10 Tips for Creating a Standout LinkedIn Profile
Updated: Mar 12
If your first response to LinkedIn is to groan and roll your eyes, you’re not alone. The platform has a reputation for being a bit self-serving and stuffy, and I wish that it would expand its capacity to accommodate the needs of creative people, but it does have a lot to recommend itself. If nothing else, it can be a place to investigate potential career fields and to learn how people in positions you admire acquired their current role. Think of it as detective work—you can find out how the executive director of that rock 'n roll after school program earned her stripes before she took the helm of a vibrant music education nonprofit.
While it might seem inauthentic, it’s hard to dismiss the significance of networking when research indicates that 75 percent of jobs are landed through people they know. The logic to integrating a networking plan into your key career exploration strategy suddenly becomes much clearer.
While LinkedIn strikes many as intensely corporate and a bit chilly, you should possess at least a baseline understanding of its potential to connect you with professionals who can either enlighten your journey or connect you with others who can do so. With regular use, you can renew past relationships and confirm current ones as primary, or first degree; you can also create new relationships with secondary and tertiary, or second and third degree, contacts by asking primary contacts to introduce you online.
• Reach out to these connections to set up informational interviews and volunteer opportunities and gain insider information to prepare for interviews.
• Promote your own unique skills and talents and research targeted employers who need them.
• Follow potential employers and build relationships by joining groups.
While not everyone is absorbed by LinkedIn, every career explorer should have the kind of basic LinkedIn profile laid out next and connect at least with the people they already know. Think of it as today’s phonebook but with a focus on each person’s professional background and skills presented in a consistent and easy-to-access format. Prospective employers and people in your network expect to be able to find you on LinkedIn for a quick electronic introduction to you. And, like all first impressions, you want the reader to think well of you and want to build the relationship with you.
If you are ready to go beyond the basics, go ahead and download the Get More Momentum from LinkedIn excerpt of my forthcoming book (Jumpstart: How to redirect a career that has stalled, lost direction or reached a crossroads) on the LinkedIn Coaching page of this website, which guides you through the more advanced functions of setting up introductions to people, searching for jobs and navigating LinkedIn interest groups, both local and national. The majority of these interest groups are employment-related, covering a wide range of topics, including web design, nursing, and grant writing, to name just a few. Groups typically support a moderated discussion area and provide a place to share ideas and trends and invite feedback on professional questions and dilemmas.
10 Tips for Building a Standout LinkedIn Profile
Even if you are not actively job searching, you can create a LinkedIn profile. At one time, LinkedIn activity cued that a person was looking for a new job, something you might want to hide from a current employer. Now, however, most professionals have LinkedIn profiles, with a person joining every second.
While it is definitely a networking hub for job searchers and career development professionals, its utility for entrepreneurs is still hit-and-miss, depending on the industry. While LinkedIn is littered with profiles of professionals in more conservative, conventional fields like law and accounting, entrepreneurs and more creative and holistic health care professionals are still feeling their way through LinkedIn and exploring options like Alignable.com. In any case, it can’t hurt you to have a LinkedIn profile; you can always benefit by the opportunity to understand who in your network might know someone with whom you would like to connect.
Your initial profile can simply summarize your professional and educational history. As you proceed through the research and career exploration phase, you can update and focus your profile to fit a specific job target. For example, a former product manager with a track record launching technical product lines contemplating a shift to the sports apparel industry could list her recent volunteer experience starting a community girls’ basketball league on her resume and LinkedIn profile.
1. Until you enter job-search mode, resist the urge to upgrade to the premium level. Most job seekers find that the free level meets their needs, advantages to investing in the premium level. You can see precisely how much of a match you are for LinkedIn job postings, for instance, allowing you to tailor your profile to more successfully attract the types of positions you are seeking. (Since LinkedIn’s algorithm is designed to match your profile with appropriate jobs, the more robust your LinkedIn page, the more likely you are to see attractive positions pop up in your LinkedIn feed.
2. Select an attractive headshot photo with a nice smile. It is harder for people to remember you or form a relationship with you (or believe you are a real person) without a photo.
3. If you have an advanced degree or certification, include the initials after your last name. For example, “Elizabeth Robbins, JD, MBA” is impressive since the JD quickly connotes a knowledge of the law and the MBA, a sharp business acumen.
4. The space right under your name, or headline, is usually used for a current job title and employer. Use this space to tell people what you’re passionate about now with an eye toward the future. Write a headline that describes the position you want and references your skills. Imagine what keywords a recruiter would type into the search box and what makes you stand out. (For example, “Director of Public Relations and Marketing :: Expert at raising brand awareness and developing partnerships” will catch more eyes than “Director of PR and Marketing.”)
5. For the summary, write your initial text in Word and then cut and paste it into LinkedIn after you have perfected it. Start with a single line of text with your top skills:
Top Skills: Sales Planning | Business Development | Financial Analysis | Retail Planning | Supply Chain Planning
Then, follow your single line of contact information with one to three short paragraphs that describe your skills:
Trusted and creative leader and coach of demand and supply planning with nine years in the food-and-beverage manufacturing space and seven additional years’ experience in information and business systems consulting. Specialties include integrated finance analysis, aggregate demand planning, supply management, business development, and strategic account support. Recognized for building cross-functional partnerships between sales, finance, and operations with vision and ability to inspire and influence others to impact performance optimization, customer value creation, and business excellence.
