly, but don’t overreach. Unless you have something relevant to say — an update on a current project, a note about what type of work you’re looking for, a link and comment on something relevant to your field — skip this. This isn’t Facebook; don’t overshare your personal life here.
4. Show your face.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking a photograph is optional. Potential employers and contacts want a face to match with your profile. Choose a high-quality photograph that shows you as someone who can be taken seriously. You don’t have to win any beauty contests, but employers want to know they’re hiring neither a zombie from “The Walking Dead” nor a beer-swilling cut-up more likely to make more waves on Facebook than in the office.
5. Summarize rather than document.
Don’t hammer readers with an encyclopedia of your work life; offer them the nitty-gritty, the big picture condensed into an easy-to-swallow kernel. LinkedIn encourages you to fill out every part of your profile with a tool that that leads you through the process and points you back toward incomplete areas. It’s a smart approach, but don’t feel compelled to list every last job, date, and detail. Include what’s relevant to the work you want to be doing, and whittle away what doesn’t contribute to that picture. It’s not a history test, and you won’t be graded on whether or not you include the car wash job you took the summer after your senior year.
6. Coordinate your resume with your LinkedIn profile.
Employment experts recommend that you tailor your resume to each position you apply for. Make sure the end result doesn’t stray so far that someone who first saw your information on LinkedIn would no longer recognize you. Your LinkedIn profile should support the same highlights your resume does, no matter how you tailor your resume for a particular position.
7. Use keywords relevant to your job and field.
Pack your summary and the experience sections of each of your past positions with all the hot lingo of your field, from typical job titles to technical software and industry-specific processes you’re familiar with. Recruiters look for these terms to find people who can actually handle the jobs they’re trying to fill.
9. Spell check and re-read your profile aloud to help catch errors.
It’s a good idea to have a trusted friend look over your profile, as well.
Get more help assembling your profile
Starting your profile from scratch is easier with help from LinkedIn’s own profiles guide that walks you through the basics. If a webinar is more your style, LinkedIn’s free Wednesday webinar will show you how to build a strong profile plus get involved in groups and run effective job and people searches.
[Image credits: Jacob Botter]
Writer and editor Lisa Poisso writes about digital-age family and parenting, health and wellness, and green lifestyles and the environment, with an additional specialty in personal tech and video gaming. Her personality interviews spotlight the digital-age influence of tech and gaming. You can follow her at @LisaPoisso.