I don’t have to tell you that there is a lot of “noise” out there in social media land, and getting noticed is becoming more challenging by the day. If you are a job seeker who has just started your search, it is likely that you are already feeling overwhelmed with everything that is available to you both online and from in-person networking events.
Job seekers receive all sorts of guidance including conflicting—and often contradictory–advice regarding their resumes, cover letters, and interviewing strategies. One area in which most of the counsel is fairly consistent, however, is the advice surrounding LinkedIn. The consensus is that you must have a LinkedIn profile, and it needs to be stellar to stand out from the crowd.
For a lot of people, LinkedIn is an embarrassing little secret. Most professionals know about LinkedIn and have an account because they have been told that they need to have one. No one has taken the time to explain to them WHY they need an account, however. As a result, there are a lot of incomplete profiles populating LinkedIn Land.
Here is what you need to know beyond all doubt: If you have been lucky enough to make it through the Applicant Tracking System and a real human being is looking at your resume, one of the first things he or she will do is take a look at your LinkedIn profile. If you don’t have it ready for “prime time,” you will likely lose the opportunity to get the coveted call for an interview.
Here Are 4 Things You Must Do To Make Your LinkedIn Profile Memorable:
1. Have a professional looking photo.
You don’t necessarily need a professional photographer to take your photograph, but it should be a head shot that is a) well lit; b) has you looking into the camera and smiling; c) shows your face; and d) doesn’t look like you cropped yourself out of a group shot. If you can afford it, I believe it is worth the investment to have the headshot done professionally, but if funds are tight, at least take the time to put some thought and effort into your photo.
If you don’t have a fantastic headshot, you will never get a serious look. This may sound unfair, but the fact is that we human beings are visual creatures. We want to see you. If we are considering hiring you, we want you to look professional, competent, and likable! It is tough trying to convey all of that in one photograph, but it is required, so don’t whine about it…just do it! For help, seek out anonymous feedback from Photofeeler.com. Take several shots and upload them for reviews (it’s free). Choose a shot that you are proud of and you won’t mind having all over the Internet because that is where it will land.
2. Choose your LinkedIn headline carefully.
The “headline” is the space beneath your name. The conventional wisdom is that you should use keywords that convey what you know how to do and what you want to be doing moving forward in your career. Don’t concentrate so much on what you have done in the past. Concentrate instead on your future self. Choose keywords that are likely to be searched by recruiters, hiring managers and Human Resource Directors. For those who are looking to distinguish themselves however, you might consider a branding statement that does the same thing but states the group you specialize in helping or how you solve a particular problem. For example, my headline says, “Career Transition Coach | I help individuals who are at a career crossroads find careers that are perfect for them.” Depending upon your particular field, you may want to consider a similar problem-solving statement. Otherwise, opt for strong keywords that convey what you do and in what areas you are a specialist. Look at other headlines of individuals who do work you want to be doing to get a sense of what you might include in yours.
3. Make sure you have a customized URL.
Nothing screams LinkedIn “newbie” quite like not having a customized LinkedIn URL. Creating a customized URL is easy to do, and if you don’t take advantage of the opportunity, you wind up with a LinkedIn URL that looks like this: linkedin.com/in/kittyboitnott34027caebe0r4. What you want is the URL with your name as you can be found on LinkedIn. In some instances, if you have a name that other people also have, your name may have been taken, and you will be offered alternatives. Choose one that makes sense for you. Even if you have a URL that has numbers in it, it won’t be the mess that your original URL is. To change your LinkedIn assigned URL, hover your computer’s mouse over it, and when you are asked if you would like to customize your URL, say “yes,” and follow the directions.
4. Make your “Summary” section personal, authentic, and about your professional journey.
Besides the area where you have your photo, your headline, and your customized URL, the section where you can make yourself memorable to the casual scanner or the interested HR Director is your “Summary” section. Don’t make the mistake of making this section sound sterile or too much like a repeat of your resume. You should take advantage of the opportunity to use your own, “real” voice and describe yourself and your professional journey in this section. Write in first person, and write a narrative that will help paint a picture of who you are in professional terms. Describe your successes and achievements. Quantify them where you can, but also be personal. Authenticity is a key ingredient when creating a memorable profile, so provide photographs, artifacts, video, and so on that might add interest and make your profile stand out. Use the entire section to promote yourself! Think of it as a way to make a great online impression, so don’t skimp, and don’t undervalue the opportunity you have here to make yourself memorable.
LinkedIn may have over 400 million users worldwide, but many of them haven’t cracked the code on how to optimize their profiles yet. For proof, note the number of profiles with no profile photo and wasted pleas for help with “In Transition” or “Seeking a New Professional Opportunity” in their headlines. Note the number of people who haven’t customized their URLs or optimized their “Summary” sections.
Don’t be one of the lackluster users of LinkedIn. Make yourself memorable, and even after you have landed your next great job, keep your profile updated, and stay connected with your professional community through Groups. Endorse your colleagues and offer recommendations. You will receive endorsement and recommendations as a result.
You never know when someone may be on the look out for someone with your particular set of skills and experience. Your LinkedIn profile could make the difference between your being considered for a wonderful opportunity or being overlooked because you didn’t take full advantage of the opportunity LinkedIn provides. If you need help with your LinkedIn profile, help is always just a click away. Seek out the advice and expertise of those who have learned how to optimize LinkedIn as a professional online resource. It could well be worth the investment.
Kitty Boitnott, Ph.D., NBCT, RScP is a Career Makeover Coach who helps individuals find work that is perfect for them. She specializes in working with teachers who are burnt out and ready for a change, but she also works with mid-career professionals who find themselves ready to make a move that will feel more professionally fulfilling. Learn more about her here.
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