So you have a dated LinkedIn profile and you know you need to be doing more with it. Here’s part one of how to upgrade that profile and start accelerating your career.
If you’re like most of my friends in the corporate world, you have a LinkedIn profile but you don’t do much with it. You have most of your past jobs up on it, and you check it every once in a while.
I admit it. I was exactly the same way. I knew deep down inside that I should be doing something more with my LinkedIn profile, but I didn’t know exactly what. –And I never really had a strong reason to do anything with it.
After all, if you are like me, and probably a great number of people, you have experienced a string of promotions and job opportunities based solely on your existing relationships and perhaps a job search many years ago.
LinkedIn just seemed like an unnecessary time suck in addition to all that I was already doing. Said differently, I just didn’t have time for LinkedIn. I knew that wasn’t smart, but it was my reality.
WHY LINKEDIN IS ESSENTIAL IN A JOB SEARCH
I’m going to explain why you want to be active on LinkedIn even if you are not in the middle of a job search, but first let me state the obvious. LinkedIn is critical in a job search.
LinkedIn has over 400 million people on its platform, so you can almost guarantee that whoever you are going to work for next, hire next or collaborate with next is on it.
However, the same could be said about Facebook, and I’m not advocating for using that in your job search. LinkedIn is far more powerful for your career.
The truth is that jobs today, as they always have been, are largely filled based on relationships. Now it is true that we live in the day of online resume submission and job postings on sites like Monster.com, but the truth is odds are very much against you finding anything from those sites.
Here are 4 reasons why:
- Submitting a resume online is relatively easy, which means that when you submit a resume, hundreds (if not thousands) of people are applying for the same position. No one at the hiring firm has the time to sort through that many resumes, so they use tools like Brassring and others to scan the resumes. If you don’t have a resume optimized for the way these tools work , your resume will never see the light of day.
- Many positions, especially those paying over $150k never show up on job listings. Why? This is because there is frequently sensitivity around the position being open (i.e. the person who has the job today doesn’t know they are about to lose it) or the company doesn’t want people to know a critical role is open.
- Often a hiring manager knows who they want to hire internally but they are forced to conduct a search outside the firm. This means that while a job posting may appear, there really is no position behind it.
- The people reviewing the resume before the hiring manager (i.e. his/her assistant and/or a recruiter) have been given very specific instructions about who to hire, which means they won’t think outside the box. (See my blog post How to get an interview and get hired)
All of this translates to some studies suggesting as many as 90% of senior positions are landed via networking. What is the number one networking tool? LinkedIn.
And if you think about it, as a hiring manager, if you have a friend/colleague who recommends someone to you, chances are you will interview them even if they don’t have the most directly applicable resume. Why? As a way of honoring the relationship you have with that person.
I’ve done it, and I know many others who have as well.
In fact, I know of more than one occasion where a friend of the CEO of a large firm recommended he meet with an individual to see if she might benefit his organization. This resulted in the hiring of a person into a role that didn’t previously exist based purely on the power of the relationship.
In other words, networks matter a ton, even today. –Perhaps even more so today given how electronically plugged in yet personally disconnected we all are.
This is where LinkedIn starts to matter, because it is the most powerful career networking site on the planet. If you know someone who can connect you to someone, you are well on your way to the job you want.
But what if you aren’t in the middle of a job search, why should you be active on LinkedIn?
WHY YOU SHOULD BE ACTIVE ON LINKEDIN
Here are 3 reasons:
- The fastest way to promotion is to have other people calling you from other firms in an effort to hire you to ever better positions. LinkedIn provides a platform for you to get found by recruiters and people with positions.
- Your value in the marketplace is largely a function of how well you are known outside the firm you currently work at. If no one knows you outside your firm, you are only valuable in terms of the role you currently fill (e.g. as an accountant) not as a differentiated individual. In other words, LinkedIn provides a platform for differentiating yourself from your peers and building a personal brand.
- If and when you decide to look for another position, you want to have a broad network of people you can approach. LinkedIn provides that network.
Still not convinced? Let me offer one more reason. Somewhere on LinkedIn is the person who has the exact job/title/role that you want. LinkedIn can help you identify that person and use your network to build a relationship with them.
Now you are probably wondering, “Great, but so what if I’ve figured out who on LinkedIn has my dream role, how do I get to them? How do I get their job?” I’m going to get to that.
BUILD A GREAT LINKEDIN PROFILE
The first step is building a great profile. Your LinkedIn profile is critical because it is your first impression… in fact, it is a big part of your entire digital persona.
An out of date, neglected LinkedIn profile says you are not up to date with technology, the internet, and social media. In other words, you are a dinosaur… which is not what you want.
So, what do you need to do to have a great LinkedIn profile?
The first thing you need to consider is what is the objective of your LinkedIn profile. For example, are you trying to land a position in a certain industry? Establish yourself as a thought leader in your profession? Attract new clients?
