Do you have a LinkedIn profile and worry you’re not doing it right? Have you noticed you don’t have the same success as other people in your network? It might be because you haven’t optimized your LinkedIn profile yet, and when you do, your chance of being seen goes up significantly. Each part of your profile, when done effectively, can yield returns. Let’s walk through optimizing your profile step-by-step.
1. PICK YOUR PROFILE PICTURE
We start with the profile picture, which is the north star of your LinkedIn profile. It’s what people see first, and if they see a friendly, professional-looking guy or gal, they are more likely to engage. These are the best practices for picking a top-notch profile pic:
- Show your face. People want to see who you are, front and center, not waving in the distance.
- Keep it professional. Reserve the extra artsy photos for the ‘gram.
- Size it right. 400 x 400 pixels is ideal.
- Leave your friends out of it. Now is your time to shine.
- Hire a photographer or call in a favor. Having a professional-looking shot makes a difference.
- Smile. The data shows people prefer it, and it conveys friendliness.
- Make it natural. Use soft lighting and wear your work attire.
Make sure your photo hits all these high notes, and then move on to the other important photo on your LinkedIn profile page: the background banner photo.
2. ADD A BACKGROUND BANNER PHOTO
While your profile photo literally shows who you are, the background banner photo is an opportunity to show your personality. Your profile should paint a picture of who you are professionally, and the background banner photo can support that image. There are many ways to approach this, but here are a few popular options:
- Show where you work, whether it’s the literal building or the city where you offer your services.
- Show how you work, including what your desk looks like, the equipment you use, or the products you sell.
- Show what you care about by choosing an image that reflects your mission. Are you a nutritionist? Post a background of your favorite nutritionally dense fruits and vegetables.
- Show who you serve by using stock imagery that reflects your audience.
- Show you have personality by picking an eye-catching background that you just plain like. Think patterns or colors.
When you pick your picture, format it to be 1584 pixels wide by 396 pixels tall and upload it. Fortunately, you can always update your background banner photo if you change your mind. The same goes for your headline.
3. NAIL YOUR HEADLINE
The story of your work life has peaks and valleys, successes, failures, and everything in-between, like any epic adventure movie. Think of your headline as a quick synopsis for that movie. Sure, you can pop your job title down in the headline slot, but you’re more interesting than that. You can always follow Hubspot’s advice to use the “Helping X do Y” template if you need a quick headline to plug in, but you can also follow these quick dos and don’ts for a more creative and impactful headline:
- Do tailor it to your audience
- Don’t use buzzwords and hyperbole
- Do talk about the value you provide
- Don’t brag
- Do use action verbs
Now, sit down and consider your contributions to your industry. Set a timer for 10 minutes, and write every headline you can come up with to describe those contributions. Don’t restrict yourself. Don’t edit. Don’t think too hard. See what you come up with! Then, you’re ready to move on to the summary, where you’ll tell your story.
4. WRITE A SUMMARY THAT SHINES
Your summary is where you expand that synopsis into a full story. LinkedIn displays the first three lines of your summary, so start strong and grab people’s attention. What do people have to know about your qualifications? What’s your biggest accomplishment? What sets you apart from other candidates in your industry? What do you love about your work? Once you have peoples’ attention, they can click to “Read More,” and you can continue telling your story.
Make sure you narrate your experience. This isn’t a resume; it’s an opportunity to discuss your skills, achievements, and hobbies creatively. Yes, weaving in a few personal details will humanize you to prospective connections. Your summary is your opportunity to share the why behind your career trajectory and elaborates on how you got from point A to point B and what you envision for point C.
If you’re actively looking for opportunities, incorporating keywords into your summary can help recruiters find you. Are you a software developer? Include that keyword multiple times in your summary. Include the types of code you write in.
You can strengthen your summary by providing data and details for your accomplishments. Did you single-handedly grow your department by adding X amount of staff during your tenure? Did your article in The Atlantic garner 200,000 clicks? Did you win awards for your work? Share this information.
Finish up by clarifying your next steps. Share your email address if you want people to get in touch. Let people know what you’re looking for on LinkedIn—fellow thought leaders to change the world with, like-minded professionals to connect with, prospective employees to share values with, etc. While you don’t want to hit your skills hard in your summary, you want to highlight them in your profile’s Skills section.
5. HIGHLIGHT YOUR SKILLS
Once you add the skills section to your profile, you can start showing people what you do. While you do want to note your hard skills—digital marketing, user experience, editing—don’t forget about the soft skills that affect how you approach your work and interact with others. We’re talking communication, adaptability, critical thinking, and more.
Put your most valuable skills at the top of your list, both what you believe your top contributions are as well as what you offer that companies look for today. In a changing economic landscape, collaboration, creativity, emotional intelligence, and data-centered hard skills reign supreme.
If you’re not sure of your skill level, you can take a skills assessment on LinkedIn. And if you’re inexperienced in one of these areas, LinkedIn Learning offers courses with certifications to show your investment in learning and refining your skillset.
After you add your skills, your connections can endorse them, vouching for you. And you can endorse their skills, too. It’s always good to pay it forward on LinkedIn.
6. ENDORSE YOUR CONNECTIONS
Endorsements work kind of like presents. If you give somebody a beautiful (digital) gift, they are more likely to give you one back. An endorsement is a way to say, “Yes, I’ve seen this person in action, and they are GREAT at project management” for example. It builds credibility because any Joe, Bob, or Derek can hop on LinkedIn and say they are an expert at digital marketing. Still, unless somebody verifies they’ve personally experienced that expertise, it’s a house of cards.
7. ASK FOR TESTIMONIALS
We know people have different comfort levels with asking for testimonials, but having a testimonial or two on your LinkedIn profile can help optimize it. While hiring managers have different opinions on how much weight they put on them, the consensus is that they don’t hurt and can work in your favor by reinforcing other parts of your profile or your resume.
Social proof speaks volumes, and another way you can show you impact others is to request recommendations from your connections. Look to coworkers past and present, industry professionals in your network, and clients. A good testimonial can do wonders to build credibility and enhance your LinkedIn profile. Showing proof of your good work can do that too.
8. SHOWCASE YOUR WORKS
In the dropdown menu under your profile picture labeled “Add profile section” you can add more details about what you do. The Accomplishments section is an opportunity to share further proof of your work with your LinkedIn connections. You can add publications, awards, projects, and organizations you’ve held positions with, including dates and external links to the work, when applicable. LinkedIn is kind of like a digital extension of your resume or portfolio, with more opportunities for creativity. Optimizing it will help you get the most out of your experience.
OPTIMIZE YOUR LINKEDIN PROFILE
Though it may take a couple of hours to fill out and regular maintenance to keep it optimized, your LinkedIn profile is foundational for networking. It’s a space to share your career story and make meaningful connections with other working professionals. Who knows? You may change each other’s lives. And you’ll have LinkedIn to thank for it.
Caitlin Lead Copywriter
Caitlin Knudsen is a writer, editor, and food photographer based in the Midwest. With a background in nursing and decades spent writing, she is a published eBook author and knows a thing or two about communicating complex concepts in easy-to-understand language. Caitlin spends her free time developing gluten-free recipes, reading psychology books, and wrangling two pugs and a Dutch rabbit.more posts by Caitlin →
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