As a regular LinkedIn user, you no doubt realize that your LinkedIn profile is your online business card, resume and reputation all in rolled into one. But does your profile truly serve as a comprehensive virtual portfolio? In other words, when colleagues, potential clients and recruiters land on your page, can they learn all they need to know about who you are and what you do?
Likely, you could use a stronger profile. Follow these five tips help you build one.
1. Your Profile Photo: Don’t Settle for Good Enough
Why is your profile photo so important? The face in the photo is your only chance to make a positive first impression. It won’t matter how solid your credentials are, how much experience you have or how much talent you bring to the table if your photo turns viewers off.
Look around LinkedIn and take a look at the profile photos professionals use. Which attract your attention — this Arnold Siegel profile picture, where he looks approachable and friendly, or a profile without a profile picture at all?
Or worse, what do profile pictures of the person too far away to make out, enjoying a cocktail at a party or posing with their pets say? Unless those activities are somehow related to the individual’s profession, they belong on Facebook, not LinkedIn.
Because your profile picture is the professional face the world sees, don’t settle for a bad photo. And don’t yield to the temptation to use that great 10-year-old picture. You’re not after a beauty contest crown here. Your job is to let people know who you are now.
If you have the funds, visit a pro. If paying a photographer is not in the budget, perhaps a friend with a good camera could help. Or, you can try a do-it-yourself and see what you come up with. In any case, follow these recommendations:
- The best profile photos encompass the top of the shoulders and the head. The subject, you, should take up at least 60 percent of the frame.
- Your expression should be friendly, warm and approachable. No maniacal grins, no frowns, no expressions of discomfort or unhappiness. Keep trying until you get it right.
- Look at what’s behind you before you shoot. Avoid distracting backgrounds.
2. Make Your Headline Sing
Directly under your profile picture is the headline field. The headline is drawn from your most recent job title by default, but you can and should edit the information.
Job titles generally do not explain what you really do. So instead of leaving the default, succinctly describe your professional “essence ” as well as what you can do for the viewer.
For example, instead of a headline that says “Senior Marketing Manager,” try “Increase sales on a small budget with a highly trained experienced marketing professional.” You have 120 characters to show value to the reader, don’t waste the space with useless information.
3. Add a Background Photo
A background photo that’s relevant to your profession adds visual interest and makes your page stand out. Choose a photo that is pleasing to the eye, not overly busy and fits in context with what you do.
4. Your Summary: Your Story
The summary section is where you explain who you are, how you got where you are, what you’re like and what you want to do. It’s the story of you, written in an engaging, personal style.
It’s not a list of jobs, skills and accreditation’s. There’s room for those essentials elsewhere. Take your time writing the summary.
Within your summary, add specific keywords and phrases for search engine optimization. Don’t overload text with keywords, but include words people might use to search for someone with your skills and talents.
Avoid using common buzzwords, such as creative, passionate, experienced, expert, focused and similar general non-specific descriptors. The summary is your chance to show why you’re different.
5. Schedule Updates
To get the most out of LinkedIn, engage on a regular basis. Publish content, share, make comments, respond to comments, add graphics and post often. Schedule updates regularly and update in between to post breaking news and other topics. LinkedIn is a valuable tool and can open the door to lots of opportunities, if you use it wisely.