For most people, LinkedIn is the first website referenced in a Google search of their own name. This makes their LinkedIn profile their #1 marketing tool. How can they make it work for them? How can you make yours work for you?
A great profile can sell you. A weak one can sink you. Whether you are in an active job search, being scouted by the competition, in consideration as a guest speaker or a possible network contact, what people see when they look at your profile will affect whether they reach out to you. This is your “brand” laid out visually. So, here are some basics on building a powerful profile:
Know Who You Are
Professionally, that is. Know your strengths, skills, areas of knowledge. Which stand out? What are you exceptionally good at? Of these things, which do you enjoy the most and are the most marketable? What are some key achievements of yours? These are questions you should have asked as you built your resume if you have done so recently. The answers will help you define your profile content. In fact, your profile should include similar information to your resume.
Searches on LinkedIn produce results based on keyword hits. Therefore, you want keywords that describe your experience, skills, knowledge and abilities integrated throughout your profile. What keywords might a potential employer search by? Read job descriptions for roles that interest you (even if you are not in a job search.) This will give you some ideas.
Here are brief recommendations on what to include in the main sections of your profile:
Summary – A concise overview which includes an overarching “branding” message – communicate immediately what functional area of expertise you possess and at what level. Highlight some experience, skills or capabilities or combination thereof which you possess and are your key “selling points”. Are you a talented software architect with really strong interpersonal and presentation skills? Say so. Have you led teams on high visibility projects? Ditto.
Specialties – This is the place to list or bullet all the tangible knowledge areas or skills you want to highlight. Focus first on hard skills then soft skills but only if they distinguish you in some way. Do not list “team-player”. In a recent study, this was the most over-used adjective on LinkedIn. This distinguishes you from no one.
Experience – As in your resume, list employers, position titles, a brief description of your overall responsibility (one sentence) and then bullet out a few achievements that illustrate your best skills. Only detail out the last 10-15 years or whatever is relevant. Do not go back to the beginning of time. If you had a big gap somewhere in there, either do not go beyond it, or understand that it will raise questions.
Education – List relevant formal education, leaving dates and other details out if you think they may hurt you.
Other – There are a number of other areas you can complete such as Awards and Personal information. Remember, only include that which is relevant and which you want people to know and be able to share about you. Some things like marital status and your physical address, for example, really do not need to be completed on your LinkedIn profile.
What Not to Include
Information that is irrelevant or even detrimental to you as a potential employee, consultant, speaker, reference…you get the picture. Interests outside the workplace that are highly charged such as religion or politics – be aware these can hurt you. If you wish to join Groups that are polarizing – just don’t “show” the group on your profile (can be changed in Settings or Edit Profile page). More about this in a future post.
Uploading Your Resume
Though you may choose to, you do not need to upload your resume and make it available through an app such as Box.net. Keyword searches don’t search these, so you won’t produce any hits this way, and you lose control over your document, as others can print, save or share your document without you ever knowing. Anything you do choose to upload and make available on your profile, save it as a .pdf. This won’t make it impossible to change your document, if the individual has the right software, but it does make it less likely.
Applying the suggestions above will help you begin creating a powerful profile. This is a start. In the next post, I’ll talk about recommendations and the benefits of getting your profile to 100% completeness.