Regardless of what stage of your career you’re in (and even if you’re still in college), having a LinkedIn profile is essential. With over 460 million members, LinkedIn is the most popular social network for professionals. No longer just for job hunting, it’s now the main way professional people stay in touch. LinkedIn is a great stepping stone to building relationships, especially when you’re starting out in your career.
It’s also the first place many people will go to learn more about you. Whether you’re interviewing for a job or making a connection with a new contact, it's almost certain that person will view your profile. So it's important to make sure your profile presents you in the best and most professional light possible.
Below are eight tips to make the most of your LinkedIn profile. To get started, log into LinkedIn, then click on Edit Profile from the Profile drop-down list in the main menu at the top of the page. Click on the blue pencil icon to edit individual sections.
Pro tip: While you’re updating your profile, turn off activity broadcasts by toggling to the No option in the Notify Your Network box in the right column of your profile. That way you won’t clog up your connections’ feeds with a lot of changes.
How to Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile
- Create a LinkedIn profile. Hopefully you’ve already done this and you can breeze right along to #2. But just in case you don’t have a profile, create one. It’s quick, easy, and free.
- Customize your URL. When you create your profile, LinkedIn automatically assigns you a long URL of random letters and numbers that looks cumbersome in an email signature or on a business card. However, you can create a custom URL for your profile that is much shorter and includes your name. For example, here’s mine: https://www.linkedin.com/in/melaniebayichvivian.To change your URL, go to your profile, locate your URL directly beneath your profile photo, and click the gear icon on the right. You can then modify your URL on the right side of the page.
- Create a headline. Your headline is the line that appears directly below your name in your profile and when you appear in search results. If you don’t enter a headline, LinkedIn will default to your current title. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that, but because your headline is an opportunity to brand yourself, give some thought to customizing it. LinkedIn allows up to 120 characters for the headline, so consider how to succinctly describe who you are, what you do, or what you know.
- Include any contact information you’d like to share. You can decide how much or how little information you’d like to share with just your connections (email, phone number, etc.) and with everyone on LinkedIn (website, Twitter handle, etc.).
- Use a profile photo. Having a profile photo is considered a best practice. Profiles that include a photo get twice as many views as those that don’t, plus having a photo makes you more relatable. But having an appropriate photo is key. Here are a few tips:
- Keep it friendly (smile!) and professional. It should look like you’re ready to show up for work. No family photos, pets, etc.
- It should be current (within the last five years) and in line with what you look like now (hair style, hair color, etc.).
- Make sure it’s just you in the picture. No group shots!
- Make it a head shot, or close to it. When your profile photo shows up in searches or in your connections’ feeds it is pretty small. You want people to be able to clearly see you.
- Consider what’s in the background – make sure it’s a neutral setting.
- No selfies! You don’t need to have your photo professionally taken, but ask a friend or family member to take it for you rather than taking it yourself.
- Write a professional Summary. The Summary is a key component of your profile and is often the first (and only) content people will read on your profile. It’s similar to the summary section at the top of your resume and it’s a way to describe the skills and background that make you unique. Use it to outline your overall expertise and include keywords that people may search for. Keep it to a couple of paragraphs and use bullet points where possible so it’s easy to read.
- Use the Experience section to demonstrate your work history. In the Experience section, list your jobs, titles, and a brief paragraph describing your responsibilities and key accomplishments for each position. If you’ve held multiple positions with one company, list them as individual jobs. And if you’re still in college, use this section to highlight your internship experience. The information doesn’t need to be as detailed as a resume; just include some key points that will resonate with people searching for you and viewing your profile.
- Consider other sections to make yourself stand out. LinkedIn offers a number of optional sections like Projects, Publications, Organizations, Skills & Endorsements, and Honors & Awards that you can use to showcase projects you’ve worked on, organizations you’re involved with, or professional honors you’ve received. So give some thought to past and present accomplishments that would make you shine with prospective employers and networking contacts.
Once your profile is in good shape, you’re ready to make the most of LinkedIn! Consider linking with your peers, current and former colleagues, managers at former jobs and internships, and even friends and family. Also consider joining groups for former employers, alumni groups, and groups targeted to accounting and any other industries you specialize in. LinkedIn is all about relationships, and you never know who knows whom and can provide you a great introduction for a future job or business opportunity.
Melanie Vivian is Kreischer Miller's marketing director and is responsible for the firm's marketing planning, strategy, budget, and initiatives. She has over 20 years of marketing experience and joined Kreischer Miller in 2010 after working in a variety of marketing roles in the financial services and legal industries. Contact her at Email.