Best Practices: Your LinkedIn Profile

Now that I’ve talked a little bit about LinkedIn, I want to go into what makes a good profile:

Your photo
Have a photo. This is, in my opinion, a non-negotiable. Show people what you look like, unless there are legal reasons why you should not (or if your professional identity is intentionally divorced from your image and/or real name). The practice of getting professional headshots done seems to have fallen by the wayside, but I think they can make your profile stand out, especially as a job seeker — it shows you put effort into yourself, and by association, into your professional reputation. That being said, if you can’t afford a professional headshot, ask a photographer friend, or even ask a friend to take some decent photos of you, even on a phone — photos for which you’ve dressed up, as these will be your first impression to potential employers and those with whom you’ll be networking. I don’t think you necessarily need to wear a suit, unless you’re in an industry in which the suit is the standard dress code, but you will want to look the part for your job, in a way that makes you feel (and by association, look!) comfortable and confident.

Want more tips? A quick Google search yields plenty of articles, but this post by Lydia Abbot about photo tips is a good place to start.

Headline
The headline is a feature that may strike some as odd, but can be a useful tool, especially for job searching. Of course, you can just fill it with your current role, but if you’re searching for a job, this is a great area to write a short elevator pitch about who you are, what you do, and (if you aren’t worried about alerting a current employer to your job-searching status) what you’d like to do in your next role. Someone looking for job in character art for online games might write:

3-D Character Artist with four years of experience looking to crush a role in online games.

It’s punchy, fun (which is often appropriate for games), and shows drive, while also including a concrete goal and keywords. These keywords are searchable, so including them here is a great way for potential employers to find you.

Keep your contact info updated
A great tip, and one this article from Cision.com goes a little more in-depth on. If employers can’t get in touch with you, you’ll miss out on all the opportunities you’ve worked so hard to develop. This is especially important if you’ve moved, changed your email or your number, or have recently left your job.

Fill out your job and education history
This is crucial. Depending on where you are in your career, I don’t think you need to include every job, volunteer experience, award, or skill, but having at least two or three fleshed-out job histories from your most recent and most relevant jobs is huge, along with at least one school (high school, college, or graduate school, whichever shows your most current level of education). If you’re newer in your career history, it’s okay to use some padding — do complete those Classes or Volunteering sections.

There’s some discussion on how these areas should look, whether they should be in first or third person, and whether they should be paragraphs or bullet points. I’m not sure I have a particular preference, although I think bullet points (or a combination!) can be easier on the eye for someone who is reading profile upon profile, and first person is more engaging than third. Just make sure each bullet point is fleshed out, and your tone doesn’t get too conversational — though online, this is still a professional setting.

Here are two examples — both in first person:

1.

As a receptionist at Stark Industries, I was responsible for many crucial tasks, such as keeping track of appointments, coordinating security checks for high-risk visitors, and finding ways to keep The Hulk busy until Dr. Banner was able to collect himself for his lab hours with Mr. Stark.

2.

In my role as receptionist at Stark Industries, I:

  • Kept track of appointments with top-of-the-line proprietary software
  • Coordinated security checks for high-risk visitors
  • Used my customer service skills to relax The Hulk so that Dr. Banner could make his appointments

Goofy examples, I know, but I hope it shows you the merits of either version. Whichever you choose, remember to keep it consistent throughout your entire profile.

By keeping your education and job history neat and up-to-date, you’ll be able to easily remember when you did what, and employers will be able to see your roles and responsibilities.

Skills
This can seem like a throwaway area, but there’s no reason not to fill it out. Just keep an eye on it – others can endorse and influence these skills, and while it can be very flattering for someone to think you’re better at something than you are, that doesn’t actually help you or your potential employer. So make sure your skills are ranked and appear according to your preference. If you’re having trouble figuring out what to include, look at the profiles of others in your industry, and curate your own accordingly.

Recommendations
Recommendations are one of those things that feels very difficult to ask for, but at least in my experience, people are usually willing to write them, especially if you reciprocate. It also doesn’t matter as much what they say in your recommendations (though you do only want to include the positive ones!), but the fact that you have written recommendations from others you’ve worked with is a vote of confidence in and of itself, as your coworkers or others in your network have staked their own reputation on endorsing yours. So get a couple on there! The best come from current or past managers or reports, though colleagues, clients, and others can be great, too. If you are just starting out, professors and fellow club members (really, anyone with whom you’ve worked in a professional setting!) are fine, too. Just update once you’ve got some work experience under your belt.

Network
As with all social media, LinkedIn is as useful as the work you put into it. However, the strength of LinkedIn is networks — it capitalizes on information and connections created through your weak ties. If you’re just starting out, send out invites to your friends, family, and colleagues to form your base relationships. From there, remember to add people you trust when you meet them in the future, through jobs or networking events. Adding people just for the sake of numbers is not particularly helpful. Instead, treat your network like an online directory of people with whom you’d like to keep in touch, and with whom you may want to work someday. Pop on to LinkedIn every so often and drop lines to people with whom you’d especially like to keep in touch, or even just casually like and congratulate others on their status updates to keep your name fresh in their minds. If you see an opportunity someone you know may like, send it to them — even if it doesn’t pan out, people remember favors, and will appreciate the thought (just don’t go overboard).


LinkedIn profiles aren’t easy, and need to be updated and curated every so often (4~6 months), but are a great online landing pad for your professional experience. A little work (and a little proofreading!) can go a long way, so start now, and develop your profile along with your career.

Have a different experience? Absolutely let me know!

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