By: Chris Westfall
Being found on LinkedIn just might be the key to your career search. According to Jobscan, 87% of corporate recruiters use this platform to find and source candidates. Every sixty seconds, 120 people join LinkedIn. There are nearly 600 million users worldwide (and 133 million in the U.S., the largest participating country according to Kinsta). Pew Research says that over 50% of college graduates use LinkedIn, but are you using it to your best advantage? For my clients, my career coaching emphasizes personal branding—because how you present yourself online is the key to creating interest, interviews and opportunities.
Here are 15 ways to improve your presence and your personal brand on LinkedIn:
Make Friends Fast: If you don’t have over 500 connections, you’re kinda invisible on LinkedIn. Reach out and get connected! Professionals need more than 500 connections; it’s like table stakes at a poker game. Without 500 connections, you’re not really playing to win.
Picture This: maybe people aren’t connecting with you because you don’t have a profile pic. Stop watching Avatar and get yourself one. Drop in a selfie with a neutral or white background, where you are dressed for work. So if you are a surfing instructor, that swimsuit on the beach is perfect! But for Linda in accounting, board shorts are probably a bad idea. The picture should be a “two button” shot (look down at your shirt and count two buttons – that’s the bottom of the frame right there). Don’t use a wedding photo, dark selfie or a picture from the stadium where you’re surrounded by your friends. Think professional and pick a pic that shows who you are.
It’s Not Your Résumé: It’s better. On LinkedIn, you’ve got more room to maneuver and more space for adding keywords. You can provide more information than you can on your CV. Amplify the things that matter most—don’t just leave empty space after a job title or company.
Get Clear On Keywords: Everybody knows about SEO, but how do you get it right for your personal profile? Make sure you list the keywords that can really make a difference – for example, a quick search on LinkedIn for “Product Manager” yields over 12 million results, and over 640K people with that phrase in their job title. Want to know if your keywords are popular? Shove them into the search bar, and if you like the result: pop them into your profile wherever they fit for you. No matter what, avoid TLAs in your writing (that stands for “three letter acronyms”). The key here is to be general to be found. Don’t choose words that are ultra-specific to your company or your industry, especially in the Title section. Use keywords and save the specifics for the interview (or the position description on your online profile).
Speak In Numbers: Did you work for a publicly-traded company? How big was the restaurant you managed? Put those numbers in there! Your profile should provide clear guidance on the size and scope of the companies you’ve served and the roles you’ve earned. Wherever possible, write about outcomes and results. Avoid adjectives (unless they are supported by results). Because anybody can say that they are customer-focused, but hard numbers testify that your profile isn’t fake news.
Beef Up Your Headline: Your headline should describe the kind of service you can provide in a way that’s authentic and not over-the-top. If you’re a product manager, that’s fine, but what else can you say in your headline that explains how you help your organization? Do you work in technology? Cyber security? Manufacturing? Look in the direction of service, solutions and impact, and don’t just copy the title off of your business card. Elaborate on how you can help others, and you’ll help yourself in the process!
Cultivate Karma: write an unsolicited recommendation of someone you really respect, and send it over to them. I’m not talking about just a ‘thumbs up’ for public speaking or a double-tap for decision-making. Write a paragraph or two and send it over. Generate some good mojo by telling folks online who’s really worthwhile on LinkedIn—and maybe someone will do the same for you!
Request Recommendations: Why wait for karma to come back to you? Reach out to influencers who know your work, and ask for the kind of social proof that’s going to make your personal brand stand out. “As a professional I respect,” your message might begin, “your perspective would mean a lot to me, in the form of a review on LinkedIn.” Be specific about the role, as well as the qualities you would like recommended. Because you’re not just fishing for compliments, you’re looking for social proof of your demonstrated results. Your co-workers can confirm your skills—all you have to do is ask.
Post Interesting Stuff: See an article you really like? Perhaps a piece on Forbes—like this one? Post it on your profile. Write a blog post and talk about what you’ve discovered in your field of expertise. Sharing is caring: if you care to share you should.
Join a Group: Like most online platforms, LinkedIn is a great space for introverts to network without being drained. You can join up to 50 groups—which ones will you choose? Go beyond just your industry groups, especially if you are looking for a career move. Gravitate to areas where you can explore other industries, connect with headhunters and even express your specific interests (like filmmaking, fashion or luxury goods, for example). That way, you can post in the groups, connect with other like-minded members and do some powerful electronic networking, now.
Get More Data: Have you uploaded a pdf, or a video, or even your resume to your profile? There’s some prime real estate right under your headline, upload some worthwhile content into your profile and make your personal brand more powerful.
When Bullets Are Not Dangerous: Stop writing a novel and bullet out your accomplishments. You can copy and paste a bullet, did you know that? Here’s one: • (that’s Option + 8 for you Mac users out there) and build your list manually. As of this writing, LinkedIn doesn’t let you automatically create a bulleted list – but don’t let their limitations stop you.
Consider All Your Options: Do you have skills that you need to showcase? Accomplishments you’d like to highlight? ¿Puedes charlar en dos idiomas? Look closely at the “Add Profile Section” button. Make sure you fill out all the portions of your profile. It’s not bragging, it’s just telling the whole story. Don’t forget: if you’re a job seeker, bots are scanning your profile looking for key words. A more complete profile is regarded as more desirable than an incomplete one. And no one will know that you’re interested in non-profits, or that you speak Hindi, unless you put it out there.
Upload More Examples of Your Work: If you’ve created a project, blueprint, design or other endeavor that would be useful for people to see, be sure to upload the image or document to your relevant work experience. Because text-based webpages are so 1997—why not add some visuals to showcase who you are?
Ask For What You Need: LinkedIn is not Facebook for business, no matter what you may have heard. It’s better. This is a platform where you can and should reach out to the people in your network that can help you. If you are currently looking for work, does it make sense to keep your goals and dreams to yourself? Silence is not a strategy. Struggling alone with your career frustration is a painful hobby. You are part of a network designed for connecting and sharing professional guidance, services and solutions. Reach out to recruiters who specialize in your field. Reach out to colleagues who work at companies that you find interesting. Touch base with executives, managers and leaders who can help you. Make your request specific and clear (“I’m looking for a mentor and you look older than most of the people in my network” is not a good approach). If you have a contribution that’s of value, and you could use some help delivering it to the world, get clear on your message. And then: send it.
Using online platforms to further your career doesn’t have to be difficult or painful. Some minor adjustments can have major impact, if you understand how to put your profile to work. The key thing to remember is: there’s still no substitute for connecting IRL (that TLA stands for In Real Life. But, OK Boomer, I’m guessing you already knew that). Online platforms, like your resume or CV, are simply gateways to real conversations and relationships. Sure, it’s important to nail your online profile, but work still involves personal interactions, conversations and relationships.