Your career on LinkedIn: 16 tips to look your best

For a long time, I saw LinkedIn as basically a big ol’ box of resumes and not much beyond that. That changed (somewhat). This post contains my tips for your LinkedIn profile to help you if:

  • you’re on LinkedIn, but you don’t have a clue what to do except add your resume and anyway, what exactly should you put in your profile anyway?
  • you haven’t updated your LinkedIn profile in a year.
  • you’re not yet on LinkedIn but want to get started.
  • (If you’re active and happy on LinkedIn, this post by Jeff Haden on Inc.com gives you additional tips.)

I won’t tell you how to sign up. If they’ve made it too hard they deserve to go out of business. If that’s the case please let me know 😉

How does a complete, updated profile on LinkedIn help your career?

Your career on LinkedIn

First reason: LinkedIn comes up with job suggestions that are deemed relevant for someone with your set of skills and experience. Second: if you’re going to show up in search results you want to be found by the right recruiters. Third: once you’re found, you want to make a favorable or at least an accurate impression so people don’t offer you all the wrong jobs, or none at all.

Get your LinkedIn profile in shape using these 16 tips which I’ve grouped for your convenience:

LinkedIn profile basics

  1. Picture: professional looks are best, but anything which isn’t either downright unprofessional or 5 years old is acceptable, at least until you get something better. Dig out an online picture of you that’s more or less professional.
  2. Fill out your headline. This may contain your job title, or otherwise should contain one or two keywords which characterize what branche or task you’re interested in.
  3. Fill out your postal code, or that of the most relevant city for your profession if you don’t mind the commute or having to move. Your profile will mention a general area based on your information.
  4. Add some contact details. Decide which of them you want to show to your connections, and which you want to be publicly visible (in my case that’s at least my Twitter handle and this blog).

Job experience

  1. Summary: people use their summary in different ways – sometimes to describe what their current job entails, or to describe what they are like as a professional, or to describe the business they own. If you’re not sure, leave it for later.
  2. Use your resume and your description of your tasks and responsibilities. If you’re a student, or you’re in your first job, you may find your resume looking rather empty. Or if you’ve worked at company X for the past 18 years you may look like a boring person who would like to stay in your current job indefinitely. Compensate by describing separate tasks in light of:
    1. skills,
    2. professional attitude, and
    3. experience they demand from you or that you have acquired as a result. Don’t overdo it. If anyone calls your manager or mentor they should be able to confirm your story.
  3. Add team projects. Projects show up twice: underneath the job they’re connected to, plus in a separate projects section. Adding projects is also a great way to find out if there are people you might connect with on LinkedIn – after all, you worked with them at some point so you know them professionally. That is always the best (possibly the only good) reason to connect.
  4. For writing folk: add a separate section for your publications.

Skills and languages

  1. Skills: this part of your profile is just a list, but it makes you more visible (search results) and others can endorse you on those skills if they think you actually have them. Be specific, because you might get endorsed for knowing about “art”.
  2. When can you mention a language among your skills? If you teach it, if you’re a translator, or if you’ve spent over a year in a country speaking the language daily so you’re practically a native speaker – and you’d like to get a job that requires knowledge of this particular language because it sets you apart from the competition. Don’t forget to list it among your languages too.
  3. Languages: overview of all the languages you know. Add your proficiency level. Some people throw all their languages in with their skills which leads to my receiving endorsement messages like “Does Dave know about English?” 😉

Courses

  1. Independent coursework: this is where you list courses that are not tied to a study or a job. This section is important if you’re interested in a career switch or if you’re just someone who likes to keep up to date all round.
  2. Don’t add ALL of your courses though, unless it’s not that much of a list. If you’re looking for a specialized job, select courses that are relevant for that kind of job. If you’re not sure what kind of job you’d like, add a mix of job-focused courses and the courses you enjoyed the most.
  3. While you’re pondering your selection, ask yourself why you enjoyed specific courses.
    1. Was it the type of activity?
    2. The team work vs. having sole responsibility for the task?
    3. Was it the topic? Try to find out, because this is what you are about. Write it down as a start for your LinkedIn summary.

Volunteering & Causes

  1. Add any not-for-profit activities in this section. If you feel these activities don’t ‘count’ when you’re looking for a job, consider this:
    1. You have used and developed people skills, project skills, or your creativity.
    2. It shows what you value in life and can spice up a resume that seems a bit too single-mindedly careerdriven!
    3. If you’re in a very technical or specialistic job, this is also a great way to show you have other interests that require different skills and even a different mindset from what people might expect.
    4. You may get asked about your activities – which gives a nice informal flavor to an interview!
  2. For these reasons, describe your voluntary work just like any job or project. If you’ve done certain tasks for years, say so – it shows you can stick to a job even if you didn’t have one at the time.

I hope I’ve given you enough to get started until my next post (Wednesday). If you have any questions about your LinkedIn career – if I’ve left anything out which you need at this stage, leave me a comment to read and reply to!

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4 thoughts on “Your career on LinkedIn: 16 tips to look your best

  1. I’m just like you, how you thought of Linked In, so this was quite enlightening to me – thank you. I wonder what had you look into it further?

    Every day (and I mean every) my boss gets emails from Linked In saying bla bla wants to contact her. She’s a principal of where I work, pretty busy ‘n all, & if she’s on it there must be some good value to it, I reckon.

    Great article, very helpful.

    Cheers 🙂

    • Thanks for commenting 🙂 I wonder… The LinkedIn groups sparked my interest. And compared to Twitter, LinkedIn viewed from your own profile is far less ‘hasty’ – you need no more than two updates per week. Do that on Twitter and you’ll be invisible!

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