Maybe the time has come for you to finally join the modern working world and set up a profile that colleagues, employers, and old alumni pals alike can see. Or maybe the modern world has already arrived, and you want to know how you can optimize the profile you already have for maximum professional desirability – or just plain awesomeness. Either way, LinkedIn has become the way to connect with your industry, show off your career accomplishments, and hunt for jobs (or job seekers). That means now is the time to polish it up and make it really shine. If you want a neatly itemized list on how to do just that, read on.
This guide to LinkedIn will be loosely broken down into three different sections. Let’s start with the basics.
- Keep Your Profile Current
This should go without saying, but it’s important to keep your information up to date even if you aren’t a job-seeker or recruiter. Doing so keeps your name on people’s feeds – where, employees of other companies who may have opportunities to offer, and more can see it. Try to edit your profile once a month with any major updates, like projects completed, presentations given, blog posts written, and so on. If you don’t have that much content each month to keep up on, try to shoot for once a quarter instead. Never let your profile go more than a couple of months without a refresher!
- Customize & Adjust Your Settings
There are a few small but critically important pieces of information you can customize on your profile that make all the difference. Easily the most important of these is your URL. Take all the random numbers out and make sure that your URL is simply your first and last name, as seen in the example below.
When people Google your name, your LinkedIn profile will now be one of the first things to show up – reflecting well on you professionally. Next, you’ll want to focus on your profile picture and your subheader. If you can get a professional photo taken, do so. If not, at least avoid grainy iPhone photos and anything that looks like it deserves to be untagged on Facebook. Keep this picture current; aim for less than a year old. Your subheader is prime real estate that you’re not utilizing if all it says is your job title and company. Spice it up with keywords, terms that demonstrate your personality/skills, and notable accomplishments (like you’re an author, or you’re considered an industry authority). Keep it to 1-3 words per item.
Now we can jump into the real work of what it takes to optimize a profile. We’ll lead this section off with the single most important consideration that should dictate how you pen your entire profile.
- Pick Your Strategy
What does this mean? It means you need to align yourself in one of three ways. Are you a job seeker, a job recruiter, or neither? Your choice here should dictate the entirety of how you present yourself. If you’re a job seeker, you’re going to want to focus on keyword inclusion and building out your professional network to get on the radar of companies you’d like to hire you. If you’re a job recruiter, you want to make yourself visible in the spaces that job seekers will be searching – like in your company’s content stream, or groups dedicated to finding jobs in your industry. Make it clear in your profile that you’re recruiting if you want prospects to contact you. Finally, if you’re neither, then you’ll want your profile to communicate what you personally think is most important. Are you looking for business opportunities? Do you simply want to enrich your connections? Add relevant keywords, keep active in content streams/groups full of professionals you’d like to connect with, and seek out those third-degree connections that will help you position yourself the way you’d best like to be seen.
It will be up to you to decide how best to apply each optimization point in this list to your particular strategy.
- Be Yourself (No, Really, Truly)
This is more important advice than it might seem. Pretending to be someone other than who you are could come back to haunt you later when you are expected to know or be able to do something that you don’t know or can’t do. Never misrepresent yourself; you run the risk of having your lie exposed, your credibility destroyed, and your professional aspirations sunk, perhaps permanently.
There’s one more pitfall to avoid in being yourself: buzzwords. LinkedIn listed their top 10 buzzwords for 2014, and they are: responsible, strategic, creative, effective, patient, expert, organizational, driven, innovative, and analytical. Responsible, strategic, and effective are the worst offenders, topping the list of most overused words across multiple years. Check out this Infographic by LinkedIn staff to learn more about it.
The problem is that everyone is going to consider him or herself professional and effective; those are necessary workplace qualities. Set yourself apart by talking about things that actually make you unique instead of things any good employee would be expected to have. However, don’t abuse your thesaurus. Any seasoned reader is going to be able to tell that you looked up synonyms for “strategic” and decided the word “dexterous” made you sound interesting and cool. Don’t do it. Keep being yourself – and use words that you would actually use in real life.
- Become A Storyteller
Plenty of research has been done on the power of narrative versus statistics in persuasiveness, and a number of studies have concluded that narrative wins the day. There have been a number of other academic investigations of this concept, as well as some non-academic. The common wisdom is that most readers will invest more in a compelling narrative than they will in a list of statistics or evidence-supported facts, even if the latter makes a stronger case. Employ this persuasive technique yourself! Draw your reader in with a story and make them see you as a dynamic achiever instead of a list of job duties. This is one of the areas in which LinkedIn really shines over a resume: space! Get creative and talk about things that wouldn’t fit on your paper resume. Try not to drone on for 500 words; you could risk losing your readers. Keep your writing sharp and tightly organized.
Looks like we’re out of space! Come back for part 2 of this LinkedIn analysis for the two core points and finishing touches you need for a fully optimized profile.