How to Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile and Build Your Personal Brand

Image courtesy of Shella Scarborough/Flickr

linkedIn_makeover-penDid you know that your LinkedIn profile will most likely be the first or second link that shows up when someone googles your name?

Yup, that means recruiters, colleagues, and potential business connections have probably checked out your profile at some point to get the scoop on you.

Now the opinion of everyone who looks at your profile may not matter. But how you come across to others for potential career opportunities certainly should.

Here’s the thing: You must have an impressive LinkedIn profile if you’re interested in accessing new career opportunities and making more money.

A good profile is not a nice to have if you want to build your personal brand; it’s a requirement.

As a personal brand strategist, I‘ve helped many professionals qualify for high-caliber positions by creating powerful LinkedIn profiles that gets them noticed. Here’s a peak into my process that you can apply to your own profile.

1. Pick a Good Photo

Does your LinkedIn profile photo reflect who you are as a professional? Well, it should.

The picture you choose can make or break your profile. Having an unprofessional picture is like showing up to an interview with a yellow neon suit and matching platform shoes: you’ll stand out, but for all the wrong reasons.

Your photo is one of the first things that people notice. And it should be your best “hello” to whoever is visiting your page. You may have put up an initial photo and think you’ll update it with a better picture later.

Then guess what happens?

Time passes and you still have the same photo up, but it doesn’t do your brand any justice. It’s not enough to just “set up” your profile picture.

If you’re not sure what’s the best way to approach selecting your LinkedIn profile picture, take a look at my article “4 Ways To Make Sure Your LinkedIn Profile Picture Reflects Your Brand” for more details.

A picture is worth a thousand words. Make sure your LinkedIn profile picture is saying the right things about your brand.

2. Shine With Your Headline

Your headline is one of the most important parts of your LinkedIn profile. It’s your brand in a snapshot, which should be catchy and descriptive. Someone should look at your headline and think, “Hmm…sounds interesting.” Not, “Hmmm…next”.

It’s important to incorporate keywords so that your profile can be found by others. You may have heard of the phrases keyword-optimized or search engine optimization (SEO) floating around. Both are strategic ways to include sought after industry skills and terms that help your profile show up higher in search results.

Some people mistakenly use their headline as a way to announce that they’re “Seeking new opportunities” or “Transitioning military officer”.  But LinkedIn is not Craigslist. It may seem like a good idea since it’s the first thing others will see, but it’s actually counterproductive for a couple of reasons:

  • You didn’t use the opportunity to include keywords that would help recruiters find you (this is what you really need if you’re a jobseeker).
  • You didn’t highlight your skills.
  • You didn’t give anyone a reason to want to know more about you.

Let’s take a look at these headline examples. You’ll see which approach works the best (Hint: more is better):

Nah: Seeking new opportunities
Blah: Logistics Manager at Fresh Direct
Ehh: Detail Oriented Logistics Manager
Ahh: Dedicated Logistics Manager. Improving productivity, optimizing processes, and satisfying customer demands.

Things to keep in mind when writing your headline:

  • Remove anything with your current title and employer or employment status.
  • Use as much of the 120 characters needed to capture your brand.
  • Include keywords and skills that are important in your industry.
  • Capture your personal brand attributes.
  • Make someone want to learn more about you.

At the end of the day, your headline should strategically market your personal brand. This is not only important for your LinkedIn profile, but also in conversations when people ask, “what do you do?”. Your personal brand is more than where you work.

3. Tell Your Story With Your Summary

Your LinkedIn summary is where you tell your brand story. You have the freedom to write it in a way that you just can’t do in your resume. Whereas your resume is written formally with the intention of being a quick read, your LinkedIn profile has more flexibility to tell a story and include important details about your personal brand.

In fact, you have up to 2,000 characters to use for this very purpose.

Don’t settle for a quick paragraph summarizing your career. The most common mistake made with the summary section is that professionals will copy and paste their career objectives and summary statement. And that’s it.

This may have been done in the earlier days of LinkedIn because it seemed like that’s what you were supposed to do. But LinkedIn has evolved. There are now many ways for you to make your profile “pop” by writing a dynamic summary and adding media files.

Another thing to keep in mind is to avoid overused terms like “detail-oriented” and “proven track record”. These words don’t separate your skills from everyone else’s. In a Forbes article, writer Susan Adams breaks down a list of words to avoid using in your profile (the same would apply to your resume as well).

If you take the time to explain your accomplishments, you’ll show that you have all the skills needed to get the job done.

William Arruda recently wrote an excellent article about writing the perfect LinkedIn summary. One of the things he says is to “Write your profile specifically for the decision makers you would like to impress and influence.” He also recommends including a section called AKA/Common Misspellings so people can find you with a Google search.

Things to keep in mind when writing your summary:

  • Don’t copy and paste from your resume.
  • Tell your story in a compelling way.
  • Write to your target audience.
  • Use as much of the 2,000 characters needed to fully capture your brand.
  • Include keywords that are important in your industry.
  • Remove any filler buzzwords.

You deserve to have a LinkedIn profile that accurately reflects the hard work you’ve put in throughout you career. This is your story. Your wins. Your beliefs. With a few tweaks, you will always make a great first impression no matter who finds you.

Marietta Gentles Crawford_ReachMarietta Gentles Crawford is a writer and personal brand strategist who helps professionals navigate career transitions. With over ten years’ experience climbing through top corporate and government brands as a writer and trainer, her passion is sharing lessons learned along the way.

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