It’s no secret to jobseekers that a polished LinkedIn profile is a great addition to your professional presence. Today, it’s become almost as customary as a resume and, if applicable, a portfolio. The great thing about LinkedIn is that it combines the best characteristics of all these things, but that can also be its downfall: too often, it only reiterates what your resume and portfolio already do. Chances are, you’ve filled in all the seemingly important areas: bio, work history, maybe even project samples. You’ve made connections and uploaded a professional photo. Now how do you go beyond and make your LinkedIn profile a powerful marketing tool?
The mistake most people make is that they upload their information and expect it to attract connections and job opportunities, ultimately leading to a job placement within their area of expertise. You can’t expect a resume lying dormant on your desk to do that for you, and nor should you expect your LinkedIn to do so. Just as with a resume, your profile needs to be showcased to the right people in order to aid your job search. Furthermore, it should be polished and fully represent who you are as a professional.
There are a number of ways to enhance your profile to present you as the well-rounded, multi-dimensional person you are, and to help it effectively market you and your services.
Follow the prompts—to an extent. When improving your profile, use the automated prompts LinkedIn provides, but use them to your discretion. The tool can be great for filling in some gaps in your profile; however, certain fields might not be necessary. The prompt asks for things such as test scores and classes you’ve taken, for example, which may work well for a recent college graduate or someone looking to apply for further education—but may not be necessary for a seasoned professional with 10+ years of experience.
Be creative with your headline. All too often, professionals with a multitude of experience and skills only restrict their headline to their current title, but there’s a section under your current work experience for that. Instead, find a title that best describes you as an overall professional, as it’s one of the first things someone sees when they search for or stumble upon your profile. In addition, headlines make you more searchable by recruiters and hiring managers, so make sure your title is one that will show up in relevant searches.
Be more than a resume. You already have one, so why use such a powerful networking tool to just restate your resume online? Take your profile a step further by uploading work samples and writing a bio that says what your resume can’t, such as your career plans for the future and what your professional goals are. Hiring managers want to see that you’re qualified for positions you apply for, but they also want to see that you’re a real live person with a likeable demeanor. Find ways to communicate that through your profile, and you’ll be well on your way to having a more marketable presence.
Network (tactfully). Once your profile is polished, it’s time to put it to work. One of the best ways to start doing this is to use LinkedIn’s arguably most important and widely-used feature: adding connections. We’ve mentioned before that one must be tactful when networking, especially on LinkedIn. Adding connections you’ve never met or done business with, without stating why you’d like to connect or how you found them, may not be beneficial. Using the automated “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn” invitation for people you do know can be tacky. Instead, form real connections with personalized invitations, and then endorse your connections for skills you know they have. The easiest way to properly network using the social media tool is to be honest, friendly, and genuine—and go the extra mile to show your connections that they aren’t just number padding.
Boost your activity. Make yourself heard. Join groups, post to your recent activity, and follow professionals in your field. This may seem to be less focused on improving your profile itself, but when you partake in discussions and share content, these tasks all pop up on your activity feed. As a result, your connections and those scanning through your profile will be able to see that you can back up your credentials with activity and interest in your field.