LinkedIn, like many things, is only as useful as you make it. If you set up a bare-bones profile with the least amount of information possible, don’t expect tons of new leads and job opportunities! Think about your LinkedIn profile as if it was your company’s website; you need to make the important information easily accessed and digested. This guide will give you a thorough walkthrough on building your LinkedIn profile.
First, let’s start with two basic principles: Completeness and Conciseness:
LinkedIn will harass you to complete your profile. It is the primary factor that helps people be found on LinkedIn. Completeness is a prerequisite for any (free) visibility for your profile. As a rule, if you can put ANYTHING in a field, you should.
People aren’t looking for your full autobiography, just a quick overview of your career achievements and history. Nobody goes on social media to read novels. On top of that, there’s a limit to how many characters LinkedIn will display for any given field, so learning to keep your titles and descriptions within those limits can make your profile a much more attractive read. Here’s some character limits for the most important fields on your profile:
Name: 60 character limit.
Professional Headline: 120 character limit.
Summary: 2,000 character limit.
Company Name: 100 character limit.
Job Title: 100 character limit.
Position Description: 200 minimum and 2000 character limit.
Personal Interests: 1,000 character limit.
Skills and Endorsements: Up to 25 skills using 61 characters per skill.
Everyone knows that LinkedIn is a professional network, but the implications of this aren’t always so obvious. Just because the site is used for work, doesn’t mean that your profile can’t be personal and fun – it should have personality! Your profile should be a combination of who you are as a person and what position/company you represent. Your LinkedIn profile should be a sort of balance between personal authenticity and professional expectation.
Imagine your profile as a brand or product. You want people to “buy” the idea of you as a professional. For instance, if you’re a CEO, your profile photo will likely be in a full suit whereas an artist or creative director who did the same wouldn’t be as trusted in their industry. Your profile should represent your industry only so far as it is necessary to convince people within it that you are serious about what you do. Beyond that, your personal experiences, approaches, and insights are what position you as a leader in that industry.
So, let’s get into building your profile! These suggestions will help showcase you as a leader in your industry.
Name, Headline, Picture, and Contact
The first visible section of your profile, the information here is the most likely to be searched by someone on the platform, and should remain as informational as possible.
- Name: If you need help with this, you’re hopeless.
- Headline: This should always start with your currently held title. Following that, if you’re interested in driving more search visibility, you can add descriptors after your position that include keywords related to your industry.
- Short Example: “Director of Marketing at Boucher + Co.”
- Extended Example: “Director of Marketing at Boucher + Co. | Content & Branding Expert Obsessed With Creating Brands A Voice”
- Contact: Your email should be a current business address, while company should be your brand’s company page. Beyond that, feel free to provide any contact you’d be willing to have any of your accepted connections see.
- Pro Tip: Selecting “Other” in the dropdown for websites will allow you to name your link yourself (so “Company Website” can instead say something like “Boucher + Co. Website”)
- Picture: Your profile picture should be a recognizable picture of you that represents the professionalism and personality of your position/personal brand. Don’t feel obligated to be wearing business clothes in front of a white wall but don’t use a shirtless picture from a vacation, something with another person in it, etc.
- Side Note: Your background image can have your company branding in it, but don’t use a logo for your profile.
Summary and Experience
This is the primary thing people come to look for on LinkedIn, so you’ll want to put some time into these. In addition to the character counts listed above, here’s a few things to think about:
- Summary: Summary is a great space to communicate the language of your position/industry. Find a place between the necessary skills of your profession, and the voice that makes you worth hiring over someone with a similar profile.
- Experience: Unlike the summary, experience is more about information than about you. Fit in as many skills, impressive accomplishments, notable clients, and responsibilities as you can in a short space.
- Note: While there is a formal skills section later on in the profile, noting explicitly what you gained, practiced, and used for a given position will make it much easier for recruiters, clients, or partners to know your capabilities. Think of experience as a supplement to skills, rather than just a reiteration of them.
