The Ultimate Guide to Creating a Professional LinkedIn Profile Creating a Professional and Marketable LinkedIn Profile

LinkedIn is the digital gathering place for today’s serious professionals. Creating a professional and marketable LinkedIn profile is the first step toward making meaningful connections and paving the pathway to success. Here’s how to make the most of LinkedIn.

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Kristian J. Wheaton

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

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.

Start with the Basics

When creating a profile, make sure the email address is one you often check; this is vital to ensure receipt of connection requests, messages and more. Basic demographic information, such as location, is self-explanatory. Be sure to add a phone number—the more ways a connection or potential employer has to get in touch, the better! It's also possible to begin adding contacts at this early stage of the game by allowing LinkedIn to access your email contact list.
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.

Choose Account Type

This is where you must make a choice between the Basic LinkedIn experience, which is free, or the Premium option, which provides many more features but costs a fee. Within the Premium option, there are several other options to choose from, including Professional, Jobseeker and more. Each has a different price point and offers different benefits. Think about your intended use of LinkedIn when choosing the account type that's best for your situation; remember that each offers a one-month free trial, so it's possible to cancel if it turns out the first choice wasn't the best one.

Add a Photo

When it comes to photos on LinkedIn, professional is the name of the game. Add a professional headshot or one that simply looks that way—sometimes even a photograph taken with a smartphone is professional enough to use. However, there is reason to look toward professional headshots first; those with a photo taken by a pro get 14 times more views than those with a ho-hum pic.
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.

Talk about Experience

For jobseekers, this is where the juice is—so make sure the experience listed reflects everything you can do. You can import a resume, or you can choose to add each position manually. Many will begin by importing a resume and then tweaking each position to add more content, optimize with keywords and make it all more readable than the typical dry, bare bones resume might be. Always list the employment experience starting with the most current.

Time for Skills!

Shoot for a bare minimum of five skills; the more listed, the better. You can currently add up to 50 skills. Those who have at least five skills on their profile are contacted 33 times more often by recruiters and other LinkedIn members, and receive 17 times more profile views. Make a point of listing skills in the order of proficiency and expertise; those skills are used to connect jobseekers with recruiters and other connections, so it's important to keep the most highly-honed skills front and center.

A Nod to Education

When including education, be sure to include all schools attended; this will allow for easier connections with old classmates, alumni groups and the like. In addition, include any education that wasn't necessarily through a university or college, such as a corporate training seminar or a certification earned through an organization or association related to your field. [/accordion-item [accordion-item title="Summarize it All"] Writing a summary can be tricky. Here are a few points to keep in mind when writing the best possible summary to get the most attention: [list-item]Don't be afraid to show personality! A whopping 40 percent of recruiters will love a peek into your attitude.[/list-item] [list-item]Make sure it's at least 40 words; this makes it more likely to show up in searches.[/list-item] [list-item]Drop a note about specialties in there, as those keywords will show up in searches too.[/list-item] [list-item]Talk about experience, but talk about your goals as well.[/list-item]

The Headline Matters

The headline is what will show up right beside your name on LinkedIn, as well as results on some search engines. It's an excellent chance to make a great first impression, so say as much as possible in only a few words. Make it snappy and interesting so connections want to click and find out more. Weave in keywords if possible. Here are a few examples: [list-item]Civil Engineering Student, Graduating 2020 | CAD, Survey and Blueprint Expert[/list-item] [list-item]Civil Engineering Student, Graduating 2020 | CAD, Survey and Blueprint Expert[/list-item] [list-item]Nuclear Engineering Professional |Lateral Opportunities Welcome[/list-item] [list-item]Talent Acquisition Manager at Award-Winning Eco-StartUp[/list-item]

Add Additional Information

LinkedIn offers the opportunity to add a variety of interests to the profile, so go for it! Those interests might catch the eye of a recruiter. Keep in mind that hobbies can sometimes translate into skills that are excellent in a working environment; for example, a hobby of building model planes translates into intense attention to detail, or an obsession with woodworking translates into taking the time to get a job done right the first time.

Double-Check, Edit and Check Again

Now that the profile is almost complete, go back and double-check everything. Make sure the dates of employment and education are correct. Look for grammar mistakes and typos—a glaring typo can pull attention away from the message. Use professional language at all times. At the “view profile as” function, toggle between “public view” and “personal connections” to see what appears for each segment.
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.

Ask Someone to Look it Over

One set of eyes isn't enough. Ask friends to take a look at the profile to make sure it's appealing and includes everything pertinent. College students can talk to their career services center to get help with this; professionals can turn to colleagues or professional services to ensure they're on the right track.

Create a Personalized URL

A personalized URL makes it much easier for others to find you. Those with a common name might discover that their particular URL is already taken; however, adding a location or numbers behind the name can be a good alternative. To do this, click the “gear” next to the public profile link, then click the pencil message next to the URL. The personalized URL must be between five and 30 characters.

Start Building a Network

Now it's time to start making connections! “LinkedIn is all about professional connections,” said Kristan Wheaton, a professor at Mercyhurst University who educates students on how to use the service. “New users should connect to anyone that they know and anyone with whom they have a professional connection. This includes professors, recruiters, friends of the family, people in your industry—basically anyone.” Learn more about using LinkedIn for professional development and networking

Update Regularly

Using LinkedIn on a regular basis is recommended, as this helps keep you in the loop with colleagues and happenings in the field. Go back once a week or so to check out messages, respond to requests for recommendations, make endorsements, comment on articles, send a congratulatory note or update your profile if new things have been happening.

Post Content

Finally, don't forget to start posting content. Keep the content to things that are pertinent to your field, such as interesting articles, fun statistics or compelling new innovations. Start a blog if you feel you can keep up with it on a regular basis. Just make sure any content posted is as professional as possible.

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.

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:

  • Andrew Cesarz.

    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.

  • John Crossman.

    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.

  • John Espirian.

    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.

  • Jason Falls.

    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.

  • Brian Fanzo.

    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.

  • Rachel Ferguson.

    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.

  • Xand Griffin.

    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.

  • Carla Johnson.

    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.

  • Brittney Borowicz Keller.

    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.

  • Bryan Kratz.

    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.

  • Scott Maloff.

    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.

  • Timothy Peters.

    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.

  • Tor Refsland.

    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:

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