7 ways to build a stronger LinkedIn profile

leverage the power of your social network to advance your career

No matter who you are or where you are on your career path, your professional social media matters. Fortunately, in 7 easy steps you can make LinkedIn a powerful tool in your job hunt and a sustained boost to your online presence.

LinkedIn remains the top social media site for professional networking and is becoming increasingly important for job hunting and networking at the executive level. LinkedIn profiles also rank very high on search results, so a complete and strategically crafted profile can elevate your online presence. Despite these facts, 90% of people don’t fully utilize the power of their profile, so you can really stand out from the crowd by making a few simple moves.

Photo by Bruce Mars

Although LinkedIn is free, there are paid versions of this social media tool that are used by recruiters and power-networkers. You are not likely to need the paid version and you can do everything I’m about to describe using the basic, free version.

create a strong professional profile with these steps

1. get customized

Your URL is how you introduce yourself on your social network.

Each LinkedIn user is automatically assigned a unique (but not very memorable) URL. It’s easy and common to change this URL to something more personal, like your name. Having your name in your LinkedIn URL can elevate your profile in the results of Internet search tools. In fact, everything in your profile can help or hurt your search result placement, so be sure to complete all of the steps I’ve recommended below.

Having a customized URL also leaves a positive impression; non-customized URLs are for n00bs and Luddites.

Each LinkedIn user is also automatically assigned a headline that is based on your current job title. It’s not as common but just as easy to change your headline to something more eye-catching, informative, or accurate. Your headline is highly visible in your Internet search results and your LinkedIn search results — use that space to communicate your unique brilliance!

2. go public

LinkedIn will allow you to control how you look to people who are not signed in, and how your profile looks to search engines (e.g. Google, Bing). LinkedIn is a professional networking tool so, in my mind, all of your information should be fully accessible except for perhaps your contact information. If you have a strong reason to keep some elements of your profile private, LinkedIn allows you to limit who can see individual sections or your whole profile.

Leaving the door open invites opportunities you may not have encountered otherwise.

If you have a strong reason to keep some elements of your profile private, LinkedIn allows you to limit who can see individual sections or your whole profile.

3. include (nearly) everything

If you have ever worked with me you’ll know how much I emphasize curating and customizing your resume for each application package. On your LinkedIn, however, I give the opposite advice: include (nearly) every job.

» Recruiters will search LinkedIn for people with specific experiences or who have worked for specific companies; you do not want to miss out on being scouted because you have an incomplete online profile.

» Professionals will use LinkedIn to reconnect with former coworkers, classmates, and colleagues in their field. The more complete your profile is the more likely you are to get connected – and stay connected – with your professional network.

I say nearly every job. The only jobs you may want to leave out are those that would work against you. For example, that place you worked for a week and a half and then quit (or were fired)? Probably not useful.

4. be descriptive

The people who read your LinkedIn profile — most especially recruiters — aren’t only interested in your job titles and companies. Your description matters, too. Don’t miss the opportunity to leverage the full power of your job description. Focus on your actions, impact, and results; your responsibilities are less important than your successes, accomplishments, and what value you brought to your company/team.

Whenever possible, rewrite your description to include keywords you know people (recruiters, potential collaborators, influencers) might search for. That leads into the next step…

5. leverage keywords

Make a list of the keywords others might use to search for people with your expertise and experience. Apply those words wherever appropriate in your bio and job descriptions. Then use those keywords to start building out your Skills section. Include the words you know recruiters, employers, and collaborators would use. Search other relevant LinkedIn profiles to source additional keywords.

In addition to your bio, job description, and skills section, you can also add any professional credentials (license/certificate) and associations (organizations/memberships) to your profile. Use keywords in the descriptions of these elements to further boost your visibility in searches.

6. get connected

How you make connections on LinkedIn will depend on why you are making connections. The LinkedIn company recommends you only connect with people you know professionally —  people with whom you have direct contact and a working relationship. This is one end of the network spectrum. At the other end is open networking, wherein you might connect with anyone who asks or who seems interesting to you. Neither approach is right or wrong; go with what seems right to you.

If your goal, though, is primarily to increase your visibility to other LinkedIn users and to Internet search tools, then you’ll want to have the largest possible network of connections. The algorithms that determine your search ranking are not based on how complete your profile is, but rather how many contacts/connections you have. Simply put, the more connections you have the more connections you are likely to make. I generally advise you to make every possible connection on LinkedIn (within reason) to boost your position in search results.

7. engage in the community

Once you have a strong profile you’ll want to share that profile with the world. Post status updates regularly and, if you blog/vlog, share your own content. Share relevant (professional) news and opinion pieces along with your own commentary. These actions all keep your name in the conversation and in front of your network’s eyes.

Photo by Tribesh Kayastha

Send congratulations when someone starts a new job, gets promoted, or earns an achievement. Expand your network with new connections. Like, comment, and share others’ posts when relevant to your professional identity. Write recommendations for coworkers and partners who really shine; you may just get a positive recommendation back. Be a good citizen and support others.

Ask for recommendations when you feel comfortable doing so (it’s a great time to ask when you have finished working with a client on a project that went especially well, or when a coworker leaves your team for another role). Do not simply say “can you write me a recommendation?” — be specific:

» Remember how I solved [some problem] by [innovative solution]? Would you be willing to share that in your own words as a recommendation on LinkedIn?

» I’m looking for a recommendation for [skill/ability/task] to update my LinkedIn profile. You have experience with me in that area; would you be willing to write a positive recommendation about my abilities?

» This project went really well, and I have enjoyed working with you. I’d love to have a client’s perspective as part of my LinkedIn profile. Would you be willing to write a little bit about your experience working together?

Don’t worry too much about what people might say; you have the ability to review and hide recommendations that aren’t useful to you. I recommend curating your recommendations to show mostly current comments and from a variety of sources (peer, team leader, client). You can even cycle your recommendations to share different ones from time to time.

If you have trouble asking then focus first on providing recommendations for others (without waiting to be asked). LinkedIn will ask them if they’d like to recommend you back, and some will. You can be strategic in your approach and provide recommendations to people you would most like to write a recommendation for you.

make linkedin work for you

LinkedIn has become my digital rolodex. (If you don’t know what that is, ask an old person.) This is the place I go to find the contact information for my professional connections (if we don’t email or call regularly). It is also my go-to spot for finding out where people work.

When you get ready to apply for internships or jobs, a strong LinkedIn profile and network of connections can help move you to the top of the interview list even where no open positions have been advertised.

now you can use these tips to maximize your chances!

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