Every second of every day, all around the world, college students, job seekers, military veterans, and professionals are joining LinkedIn, the largest online business networking platform. Maybe you’ve resisted building an online profile because you:
- Fear being so “public” with your skills, military background, and information
- Worry about who might want to connect with you online
- Don’t know how to get started building a public image
As a LinkedIn user, there are significant professional advantages to being visible, findable, and directing your personal brand on the platform, including:
- Access to influencers, decision makers, and information sources you might never cross paths with otherwise.
- Ability to promote and manage your personal brand to target audiences.
- Access to information, insight, and industry content through individual updates, articles, group feeds, and discussion boards.
Creating Your LinkedIn Profile
Your profile on LinkedIn is NOT your resume. Think of LinkedIn as a mini-website, with where you can tell your story, create a relationship with your contacts and network, and make yourself findable to others. You should enter your previous work experience (military and other), volunteer activities, and other pertinent information about your experience, but that’s not all. Here are three areas I’d suggest you focus on in particular:
- Profile Photo: Be sure to include a current photo of your face (or shoulder level and above) to let your contacts see who you are. LinkedIn states that profiles with a photo get 21 times more views than those that don’t have a photo, or those that use an obscure picture (dog, cat, mountain, or logo). Online studies show that using a forward-facing photo of a human being attracts the eyes of readers first. Consider how you want to be perceived: Do you want to come across as friendly, approachable, and confident? Then show a straight-on photograph of you smiling. Building a more exclusive and sophisticated reputation? Then perhaps your profile picture shows you wearing a tailored business suit and looking off to the distance.
- Tagline/Headline: When you sign up for a LinkedIn account, you can add a tagline, series of words, or phrase as your “headline”. Use the allotted 120 characters, to make a statement about who you are, what you can offer, and what your target audience needs to know about you. Instead of, “Senior Manager, XYZ Healthcare Company,” try “Healthcare executive passionate about creating exceptional patient experiences.” Or instead of, “Veteran seeking first civilian job,” perhaps “Enthusiastic veteran looking to bring creative solutions to publishing industry.”
- Summary: This is the section where you really get to tell your story. Don’t pull the “objective” off your resume and post it here. Help your target audience get to know who you are, what you are passionate about, the experience you have, and how that’s relevant to what they’re looking for. Be specific and clear.
Your Summary should definitely include keywords that will help the search-ability of your LinkedIn profile. If you are going into personal branding, for instance, and you use the word “marketing” often, you will be hard to find. A quick LinkedIn search for “marketing” returned over 42 million profiles.
Instead, use narrower search words. Using “personal branding” as the filter, for instance, returns more targeted results. That makes you more findable to people looking for someone with those skills and talents.
LinkedIn has many bells and whistles to engage, collaborate, and learn from your online networks. Go slowly, and intentionally to build a profile that returns the results you seek.