Keep this in mind, as everything you do in the sections of your LinkedIn profile should work towards this objective. With that in mind, let’s get started.
YOUR LINKEDIN PROFILE PICTURE
This is the first thing people will see when they view your profile, so you absolutely need to invest in having a good, professional picture taken. You are shooting for a picture that is friendly yet professional.
At the risk of stating the obvious, you want to have an expression that makes you look inviting to talk to. The serious stare may convey a sense of authority, but how likely is it that anyone will want to talk to you (or work with you)?
The next thing to know about your profile picture is that it should be zoomed in so that your face is prevalent and takes most of the space in the box. Research has shown these pictures are more likely to be clicked on.
Finally, be sure and pick a picture that gives the right impression for your LinkedIn profile. I had a client who had professional pictures taken by his current employer but they came out with him looking like he had a complete baby face. –It was time for some new photos on his LinkedIn profile that were more reflective of his age and tenure.
Similarly, be sure and dress for the level of the position you are considering. For men, a suit without a tie (or a sports jacket) is almost guaranteed to be appropriate.
Check out the difference between these two versions of the same picture:
See how the first picture is more inviting? And remember, these would be tiny rather than the size they are here. You can see the cropped, finished product below.
YOUR LINKEDIN PROFILE HEADLINE
You might be tempted to think that the LinkedIn headline (under your name) is where you should provide your job title. The problem is that your job title may not say much about what you actually do, which makes it meaningless to someone searching for someone with your skills.
Take one of my prior roles, Senior Vice President Client Support Services. What do you think this means? Imagine you were looking for someone to run a large call center or a significant portion of your company’s operations. Would you ever search LinkedIn for “client support services?” Or any of those words? Probably not.
Yet that is what I was doing: running a call center as well as workforce management teams.
So, your LinkedIn headline needs to explain in 3-4 words what you can do for someone else. In some cases, a title will do. My role as Senior Vice President of Corporate Strategy is much more self-explanatory, for example. (Yet note it says nothing of my industry.)
Why does this matter? It matters because these terms get scored highly in LinkedIn’s search algorithm, some say as high as 40% weighting relative to everything else on your page.
It also matters because when people do a search, they will see your picture, name and this headline in LinkedIn’s search results.
In other words, your LinkedIn profile (and the first line in particular) is the piece of marketing you have to differentiate yourself from other similar people.
Let me put a finer point on this. Recruiters looking for people to fill positions (or the people they hire to find candidates for them) do searches on LinkedIn. They then comb through the results to find the best candidates. If you want even a chance to be on this list, you need to have a good opening headline.
Check out these LinkedIn search results for a search I did on “vice president strategy above” Note what gets shown and how keywords are displayed.
As you can see, the keywords you use in your header line (and in the rest of your profile) are critical.
THE LINKEDIN PROFILE SUMMARY
The summary is absolutely critical to your LinkedIn profile and all too many people don’t put enough effort into getting it right.
Here is what your LinkedIn profile summary needs to do:
- Show how you can add value to a prospective employer/partner/customer
- Tell why you care about things
- Use the keywords that you want associated with yourself
Let’s break that down into pieces.
THE LINKEDIN PROFILE STORY PART #1: THE VALUE PROPOSITION
The first thing you want to do in the summary section of your LinkedIn profile is create a one sentence summary of your value proposition. In other words, what is the value you can add and who can you add it for.
The easiest format for creating a value proposition for a business is to use this template:
We are the best XXX for YYY because ZZZ.
Where XXX is what the company does, YYY is who it serves and ZZZ are the differentiators.
For example, Apple might say, we are the best COMPUTER COMPANY for AFFLUENT PEOPLE because we FOCUS ON DESIGN THAT MAKES USING OUR PRODUCTS EASY.
You can do something similar for your personal value statement by adjusting the sentence slightly, substituting “love” or “am passionate about” for the word “best” (which would come across as arrogant here).
Thus, the template is:
I am passionate about XXX for YYY because ZZZ.
Where XXX is what you do, YYY is who you do it for, and ZZZ is your competitive differentiator (or why it matters to you).
For example, someone with a background in corporate strategy may have a statement on the first line of their LinkedIn profile summary that says:
I am passionate about CREATING INNOVATIVE STRATEGIES for FINANCIAL SERVICES FIRMS because I BELIEVE THAT FOCUSED STRATEGY LEADS TO EXCELLENT EXECUTION AND MARKET SUCCESS.
Notice that this sentence very clearly sets up what this individual does, who they do it for, and what they believe/why it matters to them.
Now this particular sentence hits the “why” as opposed to what differentiates the person. Another take on this would be to lead the LinkedIn profile with:
I am passionate about CREATING INNOVATIVE STRATEGIES for FINANCIAL SERVICES FIRMS because I HAVE A TRACK RECORD OF CREATING WINNING STRATEGIES FOR FIRMS.
