The Ultimate Guide to Creating a Professional LinkedIn Profile Creating a Professional and Marketable LinkedIn Profile
Kristan J. Wheaton (Kris) is a professor of intelligence studies at Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pennsylvania. He is a retired Foreign Area Officer with the US Army who specializes in national security matters, analytic methods, intelligence communications, game-based learning and intelligence support to entrepreneurs. He is the recipient of the CIA Seal Medallion and the State Department’s Superior Honor Award and is a member of the South Carolina Bar.
Shannon Lee has been trying out this writing thing for over 20 years – and after a dozen novels, thousands of articles and millions of words written, she might have finally gotten the hang of it. For the past several years, her professional writing has focused on education-related topics. With two children in college and one in preschool, she has a personal interest in the entire educational spectrum. When she’s not writing, she’s hanging out in the garden or whipping up a new recipe for her family to enjoy.
LinkedIn is the ultimate social network for business professionals who want to make connections, stay in the loop with others in their field and keep reaching toward greater success in their chosen professions. In fact, 80 percent of all LinkedIn users cite professional networking as one of the keys to their career success. With more than 562 million users in the pool of LinkedIn talent, it’s no surprise that 87 percent of all recruiters use the site as a powerful tool for finding great job candidates.
That success begins with the professional and marketable LinkedIn profile. This guide provides everything necessary to get started, including tips on creating a stellar profile, finding the right connections, using the platform appropriately and making that profile stand out from the crowd. Here’s how you can make the most of LinkedIn.
Why Should You Be on LinkedIn?
There are several reasons why, but for now, we’ll let the numbers do the talking.
46 million LinkedIn users are students or recent college graduates.
Looking for an international opportunity? A full 70 percent of LinkedIn users are from outside the U.S.
LinkedIn is home to over 562 million users in over 200 countries and territories across the world.
Those with higher-paying jobs tend to be drawn to LinkedIn. 45 percent of individuals making over $75,000 per year use LinkedIn.
37 percent of all millionaires in the U.S. used LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is growing at the rate of two new sign-ups per second.
The average CEO on LinkedIn has about 930 connections.
Seeking a good job? LinkedIn provides impressive visibility: Nine out of 10 recruiters turn to LinkedIn when looking for job candidates.
Step-By-Step: Crafting an Effective LinkedIn Profile
Everything on LinkedIn begins with the profile. There are many parts to creating a great one; here’s how to do it, as well as some tips to keep in mind.
While filling out the demographic information, LinkedIn will ask about current employment status. Those who are unemployed might consider using phrases like “currently looking for employment opportunities” or “advertising student seeking challenging employment opportunities.” This shows forward thinking and optimism for the future.
Use a photo that is at least 200x200 pixels; anything less and it will appear distorted and blurry. Remember that those who add a high-quality photo to their profile get 21 times more profile views and up to 36 times more messages than those who keep the boilerplate look.
Finally, perhaps drop the summary and any other paragraphs throughout the profile into an online checker, such as Hemingway or Grammarly, to review anything you might have missed.
How to Optimize Your Profile for Better Search Visibility
All web content is driven by Search Engine Optimization, also known as SEO. Though the intricacies of SEO can be difficult to understand, what matters to those creating a good LinkedIn profile boils down to one aspect of SEO: keywords.
What are keywords?
Keywords are certain terms that are of great significance within a certain context. For example, someone who has a computer science degree might optimize their profile by using keywords that focus on computers, such as “programming” or “software” or “coding.” Someone with a degree in nursing might focus on “medical” or “healthcare” or “patient care.”
What can keywords do?
Keywords will make a profile appear higher in searches. That’s important—many job recruiters look for specific keywords when seeking out applicants for jobs. They might rely on applicant tracking systems, which in turn rely heavily on keywords specific to a particular industry. The tracking system will look at the skills and experience listed in a person’s profile; those with the appropriate keywords will rank higher on the list that the recruiter will eventually see.
How should I use keywords?
Keywords should be used judiciously throughout the profile—but this is a case where a little goes a long way. Carefully placed keywords at the beginning, middle and end of a profile are great. Try not to use exact keywords more than three or four times for every 500 words. It’s also important to use similar keywords in addition to the exact keyword. For instance, if a good exact keyword is “leadership” related keywords might include “management” or “team leader” or simply “leader.”
What are the best keywords?
That depends on the profession. Each profession has certain clear keywords that will be sought after by most recruiters; for example, civil engineers might expect to include keywords like AutoCAD, project manager, PMP and the like. Accountants can expect to use keywords like accounting, QuickBooks, financial services, etc.
The key to using great keywords is to look at what recruiters are noticing. To figure this out, do a job search for a certain keyword, such as “principal.” Then do a keyword on “education administrator” or “secondary school administrator.” Each will yield different results. These keywords essentially mean the same thing; they’re just stating the position in unique ways.
The best keywords will be those that not only match up with what recruiters are looking for, but that also match your skill set. Look at each potential keyword—such as “accountant”—and figure out how to weave similar keywords into the summary and experience, such as “financial advisor” “provided financial advice” or “finance expert.”
Final Steps: Making a Memorable LinkedIn Profile
With so many people on LinkedIn, all trying to get noticed for career advancement, job prospects, building connections and more, how can a person stand out from the crowd? Here are a few tips.
