You’ve heard the saying, “it’s all about who you know,” right? Well, in the modern world where social media reigns, it’s all about who you are connected to. And there is no better place to connect than on the leading professional branding platform, LinkedIn.
Whether you're looking for a new job, trying to get ahead in your field, or just trying to grow your network, connecting on LinkedIn is the best way to get in touch with people who can influence your career. But first, you need to optimize your LinkedIn profile.
8 Key Features of your LinkedIn Profile
We cannot stress this enough: it is extremely important to have a professional headshot. Your photo is the very first thing that people will see when they search for you or view your profile. And because humans are wired to make snap judgments, a bad photo (or lack of a photo) can really affect someone’s first impression of you. So leave all of your selfies, wedding photos, vacation shots, photos of you and other people, baby pictures, and any low quality photos for Facebook.
When choosing a professional headshot, do make sure that:
- The photo is recent
- You are dressed professionally- what would you wear to meet a client or potential employer?
- You look friendly and confident
- You have kept it simple- avoid busy backgrounds or distracting outfits
This may seem a bit silly, but you would be amazed to learn that some people do not use their actual names on LinkedIn. While this is common on platforms such as Facebook, this practice should not be carried over here. Your name is your brand; make sure it is accurate. You also need to use proper capitalization. Take my name for example, Erica Hatch. That is how you would want to see it, not “Erica hatch,” “erica Hatch,” or “erica hatch”.
3. Your Professional Headline
After your photo and name the next thing that people will see is your professional headline. LinkedIn will automatically fill this space with your current job title and employer, if you have one. This is one of the most important parts of your profile because it can help boost your personal SEO. So whether you are employed or job searching, make sure to edit this section to prevent missing out on being found through search!
For the employed, adding your industry and location to your profile can help you discover and be discovered by other professionals in your field or local area.
For those who are job searching, adding an accurate location and an industry tag for the field that you want to work in is very important. Not only will this help online recruiters find your profile, it will also help when a potential employer checks out you page.
Think of the summary section as your elevator-pitch. The key here is to show someone (whether that is a potential employer, client, or connection) how you can help to make his or her life easier. But keep it short and make sure to write in the first person. You’ll also want to include some keywords that prospects or potential employers may search for, but don’t go overboard. People that will be viewing your page may be outside of your industry and therefore may not know what some of the keywords mean. Lastly, you should keep your summary fresh. Review it at least once a year, or whenever you get a promotion or change jobs.
In this section, you will have your job experience listed. If you are currently employed, your current job will appear at the very top. When you are just starting out, this list may be rather short, but don’t worry! You can add all those summer jobs you had while you were still in school. And don’t forget to add your internships! As you gain more experience in your field, you can go back and edit out anything this isn’t relevant to your personal brand.
Within this experience section, you should have an individual listing for each job you’ve held that each include the following:
- Job Title
It is key here to make sure that the job title you have entered is consistent with what is on your company website if you are employed, or what is on your resume if you are job searching. Again, make sure to pay attention to proper capitalization.
- Company Name
Similar to the bit above, if you are employed, it is critical that you have 1) added your company name to your profile, and 2) have spelled it exactly as the company does. If your company has a corporate LinkedIn page, it will appear in a drop down list when you edit your profile and begin typing in your company name. This will link your profile to the company’s official page and help direct traffic. If your company has more than one location, make sure to double-check the address to ensure you have linked to the right one.
- Date & Address
The date section only requires a year, but we suggest that you also add a month. The only exception to that would be if you had gaps in your employment history. So say, for example, you were unemployed for five months. If you were to list your previous job as July 2015 and then your new job as December 2015, viewers or potential employers may be thrown off. However, if you only listed the year, the gap isn’t shown. The address line is optional, but we suggest that you fill it in with at least the city and state.
This section has word count maximum of 2000 characters, but don’t try to use them all up. In this section, you should show what you do (or did) in each position in just a few sentences. Be careful not to use too much industry jargon and remember to focus on the benefits that you provided the company.
To show actual work that you have completed for each job, you can add media (documents, photos, links, videos, or presentations). Each piece of media you upload will appear as a thumbnail under the specific experience you uploaded it to. You can also add a title and description for each one. When someone clicks on the thumbnail, they will be brought to a new window that holds your Professional Portfolio. This is where you can see all of your uploaded media on LinkedIn in one place.
