To help you get the most out of LinkedIn, here are 10+ tips for creating a profile that will help you achieve your career goals.
1. Consider your name. Will you be Thomas G. Brown, Tom G. Brown or Thomas Grant Brown? Before you even go to LinkedIn to sign up, do an internet search on various forms of your name and see what turns up. You want a clean, unique identity so you won’t be mistaken for anyone else. You may want to use the name most people know you by. If people call you Beth, consider using that instead of Elizabeth.
2. Do upload a photo or other image of yourself. Use a good head-and-shoulders photo of yourself in business clothes. Smile and look approachable. If you’re concerned about age discrimination, invest in a really good professional photographer and tell them to make you look as young as possible. There’s a lot they can do with lighting. A good LinkedIn photo is not a frill, it’s essential.
3. Use the Professional Headline to your advantage. You’ve got 220 characters (including spaces) to brand yourself and communicate some of your key selling points. Don’t just use the default, which consists of your title and current company. When updating your current job, deselect the “Update my headline” box, or LinkedIn will automatically give you the default.
4. Write an engaging About section. Introduce yourself in first person–using the word “I.” Share something about what you love about your work and what motivates you. This is also an important section for keywords to boost your search rankings, so add a list of your core competencies. Whatever you do, keep in mind that only the first three lines of the About section show up, unless the reader clicks for more. What do you most want people to notice about you? Start with that.
5. Write full, compelling descriptions for your Experience section. Emphasize accomplishments. How did you make a difference? Include the most important keywords for your occupation and industry.
6. Be complete. Fill out every section, unless you have a strategic reason not to do so.
7. Request recommendations. This is one of the most powerful and underutilized aspects of LinkedIn. Why not have supervisors and other management VIPs, clients, co-workers, teachers (if you’re a student) and others singing your praises? In an increasingly review-driven online world, recommendations boost your credibility. Don’t just hope for recommendations–ask for them.
8. Get help from a career professional, or at least a skilled proofreader. Very few of us can write a profile without any typos, grammatical errors or incorrect punctuation. You wouldn’t want to have a messy spot on your collar at a business event, would you? Don’t have one on your profile.
9. Understand the Privacy and Security Settings. Visit this section via the dropdown menu under the tiny photo of you at the upper right-hand corner of the profile. For many people the default settings are just fine; others will want to control how much of their information and updates are visible and broadcasted to their contacts.
10. Customize your URL. A cumbersome URL like “www.linkedin.com/put/your-name/17/525/527” looks a bit clueless. It’s easy to get a concise URL like this: www.linkedin.com/in/theakelley. Here’s how.
IMPORTANT BONUS TIP!
Don’t stop after filling out your profile! Explore. Keep learning. Much has been written, and is still being discovered, about effective use of this powerful networking tool, and these tips are only a start.
This article was originally published in 2013 and has been updated.