Maximizing Your LinkedIn Profile, Part 2: Content

by Gregg on September 15, 2014

LinkedInMy note: In Part 2 of this mini-series on maximizing a LinkedIn profile, I dive into profile content, specifically focusing on things to improve that might not be obvious. My friend and LinkedIn connection Patrick Mayoh talked about connection in Part 1 last week, which you can read here. I might add that in the process of reading Patrick’s post, and considering my remarks that follow, I realize that I’ve got some work to do on my own profile …

What do you look for when you click on someone’s LinkedIn profile?

To me, it’s a lot like looking at someone’s resume – your eye is drawn to the certain elements, and you tend to skim down the rest of the page, looking for specific information, the kind that matters to you. Maybe you’re a hiring manager looking for a particular skill set or experience. Or maybe you’re a peer, trying to find out if your skills and experience are similar to the profile you’re reviewing … or not.

My point: I have been arguing for years that a LinkedIn profile is just as important – if not more important – than a resume. Why? An old boss of mine once told me, “You’re always looking for a job.” If so, then your LinkedIn profile is the first place a prospective hiring manager will look if and when you express interest, and you want to have your profile as polished as possible … because you never know when it will be reviewed. There are also elements within a profile that can’t be replicated within a traditional static, “paper” resume – recommendations, for example.

In other words, a LinkedIn profile in many respects is a better reflection of your personal brand and your values as a professional and as a person than a resume. Look at it as another angle for social business – YOUR business.

So through that lens, I’ll now provide a list of some of the key things to address in your own profile that might be easily overlooked.

1. A professionally taken headshot photo. I see way too many profile photos that simply aren’t appropriate for LinkedIn. A great example: I recently saw one that appeared to be a headshot of a person laying on a beach, with the rest of the body cropped out – and this person was a job recruiter! Clearly, that’s an extreme, but how many cellphone-quality shots do you see, or shots of people at a social event where the rest of what’s happening is cropped out? The best advice I have in this case is to spring for a professional headshot and get it done every few years. When you look professional, others get that professional “feel” from your profile.

2. A Summary written in complete sentences. Like a resume, a hiring manager is going to arrive at your profile and his/her eye will be drawn to certain elements – your headshot, for example, but also your Summary up top. I’ve seen a growing number of summaries that are a few fragments strung together that could be perceived as complete drivel. Take the time to encapsulate everything that follows within your profile in a summary that’s written in complete sentences. This tells a hiring manager, or anybody that happens upon your profile, that you can string coherent thoughts together and convey them in the written word. Believe me, that is just crucial as any experience you have; whether you like it or not, it’s a proof point of your intelligence. Alternatively, if your summary is sloppy, what might that say about how you’d work as an employee? Hmmmm …

3. Recommendations ideally for each job you’ve had, including specifics. This is tricky, particularly if you’ve been in the workforce for awhile; it might seem a little funny to ask someone to recommend you for a job you had early in your career, because memories get a little fuzzy. But for younger readers, work to get recommendations for each job you’ve had, along with specific examples of the value you added, and don’t be afraid to ask for a recommender to do that. For those who have been in the workforce longer, make sure your last several positions feature recommendations with the same thing – specifics. And as always, reciprocate with specifics about the value the person you’re recommending added.

As Patrick mentioned in his post, there’s plenty more; we could write all day about this topic. But remember the general rule of thumb: Less is always more. Trying to stuff every thing you did into an entry for a job you had 10 years ago doesn’t make sense. Make the copy brief by impactful. Use fewer words to get more across, and focus on both specifics and results, with the idea that you are a person who can add value to a prospective employer’s operation.

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My note: From two continents, my friend and LinkedIn connection Patrick Mayoh and I attack the challenge of maximizing your LinkedIn profile in Part 1 of this two-part series. You may remember Patrick, who works for Euromonitor International in his native Cameroon, in west-central Africa, wrote this insightful postLinkedIn about the brands that stand out in his native land. Today, he talks about how to best leverage the power of LinkedIn – connecting. I’m going to follow up this post over the weekend with a post about content and aesthetics.

While a great looking LinkedIn profile is a must for everyone in B2B and B2C (job seeker or not), it is equally as important to make sure you take advantage of all those amazing opportunities you get to have on that professional social network. Here are several best practices for your consideration.

Introducing yourself to new connections
You have just come across what seems to be a great profile and a tremendous opportunity to connect with someone, and as typical, you click the “Connect” button. LinkedIn makes sure your connection request is accompanied by a prompt that reads:

“I’d like to connect with you.”

DON’T just stop there. In real life, you never introduce yourself like that to people. You want to take advantage of the space you have in the message section to introduce yourself, what you do, possibly what your career goals are and especially say a few nice words about the other person. So if he or she works for a company you like, or went to a school you attended or has the kind of position you hope to have, mention that to him/her, emphasizing what you admire about them and why you think you should connect. A 30-word message should typically be enough for that. In the end, the person gets to know more about you and can truly see you took time to reach out which we all admire from people that want to connect with us.

Sharing and creating content
LinkedIn also gives you the possibility to share and create content. There is a good reason for that. This is a network of nearly 300 million professionals – you want to stand out in a good way. This you can do by keeping abreast with the latest developments in your field. There are tons of specialised reviews, journals and magazines you can follow on LinkedIn and other social networks. Sharing at least a piece of information is a sure way to get noticed and perceived as some sort of thought leader in your field.

Also, recently LinkedIn has been giving the possibility to all its members to publish on LinkedIn Pulse. Early access was granted in February and then closed in August but the feature will be rolled out to all members in the coming months. This is definitely another great way to increase your thought leadership. A short article on your field published by you and shared across many platforms has a lot of positive ripple effects. For one, you can create the perception that you know what you are talking about, and two, people keep you on top of their minds.

And there’s more.

In fact, there is a lot more to talk about when it comes to making the most of LinkedIn. From joining relevant groups to contribute to discussion in your fields to tapping into your network in order to deepen your engagement with connections, there is no shortage of ways to stand out.

This duet post is actually a result of connecting with Gregg. Despite the thousands of miles separating us, we realised we had a common passion for branding (and the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, our national soccer side). Likewise, with such a vast network of professionals you can get to meet people searching for talents, looking for people to collaborate on projects or just sharing your passion for marketing, aeronautics, finance or whatever you are doing.

You definitely don’t want to be left out.

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