Making Your Profile Stand Out
By following all these tips, you’ve already got a great profile. Now add that little something extra to push it over the top. Here are a few ways to do so.Add a video to your profile.
Create a video that showcases who you are and what you do, then upload it to a sharing site and post the URL to LinkedIn. Make note that it’s a place where connections can learn more about you and encourage them to click!Add publications.
Written anything good lately? Professional writings, especially those that wind up in journals dedicated to your field or those that make it into high profile publications should be showcased on LinkedIn. There’s even a section for exactly that.Create a portfolio.
If you have a broad body of work that doesn’t easily lend itself to explanation—such as a portfolio for an artist, songwriter or anyone else in the creative side of things—a link to a professional portfolio can allow connections to learn more about what you do.
Common LinkedIn Pitfalls & How to Avoid Them
It’s important to know what to do to make the profile stand out, but it’s equally important to know what NOT to do. Here are some common pitfalls to avoid.Treating LinkedIn like other social media.
LinkedIn is for professionals—period. “Blasting out a million connection requests to people you don’t know, joining a group and immediately asking for help, trolling on posts like this is Facebook or Twitter—these are all the hallmarks of someone who doesn’t know or want to know how to use LinkedIn for professional development,” Wheaton said. “There is a lower tolerance for nonsense on LinkedIn. No one is there to waste time.”Skipping the personalization.
LinkedIn is all about networking, and that requires a bit of a personal connection—so never skip an opportunity to personalize a connection request or message. Sending out a request without a touch of personality can easily tarnish a good reputation.Not spending enough time on the site.
“Getting the most out of LinkedIn is a process,” Wheaton said. “If you think that you can join and it will magically change your life or your prospects, you are likely mistaken. It is part of your professional development and, just like anything, will take some work to get something out of it. What I have found is that the more I use it, the more useful it becomes to me.”Not following up.
When someone provides an introduction, helps you get a job interview, answers your request for advice or otherwise takes an interest in how things are going for you, circle back and let them know how the situation turned out. Thank them for opening the door to that great job, let them know how their advice helped you, or simply tell them you appreciate the time they took to make introductions on your behalf.
What Does Success Look Like on LinkedIn?
When a person has followed every possible direction for a great profile, checked all the to-do and don’t lists and made every little tweak and adjustment—then what? How do they know when they have created a successful profile?
A profile is successful when the views start piling up, the introductions roll in, comments increase on whatever you post, and recruiters are getting in touch to ask what they can do for you. Success might very well look like a great promotion, but sometimes it’s subtler, such as connecting with a colleague who then introduces you to a great source of mentoring or getting in touch with alumni from your old school who are now ready and willing to help you spread your wings. Professional development is a constant dance that keeps you moving forward, so celebrate the little successes along the way to that big one—that dream job!
13 Professionals Who Nailed Their LinkedIn Profile
Want to see who’s doing it well? Check out these profiles:
This top-notch recruiter near Austin, Texas is reaching out to those who might be interested in working for Facebook. He regularly updates his profile, succinctly explains his experience and has a perfectly professional photo.
This is a great example of a CEO profile, one that includes a multitude of recommendations (both given and received) and an impressive employment history. The summary is in third person, which doesn’t work for everyone, but he manages to pull it off and still found quite professional.
The “relentlessly helpful technical copywriter” has a profile that includes loads of activity, skills and endorsements, many glowing recommendations and more than a few accomplishments, all serving to enhance and solidify his brand.
In addition to a catchy headline, Jason has expertly woven keywords galore into his summary, so that he’s bound to be at the top of the list when anyone searches for someone with his expertise.
Looking for an example of excellent integration of video and other media? This is it. Brian’s profile is a feast for the eyes that provides a very in-depth look at who he is and what he can do.
She’s a recruiter who tells her story, pulling connections in with a personal slant. She’s got hundreds of endorsements and lots of interests that help her connect with like-minded individuals.
Her summary is an attractive list of contact information, making it clear she’s all about networking. This marketing manager and strategist offers an impressive list of employment, including bulleted descriptions of what she can do. A list of strong accomplishments rounds out her profile.
She tells stories for her clients, but she also tells her own through a mesmerizing mix of media options, impressive experience and summary, recommendations and an all-around engaging profile.
Her summary is bulleted, a bold move that immediately establishes her as a risk-taker. She’s active in various groups, touts lots of accomplishments and comes across as approachable and friendly.
This is an example of subtle humor used to create an eye-catching profile. Bryan is great at a lot of things, including drums, video games, coffee and the ever-important breathing. He’s also included some interesting videos.
With a headline that makes you look twice, Scott gets attention right off the bat. He keeps up the interest with a short yet engaging summary that serves as an example of keyword mastery.
In addition to publications in highly-respected outlets, Tim offers many ways to connect and has regular office hours for discussion. He also uses hashtags in his headline and profile, demonstrating his media savvy.
The confidence shines through in Tor’s profile, where he teases the secrets of his success. Though he hasn’t gone into much detail about his experience (as of this writing), his summary is enough to get him a second (and third) look.
Getting Social: Additional Resources for Professional Social Media Use
Social media is increasingly popular as a way to find a great new job, move up the career ladder or even jump into a new profession! But in order to make the most of each platform, it’s vital to know how to use it. These resources for social media networks can help anyone get started on an exciting future: