In business as in life, first impressions matter, and (as harsh as it might well sound), many potential 'links' will make their decision on whether or not to communicate with you based primarily on your profile. Configuring and perfecting your LinkedIn profile should take you no more than an hour, and yet could provide you with the perfect platform from which to advance your career by making contacts with people who matter. Your LinkedIn profile should essentially read like a 'cliff-notes' version of your CV. Here we'll take you through the various sections of your profile, and will be examining how you can make the most out of each.
Profile Picture – Which picture you choose as the thumbnail image that will act as your window to the working world depends very much on the impression you're trying to make. For example, if you wish to be seen as a serious, respectable businessman or businesswoman, the picture should be formal; a simple profile shot. If you wish to purvey a more youthful, casual image, however, consider a picture of yourself participating in one of your passions? Maybe playing football or playing a musical instrument? In either instance, the photo should reveal a clear shot of your face, in much the same manner as a passport or driving license photo. And remember, your picture is not set in stone, it can always be changed at a later date if you feel It isn't working for you.
Headline – You're limited to 120 characters here so you really need to make the most of the available space. One option would be simply to list your official job title, but you'd be missing a trick there. Remember that LinkedIn works like a search engine, so you're best bet for drawing attention to your profile is to fill your headline with as many compelling keywords as possible. It might look a little untidy, and like you're trying to sell yourself a little too eagerly, but the more keywords in your headline, the more traffic you'll get.
Summary – This is your chance to summarise yourself in a few sentences, something that will not come naturally to most, but is a vital skill to possess in a world that seems to be moving faster by the day. Distilling your very essence into a couple of lines is obviously not an ideal situation, but if you've had any experience in online dating, you should know very well the power of a convincing opening gambit. The best way to start is to simply start writing. Consider your greatest strengths, what makes you stand apart from your peers and what it is you personally feel you have to offer in terms of your profession. It's more than likely that you'll have a tendency to waffle on a little, but don't worry. Once you have a decent paragraph, sit back and analyse it. Think to yourself; “Which parts of this are completely necessary? Am I repeating myself anywhere? Does this in any way come across as a little bit narcissistic?” Then start editing. The most effective summaries are less than 100 words and read organically, with excellent grammar and no 'fluff'.
Experience – This section will take up the main body of your profile and acts in much the same manner as it does on a conventional CV. You will want to include your current position and how long you have worked there, as well as at least two other positions you've held. Feel free to copy and paste the lion's share of this section for your existing CV.
Keywords/SEO – If you're not familiar with the concept of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), its effectively a practice through which certain keywords are placed on a webpage in order to drive traffic to it via search engines such as Google. This can really be used to your advantage with LinkedIn. Consider which words and phrases people in your line of work might use when they are looking for somebody like yourself (with your experience and qualifications) and include as many of them as possible throughout every section of your profile.
Connections – As with any social media platform, the key to using LinkedIn effectively lies in making connections with your fellow users. Of course, this doesn't mean you should just go adding everyone under the sun. The first people you should be adding are your colleagues, friends and existing connections, as they will (hopefully) have nothing but good things to say about you, and will be able to help integrate you more organically into the LinkedIn community. You should find your list of connections growing exponentially as you build up your profile. A good LinkedIn profile will have at least 500 connections.
Recommendations – The best thing about making connections on LinkedIn is that you can also get endorsements and recommendations from whomever you're connected to. Don't be shy about asking your connections for recommendations, as chances are they might ask you to return the favour. In fact, you might want to even consider being preemptive and drafting a potential recommendation for them along with your request. Recommendations can come from anyone; from bosses and colleagues, to friends you've worked with in the past, or even happy clients. Indeed, a well written, passionate endorsement from a client might actually help more than a stock-in-trade, clinical endorsement from a faceless managing director. To make sure your recommendations cover a wide breadth of your skills, make sure you ask each person to focus on a specific skill or experience. For example, if you need somebody to endorse your leadership skills, why not tactfully remind them of a time when you were a successful project leader? It's all about making the most of your connections and the most of your skills and experiences.
Publications – Here you'll be able to add links to any work you've had published online. If you work in a creative industry then this is a particularly valuable as it will allow you to direct potential employers or clients towards previous jobs. When it comes to selecting which publications to use, always go with the ones that have had the most positive feedback.
Skills & Endorsements – This is where you can select and range of skills and your connections can effectively confirm them. Each skill will appear with a number stating how many people have endorsed that skill and the best way to increase this number is to increase your connections and make sure that you're interacting with people who understand and value your attributes. Of course, skill endorsements don't speak half as loud as recommendations, but they certainly help once they start adding up.
Education – As with your experience section, there is no reason why you shouldn't simply copy and paste this from your CV. It's worth noting, however, that adding particular schools, college's or universities will give you a valuable link to your former classmates. Remember; every connection counts!
Groups – You are allowed to join up to 50 groups on LinkedIn and it's highly recommended that you do just that. Join as many relevant groups as possible (there are over a million to choose from) and actively engage in discussions and conversations within those groups. Show your initiative, interest and value, and you'll be swimming in fresh connections in no time.
Video/Slideshow – If you have expertise in the field, you might want to consider creating a video and/or slideshow for your profile. This will really help it stand out. Of course, a bad video or slideshow will do more harm than good, so make sure you gather genuine feedback from people who's opinions you trust before you upload it.
A Final Checklist
- Do you have at least 10 recommendations?
- Has your profile URL been customised?
- Has all your relevant contact information been added?
- Have you added your profile to the bookmarks bar in your browser, so you will remember to update it daily?
- Have you written your profile in the first person?
- Have you added all relevant honours, awards and achievements to the 'Honours & Awards' section? This is particularly valuable in media industries, where awards are seen as markers of career progression.
- Have you informed your other social networks (Facebook, Twitter etc.) that you have joined LinkedIn?
- Have you added any media to your profile to help it stand out?
- Have you published your profile changes to your network?