If you want to have a successful career, maintaining an online presence on LinkedIn is crucial.
Not only is it an effective way to network with other professionals in your field, but it can get you noticed by others and potentially land you several job opportunities.
In fact, I landed a great job at a major company because I regularly updated my profile and published career-related content almost daily. (That job ultimately inspired me to start my own company.)
Believe it or not, that was six years ago — and today, LinkedIn has only become increasingly important.
Simply signing up for an account, quickly filling in the blanks and then letting your profile remain dormant won't do you any good.
Of the many elements that make up a strong profile, two of the most important ones are your professional headline and "About" section, explain career experts at Harvard University's Office for Alumni Affairs and Career Advancement.
Together, they make up what's known as your "LinkedIn profile summary," and it's one of the first things people see when they visit your page. Your professional headline is especially important because it's the text that gets displayed in search results for both Google and LinkedIn.
Below is an example of a strong LinkedIn profile summary, according to the career experts at Harvard:
Research Scientist | Ph.D. Candidate | Data Analytics, Biotech, Pharma
I'm a research scientist working to better understand how neural activity motivates and shapes human behavior. My expertise includes project design and management, data analysis and interpretation, and the development and implementation of research tools. I enjoy generating new ideas and devising feasible solutions to broadly relevant problems. My colleagues would describe me as a driven, resourceful individual who maintains a positive, proactive attitude when faced with adversity. Currently, I'm seeking opportunities that will allow me to develop and promote technologies that benefit human health. Specific fields of interest include data analytics, biotechnology, and pharmaceuticals.
Here's what makes it a strong profile summary:
- Can be skimmed in 30 seconds or less
- Professional headline is below 120 characters, lists career focus and components of work
- Includes industry-related keywords, core skills, strengths, talents and interests
- Well written in a professional style, no spelling and grammatical mistakes
- Answers questions that provides deeper insight about the individual: What makes her unique? Where is her career headed? How would others describe her? What are her values and personal traits?
While your profile summary holds major emphasis, you'll need to spend time on savvying up the rest of it.
Here's a quick checklist of the basics to help you get started:
- Upload your photo. Ideally, this should be done in professional attire. Profiles with photos are 14 times more likely to be viewed, according to the career experts.
- Customize your public profile URL. The address should look something like: www.linkedin.com/in/yourname. This will make it easier for you to include it on business cards, resumes and email signatures.
- Enhance your profile with additional sections. Displaying further information (e.g., accomplishments, skills, volunteer experience, certifications, expertise) can also increase the amount of times people view your profile, notes LinkedIn. This, in turn, can help you build your network and connect to new opportunities.
- Elaborate on your work history in the "Experience" section. Use targeted keywords and include specific information about what you've done in your previous positions that led to measurable results. (Don't lie about titles or duties; you'll likely get called out by old colleagues — and it will be embarrassing.)
- Education: Include, in reverse chronological order, any programs or schools you went to.
- Customize your "Skills & Endorsements" section. Ensuring a relevant list of skills on your profile allows others in your network to endorse you. (Skills with the most endorsements will be listed first). This will also help others understand your strengths and match you with the right opportunities.
- Include recommendations. These should come from former supervisors, coworkers, clients, vendors, professors or fellow students. (Basically, anyone who will have good things to say about you and your work.)
Remember, the more active you are, the better. So as you move on to new jobs or master new skills, make it a point to update your profile.
Being active also means engaging with your community. You can do this by:
- Sharing updates and interesting content. This can include anything from new accomplishments and industry announcements to a blog post you've written or an article that people in your network may want to read.
- Inviting past and current coworkers, classmates, friends and family to connect. I'm often asked whether I request or accept connections from people I've never met. For me, it's a yes — but only if I'm genuinely interested in developing a professional relationship with the person and their field of work is somehow related.
- Engaging with your connections' "Recent Activity." LinkedIn allows you to see what folks in your network are posting, liking and commenting on. If they shared a blog post that you enjoyed reading, for example, why not give it a like or reply with a nice comment?
- Join groups. This will help you strengthen connections with people who share common skills, experiences, industry affiliations and goals.
Dustin McKissen is the founder of McKissen + Company, a strategic communications firm in St. Charles, Missouri. He was also named one of LinkedIn's "Top Voices in Management and Corporate Culture." Follow him on LinkedIn here.
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