Last week I had the pleasure of hearing from an exceptional past employee (we’ll call her Aubree, because I like that name) thinking about making a career change. In our conversation she mentioned her LinkedIn profile. Aubree has one, but the information she has on it is just enough for me to find her by name; as she told me, “I don’t know what to do with it!”
If this sounds like you, you aren’t alone. As part of my SEO content writing services I’ve helped many people learn how to optimize LinkedIn profiles. In some cases LinkedIn is neglected because the individual is too busy to do it themselves. In others, like Aubree’s, it’s because the individual has worked for many years at the same organization and it didn’t seem to make sense investing time on a career site. Whatever the reason, LinkedIn networking is a valuable tool for finding your next job opportunity, whether you’re actively looking now or not.
Since I’m a huge advocate of LinkedIn and have experience with the platform, just starting this article I know there’s a lot to say about it. This is just part one so be sure to check back – or better yet, subscribe to the blog so you don’t miss any updates.
Step One: Understand What LinkedIn Is Used For
LinkedIn is much more than a resume posting site and it’s not just for jobseekers (though it does a great job at that). LinkedIn also provides networking that promotes professional development opportunities, helps you keep up-to-date on areas of interest, and of course, provides a wide avenue for participation to show that you know your business. So what is LinkedIn used for? In a nutshell, professionally centered social networking.
The second arm to this is understanding how LinkedIn is used at a high level. Think of LinkedIn searching, and all the material on LinkedIn that can be searched, as a professional Google (and remember, LinkedIn results do show up on Google searches!). People will find you by searching for your name, if they know it. Otherwise, your skills and your talents, and the keywords you use to describe them, are how people find you – so it’s important to list what you think recruiters, colleagues, and professional contacts are interested in finding so that you show up when they search LinkedIn for people like you.
The takeaway here is to use LinkedIn for professional social networking and to build your profile specifically to attract who you want to meet – folks at an organization that you want to work for, recruiters or job opportunities in a specific industry, like-minded professionals, sales leads; whatever the answer is, that’s where your profile should lead. Keep that in mind to make sure you end up with a great LinkedIn profile.
We’re headed towards LinkedIn All-Star status. Are you ready?
Building Your LinkedIn Profile
The LinkedIn profile page is broken down into sections, which serves several purposes: First, it makes it easy for others to find information about you – your experience, education, awards, and so on. Second, it makes it easy for you to focus on one section at a time; you can (and if you are serious, probably will) spend hours crafting the perfect LinkedIn profile, but you don’t have to do it all at once. Third, it helps writers like me find logical start/stop points when writing up a How To (just kidding on that one). Let’s start with the basics.
How to Write Your LinkedIn Header
The most critical section is the header that appears at the top of your profile page, which also appears first in any LinkedIn search results. This includes:
- Your name. You can use your current name, maiden name (there’s also an option to include a former name in parenthesis), or business alias if you’re a rockstar or Banksy. Whichever you choose, make it the name people are most likely to search for you by. I recommend not including middle initials unless you have a very common name or that’s how you present yourself on your business cards.
- Your professional headline. Your professional headline should reflect who you are, be clear about what you do, and give some type of proof. “Award-Winning Graphic Designer,” “#1 Regional Real Estate Sales Associate,” or your real job title plus an engaging adjective are good. “Sales Superstar,” “Strategic Manager,” and other vague, overused terms are not.
- Location and industry. Use your real location or general metropolitan area and your industry. If you aren’t sure what industry you want to work in next it’s OK to leave this blank, but be aware that can make your profile look incomplete.
This section also includes your profile photo. Adding a profile photo results in over ten times more profile views, so it’s important not to miss this. Since I’ve seen a fair number of cringey profile photos out there, here are a few LinkedIn photo tips:
- Don’t use a selfie. It can be expensive to get a professional headshot taken, but at the very least have a friend take a professional-looking photo of you.
- Don’t use vacation shots. You should be fully dressed and in a professional, or at least neutral, setting. Many professionals recommend a flat white background to make you stand out.
- Don’t include others. Your profile photo should be of you, and only you. It also shouldn’t be obvious that you cropped anyone else out of the photo (and don’t include your cat/dog/horse unless, possibly, you are a veterinarian).
- Do dress for the part. As the saying goes, “Dress for the position you want.”
- Do aim for the head and shoulders. People engage with faces, not bodies. Also know that in many areas of the site this picture will only be a thumbnail.
- Do choose color or black and white based on your industry. Color photos can convey contrast and vitality; black and white photos tend to send a more serious message.
Since I offer professional writing services, I went with black and white, posing in my library.
Once you have this part saved, it’s time to do the professional customization that many people miss: Customize your profile URL to your own name. Otherwise, your profile is assigned a randomized URL that does not look professional written out on emails or business cards or in search results. To do this:
- 1. Go to Profile > Edit Profile at the top of the screen.
- 2. Look for the URL of your profile underneath the blue “View Profile As” button.
- 3. Hover over the URL to see a gear icon and click the gear icon.
- 4. Type in your custom name (keep it professional!) and click save.
In case you’re having trouble finding it, here’s what the gear looks like. Notice I have my custom URL.
Congratulations – you’ve finished the first steps towards learning how to use LinkedIn and have started making a LinkedIn profile that will stand out. In the next post I’ll talk about how to write a LinkedIn Summary, so stay tuned.