Top Ten Tips to Build a Stronger LinkedIn Profile

help optimize your linkedin profile to land your dream job

LinkedIn is synonymous with interpersonal business connections. Looking at my LinkedIn homepage on any day, mostly what I see is “Harry is now connected to Sally,” “John is now connected to David” etc. Only a small minority of LinkedIn members are REALLY using the available tools beyond the easy way of starting connections; more businesspeople need to start posting articles they like, expressing opinions, listing upcoming events, asking or answering questions, commenting on someone else’s posting, or (gasp!) using one or more of the free LinkedIn apps. So as a fellow contributor to the global personal learning network (PLN) we all share with each other in LinkedIn, I put into written words selections from educational seminars I have been giving in the New York metro area, to evangelize on the “Top linkedin Tips to Build a Stronger LinkedIn Profile.”

1. Don’t just cut and paste sections from your résumé, that backward-looking document. LinkedIn shows your past experience and more: your present efforts and future aspirations.

Describe your rich experience and how it contributes to your current and future abilities, in your own words, as you would to someone you just met. Use short blocks of copy with keywords and rich textual images, in easily digestible bites. Why? Your profile is the primary means of branding yourself as a change agent, an authority, an attractive business prospect to someone seeking your services. Who better to add color and depth to your brand than you? OK, recommendations and referrals also do work wonders, but when a prospective client is comparing you to a competitor, you need to make your profile shine in your own personal way.

The most important takeaway from my sessions is that you MUST convey in rich, searchable terms (à la SEO) WHY YOU. Not what you do at your company, but what values you distinctly bring to the proverbial table, with your unique perspective and clear reasons why you stand out from the crowd. A lackluster cut-and-paste job from your website or résumé won’t differentiate you. Show how you are the sum total of your past experiences, how your present work is shaping you as a valued business partner, and express your future aspirations in a business development context. Articulate the character you possess that will make people WANT to hire and/or refer you for new business.

2. Borrow from the best marketers you know. Draw inspiration from others you respect. Adapt smart wording you see them using to your own personal style and branding.

But be sure to light up your LinkedIn profile with your own color. Use present tense, first person (“I” or “my”) and the active voice. In your own words, aimed at the LinkedIn audience of over 100 million business professionals, (a very different audience from that of the internet, your blog, FaceBook, or Twitter), tell WHO you really are. Stilted, artificial techno-jargon turns people away. Tell your story, concisely and articulately. Do you have 2 or more businesses like I do? Wrap the descriptions of each business together in a summary paragraph that paints a picture of yourself as a dynamic, active, yet integrated multi-preneur. Your depth and clarity will immediately increase and reflect well on you vs. your drab competitor’s flat LinkedIn profile.

3. Write a dynamic personal tagline. That 120-character line of text under your name that LinkedIn calls your Professional Headline is the first impression you make in your profile. It defines you all over LinkedIn.

Your professional headline is your brand, make it intriguing; clearly tell others “WHO you really are” not what your title/company is. Craft it carefully and rewrite it as you change, because you will change. If you think a 140-character tweet is challenging, then 120 characters of self-description on your LinkedIn professional headline can be a real ordeal–and that 120-character limit includes spaces! This exercise in self-definition has been exasperatingly healthy for my clients. The professional headline needs to be keyword-rich (again for SEO) yet easy to digest in a quick gulp, especially as attention-deficit as we have all become. You may be a “VP Treasury at XYZ Corporation,” but better said for LinkedIn branding purposes: “Seasoned corporate finance professional with 20+ years’ experience in global treasury management” (that’s 96 characters including spaces; with room for up to 24 more characters to further express WHO you are!). Doesn’t the expanded version tell a lot more about that person than their {title} at {company name}?

4. Put your polished elevator pitch to eve n better use. Your self-description, practiced and refined, is the essence of who you are and succinctly positions what you do.

Now convert it for use in LinkedIn’s Summary section, to attract potential connections. You have but seconds to capture the reader’s attention. A terse and intelligent Summary is your second chance to stand out. It complements the WHY YOU aspects you conveyed before and reinforces your areas of expertise, experience, and why you are further worthy of consideration for the business connection. Sparingly, you can insert industry jargon and acronyms here, if needed. Speak to the audience: “here’s more about me, now join me as we dig further, and be sure to read my Experience section too.” You’re on a roll–the reader is following your explanation and expression, once he/she has determined you are worthy of spending the time.

5. Identify your background and show yourself as greater than the sum of the experience you had. The Experience and Specialties fields drive your personal SEO in LinkedIn searches; knit in Google keywords to improve being found in a search.

In describing your past experience, job by job, display your unique abilities in your line of work, personal skills and unique interests, values that round out your professional background and show you as a whole person. Use a note of humor, cite an excerpt from your publication, and express your professional passion. Often ignored, the Specialties, Skills, Certifications, Languages, and Publications section, though relatively new, is another place to add to WHO you are. If you published on paper or electronically, show it off here. If you have earned certifications, or can speak a foreign language for business, say so here. I even had a coaching client who asked if her patent was important to mention. “Heck yes,” I told her, “it’s a further differentiator, showing a unique developed, earned, contributed aspect of your persona.” It directly reflects on the experience she will always possess.

6. You must have a good photo. A clear picture of what you look like, a friendly, approachable face, is a basic, yet underutilized, tool to reinforce your brand.

Potential business contacts will sometimes telephone you after reviewing your profile; allow them to speak to you while looking at your photo on LinkedIn. Your photo should make it easy for someone to spot you in a coffee shop for an initial meeting. While you don’t have to run out and get a professional headshot, a digital picture cropped it so everyone can see what you look like, is fine and can be a pose that shows what you do, such as a public speaker with his hands extended making a point, or an attorney on the phone. No picture with your kids, dog, cat, or raising a glass at a party–not professionally correct. This is also not a place to put your logo. And worst of all is not having a picture at all. Show what you look like–your face is part of your brand.

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