I personally prefer the “why it matters to you” approach for the lead sentence in my LinkedIn profile summary. It feels more personal, humble, and meaningful to me personally. However, if you feel the need to differentiate yourself based on your accomplishments (rather than your beliefs) in, that can also work.
Just remember that no matter what you’ve accomplished, a bit of humility goes a long way on LinkedIn.
What’s nice about this approach is that the reader immediately knows what you do and why it matters to you. This is an extremely powerful way to start a LinkedIn profile.
In fact, this sentence should be used in your resume as well so that anyone reviewing it immediately knows what you can do for them. The sentence sets great context for everything that comes next in a resume or LinkedIn profile.
THE LINKEDIN PROFILE SUMMARY PART 2: THE STORY
The next portion of the LinkedIn profile summary is all about your career story and how it translates to what you can do for someone who might hire you (or want to work with you).
This is tricky. What you are trying to do here is take all of your past experience and translate it into a coherent narrative that shows why you are the right person for the next role you choose to pursue.
Your LinkedIn profile is not the place for a summary of your resume and the positions you have had. What you are trying to do here is humanize yourself, give a taste of your capabilities and show how all of the things in your past have led you to this point.
This is not a trivial task, and it’s not something that can be done easily in an hour or two. In fact, I usually find my clients need to spend a week or two drafting, editing, reflecting and sharing what they have created before getting this right.
Yet the results is always a much stronger LinkedIn profile that people are more likely to engage with.
Here are some questions to consider to get you started:
- What were the 3 most pivotal roles in your career?
- Why were they pivotal?
- Why did you take these roles? (Note: The answer is never because you needed to)
- What excites you about your chosen field?
- Why does what you do make a difference in the world?
- What type of people have you worked with? (Think about roles, e.g. board members, CEOs, etc)
One of my clients, I’ll call him Jeff, had recently moved to a new city and was struggling to find employment despite a strong finance background. His comments were that this new city was a tough market, that he could arrange meetings but people weren’t forthcoming with contacts, that it was hard to “break in.”
He was quickly becoming frustrated. I asked him to share his career story with me, and although he had accomplished a lot, it was uninspiring, and this came through in his LinkedIn profile:
He studied accounting and finance in college. After graduating he went to work for an investment bank on Wall Street. He did that for a while, but got tired of the hours and then joined a boutique investment bank. He did that for a while and then joined the M&A group of a growing financial services firm. He was now looking for his next step in this new city.
Now, if you read that background in his LinkedIn profile you know that Jeff is quite a capable individual. Investment banks only work with the smartest and most hard working people, and yet here he was in a new city with doors that wouldn’t seem to open.
We spent a lot of time working on his story, and while this is not what is written in his LinkedIn profile, I think you’ll see the difference.
I have always had an inherent interest in finance and studied it in college. After graduating I was determined to go to the heart of capitalism, Wall Street and work for an investment bank. I loved it, and I learned tremendous amounts being there. After some time in investment banking, taking companies public and financing mergers and acquisitions, I realized that I really wanted to see finance from the other side. So, I looked for a finance opportunity with a growing firm that had going public on its horizon. After a long search I was able to find that opportunity, and thrived as the company grew and went public. I got to experience M&A from the other side of the business and really enjoyed it. Now I find myself looking for an opportunity to dive into the core, operational sides of finance, preferably at a smaller, growing firm, so that I can use all my experiences to help the company succeed.
Now, as I said, this is not his LinkedIn profile summary, but it provides the story that is at the essence of his profile. Hopefully it is clear how different this is from his initial story.
THE LINKEDIN PROFILE SUMMARY PART 3: THE KEYWORDS
You’ve probably noticed that some people use keywords at the end of their LinkedIn summary section. You may have also noticed that these words are separated by a vertical line: |.
The vertical line is the Boolean operator for “or.” In other words, when your LinkedIn profile summary section is searched and you have a bunch of keywords at the bottom, for example:
Career coach | Executive coach | Corporate Strategy | Operations Leader
What this is saying is “career coach” or “executive coach” or “corporate strategy” or “operations leader” and this makes you far more likely to show up in LinkedIn’s results.
In any event, it is always a good idea to end your summary with a number of keywords that you want to be found for possessing.
Think of it simply as terms you want to show up in the LinkedIn search results for. Now, ideally what you want to do is ensure that however many keywords you have identified (usually 4-5) are peppered through your whole summary.
The frequency with which they show up is known as keyword density, and you are shooting for a density in the 2-3% range. I like to use this tool to determine keyword density: http://tools.seobook.com/general/keyword-density/ which allows you to cut and paste text and counts the keyword usage.
(By the way, notice how many times I use the words LinkedIn and LinkedIn profile in this post… It isn’t a coincidence. Google search results work the same way.)
…. And that concludes this post. Stay tuned for more on LinkedIn strategy, and in the meantime, click here and go work on your profile. Next we’re on to the experience section…
If you are interested in creating a professional LinkedIn profile, please email me at [email protected]