Updated: Mar 22, 2021
Make your profile attractive to potential employers and clients, and engaging to grow your network.
I remember hearing the word LinkedIn for the first time. I was in college studying public relations, and the thought of social networking but for jobs felt wholly foreign. Until my first full-time position, I hadn't fully tapped into the working world, one that includes online networking to build relationships and attract paying clients. Now, I spend lots of time on LinkedIn working on my own profile and growing my professional network. If you're reading this and we're not connected, then let's change that!
If you're someone who only frequents LinkedIn when you get a new job, or when you're ready to start looking for a new one, that's usually the worst time. You want to be engaged frequently to build your connections so that when it's time to move on to your next thing, your profile is robust and well established. LinkedIn is no longer just for announcing new job titles. Professionals from nearly every industry post about key learnings, hard and soft skill tips, job openings, speaking engagements, news articles and more. Granted, most people don't share pictures of their homemade cocktail or furry friends, but this platform is for far more than the obligatory and infrequent promotion announcement. Albeit important, nailing down exactly how to interact with people and how to best market yourself can be a tricky business. At minimum, your profile should resemble a buttoned up resume: Clear, concise well organized and up-to-date. However, if you're using LinkedIn as a networking function as well, there are some other considerations. For people like me who use LinkedIn to market freelance services, LinkedIn also gives an opportunity to showcase personality with skills and services. Toeing the line between playful and professional takes thoughtfulness, but when done right, it can really pay off. Now that we've established that optimizing your LinkedIn profile is in fact important, let's talk about how to do that.
1. SMILE FOR THE CAMERA.
Like many other social networking platforms, you'll need a good profile picture and header image. However, the basic qualifications for a good LinkedIn photo are different than your other profiles. Here 's what to keep in mind:
No pixelated or low resolution picture and busy backgrounds.
Don't use a photo you have to crop someone out of.
Keep it from the bust, up. Your profile picture won't be very big, so make sure you're featured enough to be see when it's cropped and sized down.
It doesn't have to be a professional headshot. A good iPhone photo can do the trick. Dress nicely, find a blank wall or hang a sheet and ask a friend (or tripod) to snap a few shots for you.
Look at the camera. Dramatic gazing into the distance sounds nice, but it doesn't quite deliver when you're trying to convince people to connect with you.
It's important not to forget about your header image either. Don't fret too much if you're struggling to decide on what image to use. Whatever you choose, make sure it's a high resolution image. Pro tip: horizontal images work best. If you don't already have one of these on your phone or laptop, Pexels, Pixabay and Unsplash are great resources for free stock images.
2. KEEP IT UPDATED & MAKE IT COMPLETE.
These are two low hanging fruits ready for you to grab. Just make sure you have your most relevant and recent work experience and your current title and company listed. Also, make sure you complete every portion of the LinkedIn profile. The platform breaks it down into different sections but you should be sure to have at least the following:
Taking the time to do all of this can show that you're dedicated to investing time and energy into your professional brand. It can only benefit you to showcase your work and skillset in the most thoughtful, compelling and engaging way possible. Take some time to do it right.
3. WRITE A COMPELLING HEADLINE.
Your headline, unlike the space for you to list your current title and the company you work for, is a perfect opportunity to begin telling your story. It'll appear right under your name and is one of the first things people will see when they look at your profile. This is your chance to stand out and clearly communicate what you do. For example, I'm a media relations specialist at a LA-based academic medical center, but I'm focusing on freelancing opportunities at the moment. Rather than simply reiterating my media relations position, here's what I opted for:
I help clients find their story and then amplify the message. Business writing | Public relations consulting | Resume optimization
It's short and sweet but gets my message across: I'm more than just my current full-time day job.
4. STEP UP YOUR SUMMARY.
The 'about' section of your profile is another great opportunity to make your profile more helpful and engaging. Don't make the mistake of repeating your education or job history. Instead, use this space to strategically frame your professional goals. Mine highlights my expertise and freelance services. Unlike your headline, this is a long-form mini deep dive into who you are and what you do. If you're a young professional, perhaps this is where you talk about the industries that interest you and where you hope to go in your career. This is also one of the places where you can toe that playful-professional line. Here's how:
Write in first person. This makes it more relatable, direct and less abstract.
Make it unique. Again, don't restate your job experience with different words. Find a way to showcase your personality, true interests or company mission.
Articulate a problem you solve. Humans love a problem-solution scenario. Tension followed by resolution is the making of our favorite TV shows, books and now, LinkedIn summaries. Explain what you do for clients, not just what you do to make money.
5. MAKE IT BEEFY.
LinkedIn lets you easily integrate additional content and links throughout your profile. Showcase your website if you have one, or things from your portfolio that you're especially proud of. Maybe it's a well-done class project, a presentation, a great media placement or a byline. LinkedIn articles are a newer and very exciting feature you can consider. Think of it as a natively hosted blog post. Truthfully, you could use LinkedIn articles to build up a repertoire of blog posts without ever making a website. You decide on a topic of expertise, write the copy, choose a headline, find a high resolution featured image, pop it all in and then share with your network. Here are a few of my recent articles on International Women's Day and unpaid internships, both of which also live on my website as blog posts. It's a light-lift way to position yourself as a thought leader.
6. RECOMMENDATIONS & ENDORSEMENTS
Truthfully, I only recently learned about the recommendations feature on LinkedIn. Think of these as reviews housed on your own profile that people in your network write on your behalf. If you don't already have this on your profile, create a new section under the 'additional information' tab, then choose your contacts you want to ask for a recommendation from. Maybe you request one from a professor, classmate or colleague, or from clients. Give them a chance to boast about your skills and exuding professionalism! Endorsements are a little different and not as involved. You can add skills to your profile and ask people in your network to endorse them. For example, as a freelance writer, I want people to endorse my listed 'writing' and 'copy editing' skills. Be mindful about the skills that you add and be sure to update them as you progress and pivot throughout your career.
7. CONNECT CONNECT CONNECT.
Nowadays, people aren't really handing out business cards at in-person business networking events. This was always a great time to ask people to connect on LinkedIn after the obligatory introduction and, hopefully, great conversation. Now, we're left on a bit of a cliffhanger but connecting with people is still very important. This isn't to say that you should be caught up in the 500+ connections race, although having that many contacts is great; but, more connections means more eyeballs. That could mean more recruiters, potential employers and clients or colleagues to learn from. Either way, never pass up an opportunity to grow your network.
If you've made it this far and feel like you could use help making all of these updates or need to write a better resume first, I can help with those things! Let's chat more!