7. Skills & Endorsements
In this section, you should list any work-related skill you have. These skills should include both technical skills (Social Media, Data Entry, Marketing, Photography, Microsoft Word, Mail Chimp, etc.) as well as soft skills (Time Management, Punctuality, etc.)
The skills section is a very interesting part of LinkedIn because people can endorse you for the things that that you have listed. In turn, these endorsements help to build your professional brand. So make sure to list your skills and then organize them in order of importance to you because only the first ten will appear in the “Top Skills” section of your profile. A few more will appear under “(Name) also knows about...” but depending on how many you list, the viewer may have to click to see more.
In this section, most people simply add their college education information. But don’t underestimate the power of also adding your high school and any specialized non-formal education you have completed. Education tends to be a great talking point for people that are looking to connect! If your school doesn’t appear in the drop down list, just select “other” and then type it in.
Other areas of your profile to focus on:
If you can’t think of a certificate you have earned, don’t worry about this section. However, if you have something like a CPA, Notary Public, make sure to list it. Also, if you are a HubSpot user that has passed any of the HubSpot certification classes, you can add those here.
If you are a member of any type of organization, you should list it here. This could be something like a board position for a nonprofit organization or a membership to a professional association like the Public Relations Society of America.
Have a special cause you care about? Add it here. Not only does this help strengthen your personal brand, it can also spread awareness for the causes. But don’t list every single place you have ever volunteered. Just focus on the causes that you are currently dedicated to, or have done significant work for in the past.
In this section it is okay to mention things that aren’t strictly work-related to show the more “human” side of you. So think about what you do when you aren’t at work and list a few of those interests.
When someone Google’s your name, the very first thing that may come up is your LinkedIn page. If your profile is half done, or not used, how will that look? The answer: not great.
So once you have your profile filled out, you are ready to tackle the following:
Connect with your current coworkers, people that you have worked with in the past, your past and current clients, and other individuals that you know within your industry and community. Connecting on LinkedIn is a great way to stay in touch. Making connections can also help you follow up with prospects or new clients after you have met them.
If you are job searching, having solid connections is key. For example, if you are applying for a job at a specific company, and you see that your old classmate is working there, you can reach out to ask them for any tips. (Who knows, maybe they could put in a good word for you or even connect you to the boss or someone in Human Resources.)
Joining groups can help you connect with people in your industry or community that share similar interests. Groups are also a wonderful way to share your content or comment on content shared by others to get a conversation going. You can even use groups to ask questions or promote events that the members may be interested in. Another great feature of joining a group is that you can direct message any member, even if you aren't directly connected to them.
Follow Companies and Organizations
When you follow a company or organization’s LinkedIn page, you will get their updates in your newsfeed. This is a great way to stay informed and up to date on things.
If your company has a LinkedIn page, be sure to follow them. If you are job searching, make sure to follow and review the page of the company you are applying to.
If you are a business owner, it is a good idea to follow the company pages of affiliates (businesses that you work with closely) and the pages of major clients (if you work on their accounts).
Publish Posts and Updates
When you publish an update, it can be as simple as sharing an article, asking a question, or sharing an image or quote. Ideally, you should be posting an update at least once per week.
Posts are a bit more elaborate, but they will do wonders for your personal brand and help to establish yourself as an expert. If you’re already blogging for your company, consider copying those blogs over to your LinkedIn Posts. Just make sure to tweak the wording and the CTA’s (Calls to Action) a bit so they fit your LinkedIn audience.
Like endorsements, your connections can choose to write up a personal recommendation on your page for all to see. A great way to start gathering these is simply to ask! One of my favorite tips is to reach out after someone has complimented your work. You can just send a quick message that says something like, “I really appreciated what you said about me. Would you be willing to write that up on my LinkedIn profile?” If they do give you a recommendation, don’t forget to reciprocate.
Now you have fully optimized your profile!
But wait, there’s more!
Now it's time to start using LinkedIn to meet your goals. Wondering how to do it? Wondering how you'll ever find the time to really make LinkedIn work for you? Check out our SlideShare below and learn how to master LinkedIn in just 15 minutes a day!