Know how: How to create a (much) better LinkedIn profile

Over the next few weeks, you’ll likely spend time “organizing” for 2019. So don’t forget to spend some time refreshing your LinkedIn profile.

You might be saying, “I’m not in the job market so why bother?” Because people who have you on their calendar will often sneak a peek at your profile to see if you have anything in common. Your profile opens doors to networking opportunities, speaking gigs, and who knows … job situations change.

So where to start? Over the years of helping executives crystallize their brand messages, I’ve found many simply use LinkedIn as an extension of their resume. Their headline is Job Title at Company Name. Their Experience is either a job description, or worse, a list of past jobs with no details.

But think about what recruiters and employers are looking for. They want someone who can solve their problems. They want someone who’s going to be a “good cultural fit.” Many want to see some personality. I got a call from someone who wanted to talk because he liked my reference to having “whack a mole” skills.
Start by asking yourself a few questions:

• Who is the target audience for my LinkedIn profile?

• What keywords would help my audience find me (a good starting point are job descriptions for your “next” role).

• What problem(s) do I solve for employers or clients?

• What value do I bring an employer or client?

• If a manager said, “Find me a (YOUR NAME) type,” what would HR be looking for?

• What is my leadership and/or management style?

For older readers, there’s one more big decision: Should you “hide” your age by removing year of graduation and eliminating older jobs? In my case, I’ve kept my graduation year (1981) and older jobs because they tie back to my skill sets and narrative. And what happens if I get a face-to-face interview and the hiring manager shakes hands and thinks, “he’s a lot older than I expected?” But it’s an individual decision.

Here are ways to quickly improve your profile:

Post a professional photo

People connect with people, particularly if their photos exude positivity. If the box next to your headline has (1) no photo; (2) group photo; (3) cropped photo that was clearly taken at a party; (4) the “I’m holding a phone because I’m too busy” shot; or (5) cheesecake shot … change it.

Write a compelling headline

People see your headline when you invite them to connect or your profile shows up in their search results. Focus on the value you bring to a prospective employer. If you work for a big company, people will easily find you in a search. Title importance (VP/SVP) varies by company. Avoid headlines that say “Seeking New Opportunities” because it comes across as desperate. Find ways to grab the reader’s attention while staying professional.

Write effective summary

First, you need to actually have a Summary. Many people don’t. Use first person in this section (i.e., talk to the reader). People connect with people, and only Bo Jackson got away with talking about himself in the third person. Use the Summary to demonstrate why someone would want to hire you or work with you. Answer the “Tell Me About Yourself” interview question. Have a narrative. Make them want to contact you.

Context-action-result

If your Summary is your HOW, your Experience section is your WHAT. Describe it in terms of context-action-result. Briefly outline your scope of responsibilities for each job (and show promotions/more responsibility), then lay out your primary challenge (the problem you needed to solve) and what you did (I increased X by doing Y).

Ask what matters

If you’re in your 40s or 50s, does your high school matter anymore? Apply that mindset elsewhere.

Proofread

Your resume and LinkedIn profile are your most important marketing documents, so typos there raise questions about your attention to detail at work. Check your spelling, run-ons and fragments. Be consistent with punctuation and weird breaks after you hit Save. If you want to spend more time, you can have a greater impact. But this will be a good start entering the new year.


Peter Osborne is branding and content director at Katabat, a Wilmington-based debt-management software provider. He also consults as Friction Free Communications.

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