The ‘Summary’ and ‘Experience’ boxes are the best place to fit a bunch of keywords that people may search for when looking for a professional like you. Try to work these terms and keywords in naturally to your descriptions.
If you want some ideas for what keywords to use, a great way to find these is to look at profiles or job listings for your position find words that occur frequently across all of them, and you’ll have a rough idea of the sort of words you should be working in.
Skills and Endorsements
The most important thing to note here is that you’re limited to a total of 25 skills, so it’s important to only list skills that directly relate to the work you want to be doing and actually do. A great way to find what to put here is to look up the profiles of people who have a position comparable to one step up from you. This will show you what skills are considered important for your position, and also what skills can set apart workers from each level of a company.
After you’ve selected your skills you’ll need endorsements. The Golden Rule very much applies here. LinkedIn provides notifications whenever you receive an endorsement, so it is not unusual to receive endorsements in return for endorsing others. Likewise, if someone endorses you, make sure to return the favor.
Next you’ll need recommendations. These are one of the most powerful sections on the LinkedIn profile. Written by other users, recommendations place the weight of someone else’s profile behind yours. Also, LinkedIn’s search highly prefers profiles with recommendations against those that don’t. An easy way to get these may be trading them with people in your company, or offering to write one for a friend/client in return for writing one for them.
- Quick Note: You don’t want to spam your recommendations section with recommendations from only one company. Stick to one or two coworkers recommendations, having tons from one company looks forced, rather than authentic.
If you’ve completed this much, you already have more than half of the profiles on LinkedIn. The rest is easy to fill out and can help set you apart.
Projects: This one is important. Few people fill this out, but this section is very attractive to read, holds a lot of information, and gives you lots of room to showcase specific attributes and experience of yourself as a worker. If at all possible, try to have at least one, and fill it out as much as you can.
Volunteer Work: Even if you don’t have experience, list yourself as interested in certain causes and make yourself available for “Pro bono professional services and consulting.” It looks good for your personal brand, and you’ll likely never actually be contacted for it. On the flip side, if you want to work with/for a nonprofit, this is a section they’ll definitely want to see filled out.
Interests: Try to make yourself look unique and interesting – surely you are anyways! If possible, work in activities that involve a lot of self learning. Don’t fill this area with business related things though, nobody wants to hire a robot. Show some authenticity, earn some trust.
Awards & Certificates: If nowhere else, this is where you can brag a bit. Add descriptions to your achievements and awards to highlight skills, particular advantages of your programs, and personal accomplishments. If you have a certification list it – the more the merrier. Brag, brag, and brag again!
Influencers and Companies: Follow a bunch. Be mindful of your brand and make sure they all fit. Who are leaders in your industry? What companies are leading the way? Have you liked your own company’s page yet? This is a great way to show your taste as a professional.
Groups: While not technically part of the profile, groups are important to visibility. Join groups related to your industry. Even if you never post in these groups, being a part of them improves ranking. However, participating in groups doesn’t require a lot of effort and helps boost your profile. Posting original content once a week usually gets you a top contributor position quickly.
How To Use The Platform
The last part is actually using LinkedIn! Here are some of the least effort, highest return ways to improve your LinkedIn visibility.
Choose a group focus on one group and post or comment everything other day. You may actually learn a bunch about your field, and it usually doesn’t take much effort to become a top contributor in a group.
Post updates these are similar to statuses but should be business related, and support your personal brand. This is also a great space to share stuff from your company’s social media, website, press coverage, etc.
Grow your network because LinkedIn limits connections for free users (3000 invites, 30,000 connections) it is important to make sure that you don’t haphazardly accept or send out invitations. However, try to have some consist growth happening with your connections, even if it’s slight.
Keep your profile up to date post new publications, projects, awards, positions, etc. Your profile defaults to a setting that posts profile changes to your network, and this is a primary way to help build the appearance of yourself as a mover and shaker in your industry.