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By far the most important networking site for professionals is LinkedIn. Use it correctly and it could well help you land your next job and sustain your future professional growth. But building your own LinkedIn profile can be an overwhelming task. So let’s begin at the beginning and cover the basics first. Take these steps and you will be well on your way to a solid profile that will make you visible and attractive to recruiters and to the professional peers who will be looking for you, just as you are looking for them.
Basics of a DIY LinkedIn Profile
Headshots aren’t just for celebrities anymore; they have become a critically important part of establishing a credible professional image for all of us. Like it or not, your headshot tells a story, so make sure yours is telling the right story. We all make judgments based on visual first impressions; with search results, a profile with a headshot will get many more clicks than a profile without one, and the people who come to your profile will form an opinion based on your headshot before they read anything you have written. How professional and accessible your headshot makes you look will also color the impressions of anyone who then reads your profile. It’s safe to say that getting your headshot right is extremely important.
After your headshot, the next thing recruiters notice is your headline. This headline should say who you are and what you do; it is important to give recruiters focus, and this is one of the areas the search engine rates as important in establishing your ranking in searches. (Ensuring that your ranking in searches is high is called search engine optimization or SEO.) This headline is limited to a 120-character thumbnail description about you and works as a brief biography of the person behind the headshot.
This should include information that will maximize your discoverability when a recruiter searches for someone like you. Information in your Summary section should be geared to drawing a concise picture of your professional capabilities—not your hopes and dreams but your capabilities, because you get hired based on your credentials, not your potential. The summary on your LinkedIn profile (as on other social networking sites) provides more space than you would usually use in the Summary or Performance Profile section of a job-targeted resume.
However, if you have already built a resume according to Knock Em Dead guidelines, you will have a Performance Profile that reflects the skills, experience, priorities, and word choices employers use to define the job they need to fill. If so, just upload the resume and change it to a first-person voice. If you don’t have a Knock Em Dead resume, identify the raw materials for the Summary by doing a Critical Target Job Deconstruction (TJD) exercise, then write six sentences that succinctly capture your capabilities in each of the employer priority areas.
The experience section of your profile begins with your current job and work experience. Again, you can cut and paste the entry from your resume first, then add to this with additional information that you feel is relevant. Review your entries to see if there is additional experience you would like to add. You have plenty of space here, so as long as your headline and entries for each job start with the most important information as determined by your TJD—making your profile more discoverable and a more tempting read for recruiters—you can continue to add additional supporting information until you run out of space
Whatever you do, don’t be lazy and just list your current job: That gives the impression that you have only had the one.
LinkedIn will tell you that you’re twelve times more likely to be found by recruiters when you have more than one job listed—perhaps because those other jobs allow you to weight your profile with enough relevant keywords in each job’s headline to increase your discoverability in recruiters’ database searches. The inclusion of keywords in each job’s headline and in the details of that work experience helps make you more visible. This helps recruiters see your claims of professional competency in context and will dramatically increase the frequency of keyword usage. Do this with each job and your discoverability will steadily rise in the results of recruiters’ searches.
The summary and work experience sections of your LinkedIn profile accommodate a considerable word count. However, anything you write needs to be accessible to the human eye, and long blocks of text become visually inaccessible very quickly, especially to recruiters who are scanning briefly rather than reading. Consequently, you need to make sure that no paragraph is more than six lines of unbroken text. You can also use bullet points to share important information and deliver visual variety.
Some career “experts” suggest writing about your hobbies here. That’s silly. No recruiter cares about your personal interests until they know you can do the job, so such information is irrelevant to recruiters, a waste of this valuable selling space, and will cost you readers. Besides, LinkedIn has provided a space for this, where it belongs: at the end of your profile.
LinkedIn has a Skills area that allows you to identify up to fifty different skills. Using your TJD, determine the skills your customers seek in someone with your professional title, you should add a list of professional skills to your LinkedIn profile.
Once your profile is visible to the public, people can endorse you for each of these skills (a favor you can initiate and return). The more endorsements you have of your skills, the more discoverable you become to recruiters. Adding skills to your LinkedIn profile has the same benefits as adding it to your resume: It makes your profile more visible in database searches and your skills more readily accessible to readers
Start with your highest educational level and work backward. While your educational attainments will usually stop with postsecondary education in your resume, with a LinkedIn profile you might want to consider listing high school as well: This increases your networking opportunities. Just a week before the time of writing, I personally received a connect request from a high school friend living half a world away, whom I’d lost touch with many years ago.
Link Your Resume to Your Social Media Profile
Once your profile is complete and supports the story told in your resume, upload the resume as directed. Linking to your resume is useful because a resume is still the most succinct vehicle for sharing your professional skills, and recruiters will use it for their records and to review with hiring managers. Your resume in turn should have a mutual link to your LinkedIn profile or a LinkedIn Profile Badge along with your hyperlinked email address, so that HR or the hiring manager can click through and gather more insight into your potential candidacy.
Building your DIY LinkedIn profile may take a week before you have it exactly right, so you should know that every time you change a sentence on your LinkedIn profile and log out, LinkedIn can automatically send a change of status to your network. As you may make many changes to get it right, you don’t want your contacts notified every few minutes. To avoid this, do three things:
Write your early drafts on a Word document with headings that match the site’s profile subject headers. Then make changes to your heart’s content without any danger of unwittingly sharing your edits with the world. When you do upload, you’ll invariably still want to tweak your copy and so still want to maintain privacy
Go to Settings from the drop-down menu under your name on the top right of your homepage and look for Privacy Controls. Chose Private while you are making profile changes. This will keep your changes private until your profile is complete and you release it for public display.
Save everything in the final published draft in a Microsoft Word document. This will also give you something to edit later.
Don’t forget why you’re there
Your goals for LinkedIn membership are twofold: You want to be discoverable by recruiters and you want to develop professional connections that can help you with your job search and perhaps with the more general issues of career management. With LinkedIn, as with any social networking site, there are certain steps to take that help you get the most out of the social networking experience. We’ve just covered the basics here. For more information, check out my FREE WEBCAST How to Build Social Networks Fast or pick up a copy of Knock Em Dead Social Networking.
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