Winning LinkedIn Part 1: Profiles

Although you may feel like you already have, you can’t apply for every job. The reality is, companies have dozens of job boards to choose from. Some only post jobs on their own site and still others don’t formally post openings at all. But don’t worry; you didn’t want to suffer through that many applications anyways.

Thanks to LinkedIn, you can advertise your abilities without knowing all of the possibilities. Three main features hold the resources you need to win on LinkedIn: your personal profile, the Jobs tab, and Premium perks. Don’t miss out on opportunities by leaving these digital stones unturned.

Personal Profiles

Your LinkedIn profile can get stronger the more work you put into it, but at the very least don’t leave any of the major fields blank. A recruiter isn’t going to message you unless they think you’d be a strong contender. Don’t let blank spaces read as big question marks that make them think, “Thank you. Next!”

At this point, I find it necessary to point out that LinkedIn is not Facebook or Instagram for a very important reason. Your profile represents your professional self for the purpose of publically networking. Reserve personal content for those other social media platforms. If personal content on LinkedIn won’t damage your professional persona, it will at the very least distract from it.

Even if you’re happily employed, that might change if your employer doesn’t like how you represent their brand online. Show that you know that there’s a time and a place for different things.

Headshot

What does your face have to do with your qualifications? Nothing, but it helps people remember you, which is nice when you want to be the one that comes to mind when managers make hiring decisions.

You probably (hopefully) won’t get an offer based on your picture alone, but it can get you passed up. Sloppy pictures bring your judgment into question. Is that how you’ll dress when you meet with a potential client? Do you have something against showering?

Fortunately, technology has come pretty far, so you don’t necessarily need to pay for a professional headshot. Portrait mode on iPhone Plus is giving photographers a run for their money. The type of camera isn’t important as long as the picture is clearly focused.

Find a well-lit (preferably with natural light), simple background. Dress in business casual or business professional attire that’s clean, pressed if necessary, and simple. Comb your hair, trim your beard, or do whatever you do to be well-groomed. Make sure your face is centered and the frame cuts off somewhere between your shoulders and mid-torso. Now smile! Or at least look approachable.

Remember, the purpose is to show your face and not make a bad impression. Please, no car selfies or cropped group photos. If you want to use a picture of yourself that you already have, it better be a solo shot that you didn’t take.

Banner Photo

The banner, or cover photo, is a trap. Unless your company has an official branded banner, this picture should be nothing but a simple stock photo of nature or abstract triangles. Ok, you have a few more options than that. The point is, don’t think the banner photo is an opportunity to “personalize” your profile with pictures you would use for your Facebook cover photo. Pick a simple, clean, and non-distracting pic. Pixabay has free, no-strings-attached images, as do a few other sites. But do not leave the default photo; that demonstrates laziness which is the number one trait that you don’t want in an employee.

Bio

The bio is your introduction, also known as an elevator pitch. It can be short and include your career passions, objectives, and proficiencies.

It’s not a company bio; that’s what company pages are for. It’s also not a job description; that’s what the experience section is for. Most of all, it’s not an invitation to talk about your personal life.

Experience

Ever heard of a resume? Welcome to the experience section. The main difference with LinkedIn is that you can (and definitely should) link your job history to each of your employers’ LinkedIn company pages.

Note: the pages won’t connect unless you click on the exact page from the list of suggestions that comes up when you start typing the company name. If the correct logo appears, you’re all set.

If you had multiple positions with one company, they should appear under the same company section. You’ll input each position as different “experiences.” They should automatically connect as long as the companies are input the same and the dates overlap. It looks better this way because it shows you’re promotable and loyal.

You don’t need to include your babysitting job from 32 years ago, but go ahead and add all of your relevant and legitimate job experience. The job description should be in list-form and focus more on your accomplishments than your daily tasks (see Skills section below). If you can’t remember specific numbers, dates, or titles, it’s okay to estimate within reason.

Inputting a new experience will update the headline under your name at the top of your profile by default. If you prefer a different caption, you can edit it by clicking the pencil under your banner photo.

Education & Volunteer Experience

As with the experience section, connect each of your schools’ pages to each of your relevant degrees. Add the name of your degree and approximate dates of attendance. The description section should be a list of extra projects or organizations you were involved in at each institution. You can include your GPA or test scores if you chose.

Same goes for your volunteer experience. Connect to the pages of the organizations you’ve worked with. Write the name, dates, details, and outcomes of your service role.

Skills & Endorsements

This is the place to show off all of your talents and know-how. They can be soft or hard skills like “Marketing,” “Customer Service,” or “Quickbooks.” Add anything you have real experience with and don’t you dare lie.

Endorsements back up your claims with credibility. The more of your connections that endorse each skill, the more valid the skill. You can ask coworkers, friends, or schoolmates to endorse you, but it’s easier to just endorse them first. Go to their profile page and scroll down to the skills section. Endorse as many skills as you have witnessed them demonstrate. They will get a notification and more than likely endorse you back. If someone endorses you first, repay the effort (as long as you’re honest).

Accomplishments, Interests, and More

If you really want to put it all out there (which you do), there’s a place for any career details you can think of. Your profile can display the languages you speak, the city in which you currently live, your number of connections, your contact info, your resume or other documents, and LinkedIn articles that you’ve posted or shared.

Other highlights include the Accomplishments section which is for certifications, awards, publications, or any concrete evidence of your abilities. LinkedIn even has its own courses for you to earn certifications. Per your request, letters of recommendation from your connections will show in the Recommendation section. The Interest section shows company pages that you follow. Not only will following companies help you keep up with industry current events, but it also shows potential employers that you do.

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