Build a Better LinkedIn Profile

[One of my more successful blog posts has been 5 Ways to Maximize Your LinkedIn Profile from July 2008 and I updated the blog post in November 2009 with a post called 5 Ways to Maximize Your LinkedIn Profile – Advanced Edition.  While working on a social recruiting project for AppleOne – my current employer – I have come up with new instructions for building a better LinkedIn profile.  This post is my latest thinking on what makes a great LinkedIn profile]

LinkedIn is the premier professional networking website and currently has over 175 million users worldwide and more than 80 million users in the US.  LinkedIn is the de facto destination for maintaining your electronic professional profile and it is important to keep it up-to-date throughout your working life — whether you are currently employed and especially, if you are seeking a new position.

The best starting point with LinkedIn is to make sure that your profile is up-to-date and has outstanding “curb-appeal”.  Just like when people are selling a house, they spend time to make their property appealing by adding a fresh coat of paint, mowing the grass and sprucing up the interior.  In a similar manner, you want to do the same thing with your LinkedIn profile.  With LinkedIn, you are essentially advertising your brand and your skills, and a complete profile makes people trust you more which will increase the likelihood that they will want to connect with you.  Even if you have been on LinkedIn for a while, the following tips will make give your profile more “curb-appeal” and set you up for higher success.

By following these ten steps, you will be able to differentiate your profile from your competitors and make it easier for you to grow your network.  Most users should be able to follow these steps and update their profile in about an hour.

1.  Add a professional picture
When you have a picture in your profile, you come across as more believable and people tend to connect more readily when they visualize what you look like.  They are also more likely to reach out to you as your photo helps to personalize and humanize your personal brand.  It is important to select an appealing photo that strikes the right image and professional tone.  Remember, your profile represents you AND the company you work for.

2.  Write a strong headline
After your picture, your headline is the next thing that a user will see.  By default, your headline is the job title from your latest position – but that does not really tell people much about yourself.  You want to create a great first impression and the headline is the place to do.

3.  Write a compelling summary
The summary section is best described as an overview for the rest of your profile – by providing the highlights of who you are, what you do and why someone should connect with you.  You want to leave a lasting impression and one way to do that is to add in excerpts from your company’s corporate mission statement and marketing messages into your summary.  There is also a Specialties section in the Summary where you can list a number of key words that describe you and your career and can include titles, names of companies, skills, industries, strengths, etc.

4.  Add your company websites
LinkedIn lets you add up to three websites to your profile and you want to make it easy for people to find links to what is important to you.  At a minimum, you should add your company’s primary website and you may want to add a link to the company’s careers site, social media page, a personal blog or a profile on another site.

5.  Update your public profile URL
By default, LinkedIn assigns your profile with a URL that includes part of your name and some random numbers and slashes.  Smart LinkedIn users know that they can get a personalized public profile URL which makes the link easier to remember and share with others—plus, it raises the visibility of your brand on Google searches.  The good news is that getting a custom LinkedIn URL takes less than a minute and is one of the easiest profile upgrades you can do.

6.  Document your work history
When you are documenting your work history, be sure to include a brief description of the company and your key tasks and accomplishments.  Add a bulleted list of your key responsibilities and accomplishments and be sure to include key words.  You can also note any accomplishments such as earned achievements and awards.

7.  Add at least 10 keywords in the Skills & Expertise section
The Skills and Expertise section is where you can highlight your strengths.  When you add a skill you can also identify your proficiency (Beginner to Expert) and the number of years of experience you have with that skill.  After you add a skill to your profile, you can click on the skill to go to the LinkedIn Skills & Expertise discovery tool (http://www.linkedin.com/skills/) where LinkedIn provides a description of that skill and suggests similar or related skills.  You can add up to 50 skills, so try to add as many relevant skills and expertise to improve your findability in LinkedIn searches.

8.  Document your education
Make sure you document your college education and majors under the Education section.  If you add the years when you were in college, it makes it easier to connect with others whose college experience overlapped yours.   Do not forget to add in your collegiate activities and societies.  By the way, it is not necessary to add in your high school education.

9.  Join at least 4 groups and update your Interests and Honors
LinkedIn has more than one million different groups organized around professions, geographies and interests.  LinkedIn Groups provide an excellent way for you to connect with others, gather information and brand yourself as a subject matter expert.     To find a group, go to the Search bar and select Groups and then type in your search criteria.  By the way, LinkedIn lets you join up to 50 groups—and you should join at least four groups as a starter.

10.  Review and update your privacy settings
LinkedIn experts say that you should control LinkedIn and not let it control you.  In the privacy settings, you can set how often you receive emails from your groups, who can see your connections, who can contact you and other productivity enhancements.  Be sure to review your settings by clicking on your name in the upper right corner of the LinkedIn homepage.  Another way to get people to trust you more is to change the visibility of your connections so only you can see them.

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