With 467 million members, LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional networking platform. Yet, some individuals still think they don’t need a LinkedIn profile.
For potential employers, clients, and networking connections, a LinkedIn profile acts as a digital footprint. It proves that you, the professional, exists. More importantly, it helps differentiate you from others with the same name.
My name is unique, but I’m not the only Melissa Duko. If you Google me, you’ll see my published work. And you’ll also see my second cousin (who is decades younger), posting about One Direction and school happenings.
Now if a potential employer or client saw the results for teenage Melissa, wouldn’t they be confused? Or worse yet, what if she posted something defamatory? Her actions could hurt my professional credibility.
Sure, I could add my middle name (Elizabeth) to help differentiate. But I’m a writer with articles dating back to 2002, longer than Melissa 2.0 has been alive. Changing my name would seriously hurt my SEO. And what about others out there who have more common names like John Smith?
You can’t control others having your name, but you can set yourself apart and control your professional image with a LinkedIn profile. Here are seven things you need to do for a strong, professional profile.
1. Craft a Well-Rounded Summary
Your summary serves as a quick “all about me” for potential recruiters and networking connections. Most don’t read your hard copy resume, so the likelihood of them reading your entire LinkedIn profile is slim, too. Having a strong summary is critical.
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Keep your summary concise but informative, no more than four paragraphs plus contact information. Think cover letter style. Your summary should feature your:
Current Position. Start off with your current position/title, employer, plus a brief description of your job responsibilities. If the viewer reads nothing else, at least they’ll know your title and skill set.
Personal Background. Give a little insight into how you got into your current field. It’ll help build a deeper connection with the reader.
Prior Experience. Briefly describe your prior work experience. Stick to positions relevant to your current industry (or the industry you want to break into). No need to mention moonlighting as a bartender if your day job is content marketer.
Education. List your degree(s) including where you earned them.
2. Include Only Relevant Experience
That’s great you were a server in college, but unless you’re still in the hospitality industry, remove it from your LinkedIn profile. Instead focus on experience relevant to your industry. Always start with most recent employment first.
Be sure to include:
- Job Title.
- Company Name.
- Start date and End Date. (Use present if still employed.)
- Brief Description of Duties.
When writing about your current position always use active voice. For example, edits copy. If you’re including a previous position, switch the tense to past (e.g. edited copy).
3. Fill Out Education
You worked hard for those degrees, so here’s your chance to show them off.
College. Include the name of the college or university along with the type of degree, concentration, and minor (if any). Feel free to mention your GPA along with any activities and societies, too.
Trade School. If you went to trade school, be sure to include the name of the school and trade you specialized in as well as any apprenticeships.
Depending on how long ago you graduated, you can leave off graduation years. If an employer wants proof you actually earned your degree, they can always request unofficial transcripts, which include the graduation date.
By excluding age identifiers like graduation years, you can lessen immediate age discrimination. For this reason, many older professionals choose to forego including their high school graduation date on resumes and LinkedIn, too.
4. List Certifications
Did you take a HubSpot Certification course, or perhaps an Adobe InDesign class? Don’t forget to post it on your profile. Typically upon course completion, you’ll have the option to upload a badge to your LinkedIn Profile.
Certifications are a great way to demonstrate you’re keeping up-to-date with industry technology and trends.
5. Join Groups and Follow Influencers
Whether you’re looking to network or stay on top of industry news, joining groups and following influencers are a great way to do both.
They’re also a quick way to give viewers glimpse into your outside interests as well. For example, perhaps you’re into style and follow Rachel Zoe or Gwyneth Paltrow, but your day job is technical writer. Should you decide to break into freelance style blogging, a recruiter will notice your influencers and see you are aware of fashion trends.
6. Feature Skills
A job title only scratches the surface of what you do on a daily basis. Someone who is a Director of Marketing does much more than just marketing. Under the Skills section, you can feature your top skills plus other things you’d like network connections to know about.
Here, top skills include social media marketing, management, and lead generation. And Michelle also knows about personnel management, new business development, and digital media.
For individuals who want to commend Michelle on her skills, but maybe don’t have time to write a recommendation, they can easily press the ‘plus sign button’ to endorse any of the skills featured here. It’s a quick way to give kudos, and shows how many people trust and value her expertise.
7. Use a Current Photo
Photos older than two years don’t work for one simple reason: we all age. And some of us tend to change hair color and cuts frequently. Err on the side of caution and keep your photo up-to-date, so clients and colleagues will recognize you when meeting face-to-face.
Bonus Tip: Make Sure Your Grammar Is Correct
Great, you have a stellar LinkedIn Profile. Now go back and make sure your content is grammatically correct. There’s nothing worse than seeing a brilliant engineer who went to MIT use your instead of you’re. It’s a horrific grammar crime, which grammar sticklers will notice.
If grammar isn’t your forte, not a problem. Do yourself a favor and hire a freelance editor to look over your profile.