Your LinkedIn profile can be an invaluable tool for your career development. It is your showcase to the professional world. Imagine LinkedIn as a huge virtual directory of everyone in your field – your LinkedIn Profile is your directory entry. Think of it too as your online CV. In fact, employers and applicants are increasingly using LinkedIn Profiles as a supplement to, or even a substitute for, the traditional CV.
Having a great LinkedIn Profile can:
- Improve your visibility and strengthen your reputation within your professional field
- Bring you to the attention of potential employers and increase your chances of being hired
- Connect you to other likeminded professionals, through clearly signalling your interests
Whenever you meet a new work contact, the chances are that the individual will already have looked you up on LinkedIn or will do so afterwards. If your work involves meeting with students, it is likely that they will have checked you out on LinkedIn too. Your Profile needs to do you justice as well as helping build rapport. So, how do you know if yours makes the grade?
A Great Profile includes:
A clear headline which sums up your professional experience and interests and which encapsulates the essence of what you do.
A recent professional-looking photograph, ideally a headshot, which makes you look friendly and approachable as well as professional.
A short summary which provides a snapshot of your career background and current work – see below for tips on how to write this.
A brief list of specialities which sum up your main areas of expertise. Think carefully about the words potential employers and contacts are likely to search for. Check out the profiles of respected colleagues for ideas.
A short paragraph highlighting the key elements of your current job which is tailored to appeal to your target readership.
A brief career history of job titles and dates. The older the job and the less relevant it is to your target market, the shorter your section should be. Feel free to be selective – you don’t have to include every job you have ever held. If you want to add any information about recent jobs, keep this to one or two short sentences.
A few choice recommendations which highlight your key strengths and your approach to work. The best recommendations come from former bosses, senior colleagues and clients, mention specific achievements and projects you have worked on and convey a sense of your personality.
Highlights from your education and professional qualifications, including memberships of any professional bodies and networks. Don’t make this an exhaustive list – stick to those qualifications which offer the best credentials for your current and target future job.
Links to LinkedIn groups you have joined which reflect your existing interests and career aspirations. Don’t forget that employers often target groups when posting jobs.
Link to other online profiles and places the reader can find out more about you, such as your Twitter account or blog.
You know it’s a poor Profile when:
The photo is overly formal and makes the user look stand-offish or glum. This may have been lifted from their workplace id card.
The summary is missing or limited to three or four words, possibly a list of the person’s qualifications.
The career history and details of current interests and groups are missing. The assumption is that this person is not active on LinkedIn, and probably not open to new connections.
Alternatively, the career history runs for several pages and lists all the jobs in incredible detail. The reader feels they are wading through the person’s entire CV. This can look a bit desperate.
Writing the Summary
Your summary is the most important part of your Profile. It should be succinct – try to keep it to no more than 70 words. It should capture all the key elements of your work experience, track record and current interests which are most likely to interest and impress potential contacts. Avoid summarising your entire CV or duplicating lists of facts, such as qualifications or current work responsibilities, which can be found elsewhere in your Profile.
An example could be:
A University academic and lecturer in marketing, I specialise in mapping the customer experience and data analytics. I have a particular interest in the retail and technology sectors, having spent six years working as a brand manager in retail banking. As well as conducting research, supervising PhD students and writing books, I work as a consultant for business organisations.
It’s worth spending time crafting a great Profile as this can often be tweaked to use on your CV as well.
Once you are happy with your new Profile, consider adding a link to your email signature or printing it on your business card. You never know when it could lead you to the next career opportunity.