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LinkedIn: Your Ultimate Guide

by Sarah Wilkinson, Class of ’17

LinkedIn is rapidly growing social media site that many professionals use to conduct research, find contacts or experts, get breaking news, recruit new employees, and talk with clients. This post, part of a blog series based on Lindsey Pollak’s Becoming the Boss, will give you tips and tricks to make the most of your LinkedIn accounts.

In my previous post, I wrote about managing your online reputation, and steps you can take to clean up your social media accounts. I recommend reading it if you haven’t, because you can be a rockstar on social media and still have a few things to learn about scrubbing the dirt from your accounts so they can really shine.

Study the Best

If you don’t already have a LinkedIn, and even if you do, it can be helpful to study the accounts of professionals you admire. Looking at these accounts – especially if they belong to people to in your industry – can give you an idea of what you need to include on your profile. Pollak says you should look at the following things:

  • How they describe themselves in their LinkedIn headlines
  • How they write about themselves in the Summary section
  • The words and phrases they use to describe themselves in the Skills and Endorsements section
  • The examples of their work they’ve posted
  • The types of content they include in status updates
  • The groups they belong to

Seeing how other professionals manage their account can help you figure out how you want to manage yours. I opt for a very thorough LinkedIn profile that includes nearly all my qualifications, but others might choose to limit the information they include. Take cues from the profiles of people you admire, but don’t lift any phrases or sentences to claim as your own. That’s plagiarism.

Impress with Your Headline

According to Pollak, the headline that appears at the top of your profile is the “most important piece of real estate on your entire LinkedIn profile.” Your headline gives people — like recruiters — a quick snapshot of you are and what you do, which helps them decide whether to read more about you or to move on to someone else. Many people use their current job title as their headline, and this is certainly an option.

However, sometimes your current job title doesn’t accurately reflect who you are or where you want to go next. In this case, feel empowered to use keywords separated by slashes for your headline. Keywords are very important to your LinkedIn profile because, by using them, you help ensure you pop up in the search results of recruiters. Pollak gives these examples of headline makeovers:

“MBA Student” to “MBA Student / Marketing Major / Expertise in Brand Management and Consumer Packaged Goods”

“Career Coach and Blogger” to “Certified Career Coach for Job Seekers and Entrepreneurs / Blogger at MichaelSmithCareerAdvice.com”

“Project Manager” to “Technology Project Manager / Passionate about Big Data / Experience in Start-ups and Fortune 500 Corporations”

Professional Head Shots Matter

Using a selfie you took in your car might not be the best way to represent yourself in your LinkedIn profile picture. The best type of picture you could have is a professional one, where you’re wearing whatever you would wear to an interview in your industry. This may be a suit and tie or a pantsuit for some, and for others something a little less formal. You can get the picture taken behind a plain background, but getting the photo taken in context is good too. For example, you could sit at a desk surrounded by your key products, or put your start-ups logo on the photo. And if you don’t have key products or a logo yet, wait until you do.

But in the meantime, make it a point to get a professional head shot. Career Collaborative offers free head shots often, so look out for that. We’ll try to remind you on our Facebook next time a session is coming up.

Writing Your Summary

On every LinkedIn profile, there’s space for a summary. This is where you write your bio. Pollak says, “Your bio should act as an overview or greatest hits version of your career — an expansion on the keywords you used to describe yourself in your LinkedIn profile headline and the key accomplishments you display on your resume.”

You can write your summary in first-person (as I’ve done on my profile), but Pollak prefers third-person because it’s more formal. I think I get away with first-person because I’m a writing major, not a budding business exec. Your bio shouldn’t be too long, and should involve bullets and smart use of white space to make it readable.

Your Summary should resemble the first few paragraphs of your best-written cover letter, describing where you are in your career now and then mentioning your career goals and outlining your qualifications for the next position you want. You should also include keywords and phrases that a recruiter or hiring manager might type into a search engine to find a person like you.

Include Examples of Your Work

One of LinkedIn’s newest features allows you to add visual examples of projects you’ve done. If you’re a designer or in another visual field, this is a great opportunity to showcase your work. Even if you’re in a different industry that’s not visually driven, you can still include PDFs of articles or studies you’ve written, slides from presentations you’ve given, PDFs of annual reports, and other examples you’re really proud of.

Promote Your Skills

In the Skills and Endorsements area of your profile, you can add skills – keywords – that describe your talents. People you’re connected to have the ability to endorse these skills you add, giving you credentials. You can enter up to 50 skills, but Pollak recommends having between 15 and 20. The top ten skills that people endorse will show up as a vertical list. Keep in mind that people are most likely to associate these skills with you.

Customize Your Profile

LinkedIn has lots of other things you can add to your profile, like honors and awards, projects, publications, volunteer experiences, causes, certifications, patents, test scores, and languages you speak. It’s up to how much information you add, but try not to put things on your profile that aren’t particularly relevant to you anymore, like that “Most likely to succeed” award you got in sixth grade. Just starting out in your job search, having a filled-out profile will likely work in your benefit as a secondary resume, especially if you infuse keywords.

Crowdsource

When you’ve finished building or updating your LinkedIn profile, ask for feedback from people you trust. That doesn’t mean you have to take all the recommendations you get, but this will give you an idea of what others see when they look at your profile.

Update Frequently

A good rule of thumb is to update your LinkedIn every time you update your resume, especially when you’re starting out, do a lot of short-term work, or freelance. Your profile can really work to your benefit, but if a recruiter sees you haven’t touched it in two years, they might pass you over for a potential job offer. Post content every once and a while at the very least, to maintain an active presence. Even better, use LinkedIn as the tool it is to follow key groups and engage in conversations specific to your industry.

Look out for part seven of this blog series, which will focus on making the most of your Twitter account.

Sources: Becoming the Boss by Lindsey Pollak; find more information about Pollak here.

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