Sometime back in college, a friend or a professor recommended that you create a profile on LinkedIn. “It’s a professional social network,” they said, “and a great way to network with past colleagues, supervisors and other alums.” Without much thought, you created your own page. You added a cute profile photo, summed up the little work experience you had under your belt, and left it at that.
Fast forward to today. As you look at your profile, you realize it looks the exact same as it did when you first built it several years ago. Like anything in life, you need to realize when it’s time to upgrade. Whether you’re searching for your first full-time job or you’re gainfully employed, your profile should still accurately reflect a professional online image of your best self. With that being said, here’s a guide to building an awesome LinkedIn profile:
#1 Have up-to-date and accurate job descriptions
Take a look at your profile right now. If all you have done is listed your employer and job title, you need to expand on that. In about one sentence, sum up what your core responsibilities were at that position. Did you wait tables and provide top-of-the-line customer service? Then note it! Outside of that, your description should be primarily about your accomplishments.
A future employer doesn’t need you to ramble about what you did; they can get the gist of it with your job title. However, how would they know you received a 92 percent customer satisfaction rating unless you tell them? Highlight how you succeeded, and not what you did, and you’ll have the attention of any potential employer.
#2 Pick the perfect photo
You can’t just use any photo to represent your shining personality. Having a photo makes your profile seven times more likely to be viewed, so it’s imperative to choose the right one. One good rule of thumb – if you would use it as your profile photo on Facebook, it’s probably not the best choice. It’s important to keep in mind that this is the sole image future employees are going to associate you with until they meet you for an interview (fingers crossed), so you want to put your best face forward.
Choose a tightly cropped photo, preferably one from the chest up. Remember, this is a photo of your best professional self, so avoid photos with other people, or one wear you are wearing a questionable outfit, and make sure the shot is clear and in focus. Finally, make sure you’re smiling! No one wants to look at a photo of an unhappy person, plus, it makes you look uninterested.
#3 Show off your talents
Whatever your occupation – writer, photographer, social media guru or hair stylist – you have to be able to back it up with proof. Of course, listing your college degree or technical certification is a great source to your talent, but it doesn’t give much of an illustration to what you actually can do to those viewing your profile.
LinkedIn makes it quite simple to showcase your work. You can either include links where your content is all in one place, or you can upload documents, photos or presentations directly from your hard drive. As to not overwhelm those who are looking at your profile, only upload your very best work. Keep it limited to no more than about three diverse, well edited and polished pieces. If someone wants to know more about your abilities, they can always checks out the links that you have provided.
#4 Find connections
Now that you’ve tidied up and polished your profile, you’re ready to utilize LinkedIn for its primary purpose – making professional connections and networking. Unlike most social networks, the aim isn’t to add hundreds or thousands of connections that you rarely interact with, but rather maintain a core group of people you’ve built relationships with.
Of course, there are the obvious people to connect with – your former professors, supervisors and college classmates. In short, add anyone who would give you a glowing recommendation for your upstanding work ethic, superior technical skills or upbeat attitude. Outside of those individuals, don’t forget about the people outside of your office who you partner with frequently, like career mentors and community members with whom you have developed professional relationships.
In addition to adding connections, don’t forget to follow companies that you would love to work for. You’ll be easily able to stay up-to-date with everything important happening in your industry, learn about company culture and atmosphere, and see any openings within the business as soon as they become available to the public. And when it comes time to interview for your dream job, you’ll know precisely what the interviewer or recruiter is looking for in a candidate.
#5 Spell check!
Finally, don’t publish your new polished and updated profile without doing a spell-check! Instead of just skimming over everything briefly, read the entire page aloud word for word. You can also read backwards, taking time to go through each sentence starting at the bottom of your profile. Better yet, have someone else check everything over – it’s much easier to spot mistakes in something you haven’t been staring at mindlessly for days.
In short, your LinkedIn profile should not be an exact replica of your resume: any standard job application is going to require one already. When used to its fullest potential, it will enhance your professional online image; add credibility to your credentials through recommendations and endorsements; and showcase your best work and accomplishments throughout your career. But you never know – it may even lead you to your next job!