Finally, end your summary with a single line of text with your contact information:
Dan Reynolds, 555-283-3894, firstname.lastname@example.org
6. For your work experience, include less copy than on your resume with plenty of white space. Instead of bullet points, list your duties in short paragraphs with an eye toward maximum impact and measurable results.
Director, Demand Management
Sep 2015—Jan 2017
1 year 5 months
Portland, Oregon, metropolitan area
I formulated this role in collaboration with the VP of sales to completely re-envision demand planning and control as an integrated process partnering with marketing, sales team, product management, demand management, customer service, and fulfilment.
Only add bullet points that are well-written and concise and include extremely impressive metrics or results.
Led process and systems improvement projects in demand planning, routinely achieving key metrics for forecast accuracy.
Mentored sales team in developing procedures integrating sales, demand planning, and customer service teams in a demand control process to improve inventory availability.
7. If you know key search words that are used in your field, use them. If not, you can research and add them after you have reviewed position announcements and gotten familiar with their vocabulary.
8. If you fear that updating your current profile will alert current employers of your itch to move on, there is always a “Share Profile Changes” switch that you can keep toggled to the left in the “No” position to ensure that your updates are not shared widely with your LinkedIn community. When you are ready to reveal your changes, you can toggle this switch to the right “Yes” position. To ensure that this toggle switch defaults naturally to the left “No” position, go into the “Privacy & Settings” section in your account, click on “Privacy,” and expand the “Manage Active Status” section. You will see the toggle switch and want to double-check that it is indeed toggled to the left.
9. While you are in the Manage Active Status section, you can list specific contacts that you would like to hide your active status from. This is a handy feature if you think your boss is suspicious.
10. A complete LinkedIn profile includes recommendations, ideally from past bosses, colleagues, or clients. LinkedIn recommendations have sometimes replaced written letters of reference.
Networking with LinkedIn
Do you ever wish that you had kept track of an old coworker, like Jennie, who used to watch the clock with you at a mind-numbing temp assignment and would occasionally join you for two-for-one margarita night at the neighborhood dive bar? You heard that she moved to New Jersey and went to law school. Now, your sister-in-law is moving to New Jersey and doesn’t know a soul. You could probably track her down through a mutual friend, but it would take too much time. This scenario is about as up-to-date as an eight-track tape. By adding colleagues and professional acquaintances you care about to LinkedIn, you will always be able to contact them. Unlike a mailing list or old-fashioned Rolodex, the person will update their whereabouts and professional activities.
Both your friends and people in their network become potential resources for you, since you can see both their contacts (second degree) and their contacts’ contacts (third degree). For example, if you have fifty connections and your connections have an average of fifty connections, there would be 2,500 people (third-degree contacts) your friends and colleagues could potentially call on to help you in your networking and job search.
LinkedIn has three functions that help you build a network of people you know.
You can select the high school and colleges you attended, along with the year you graduated. You’ll receive a list of people on LinkedIn from your graduating class. Then, you can decide if you want to invite any of them to be your contacts, either because you want to stay in touch and/or because they work in your field.
You can select past employers by the year you worked for that employer.
You can ask LinkedIn to review your email address book (Outlook, Gmail, etc.) and indicate who is also on LinkedIn.
When you invite someone from your past, write a personalized message rather than the standard default, “I would like to invite you to my LinkedIn Network.” Instead, try something that is both a reminder and engages the reader such as “I see from your profile that we both went on to become social workers. I’m glad to be back in touch.” Or, “Remember me—I’m the one who wrote the two-page memos that were so annoying when we worked at B&G?” You can consider this type of message as rewarming the relationship.
Include friends as well as professional contacts. Even if the person is not in your profession, they may have someone in their network who can be of help. If you remember their name and face, invite them to be in your network. On Facebook, your “friends” have the option of writing derogatory comments on your “wall,” but on LinkedIn the only way contacts can post anything negative about you is to comment on one of your posts, which you can delete if necessary.
You have met and had positive interactions with hundreds of people who would like to help you network and find a new job, but they can’t help you if you lose touch or don’t keep them updated on your professional needs. So why resist this goodwill tool for letting your network be of service, often in surprising ways? While it’s true that LinkedIn is not the warmest, most engaging social media platform, it can be useful in exploring your network for who knows whom at specific organizations or in certain fields that you are researching.
While LinkedIn offers training videos and a help function, you may want additional guidance. I recommend attending a LinkedIn workshop and reading social networking handbooks.
Kristin Schuchman, MSW is a career counselor based in Portland, Oregon who works with creative and mission-driven professionals. She writes resumes and coaches individuals seeking support for career indecision, next steps, work re-entry, advancement, and work-life-balance. She offers a free 30-minute Zoom or phone session and presently works with clients remotely. Find out more at www.sparkacareer.com.