Every professional in communications and marketing needs to have a LinkedIn profile, but not everyone uses theirs to its full potential. What’s fantastic about a LinkedIn profile is shows off how great you are without the restraints of a one-page resume.
Employers and recruiters commonly look at LinkedIn profiles because they know it will paint a fuller picture of the candidate. They also want to see how you present yourself as a professional to the world at large. After all, when you are hired by your future employer, you will be in essence representing them on LinkedIn.
Since we know that employers will make the trip to your LinkedIn profile more often than not, make it worth their while.
Improve your LinkedIn profile with these tips:
- Tell your story with a summary
- Ask former colleagues and classmates to leave references
- Add unique skills to your profile and get endorsements
- Get a professional headshot taken
- Include a complete and thorough work history
- List awards, memberships, certifications, language skills, etc.
- Show off your work samples
- Build up your network with relevant connections
- Be as active on LinkedIn as you are everywhere else
Tell your story with a summary
There’s a reason they often ask in interviews, “Tell us about yourself.” Resumes do not paint a complete picture of a person, no matter how much information they include. And the information they do include is limited to your work and education history. However, where you’ve worked could just be the least interesting thing about you.
The LinkedIn summary appears right at the top of your profile. It is an opportunity for you to show off your personality and even your writing skills. Tell your own story, in your own words, and find a way to make it brief but impactful.
Don’t fall all back on the auto-generated summary LinkedIn will make for you. Also, skip cliches and key phrases because the worst thing you could do is make yourself sound like everybody else.
Ask former colleagues and classmates to leave references
References are one of the most valuable aspects of a LinkedIn profile. If there are people who have worked with you in the past, get them to leave you a reference. It’s best to ask someone who was in a higher position than you because those reviews are weighed more than a colleague who was at the same level. Recruiters will notice this difference.
However, I would still recommend getting a reference from a colleague as well. A reference from a colleague at your level is still better than no references at all. And you can return the favour by leaving them a reference as well.
If you don’t have a lot of work experience, ask for references from classmates who have worked with you on a major project and can speak about the specific skills you have.
Once they submit their reference, it will appear on your profile. Not many people have references on their LinkedIn profile, so if you have at least one or two, it will make you stand out.
Add unique skills to your profile and get endorsements
Everyone knows how to use Microsoft Office at this point, it’s no great feat. If you want to make good use of the skills section of your profile, skip adding “Microsoft Word” and “Microsoft Excel” in those sections.
Instead, include software that is not widely used by everyone, such as Hubspot, Salesforce, MailChimp and Jira. Also add skills that are highly valued, but are rare, in your profession such as photo and video editing skills.
After you’ve done that, ask your connections to endorse you in these skills. You may claim to know how to use Adobe Photoshop, but that claim is way more believable if three past co-workers will vouch for you.
Get a professional headshot taken
Far too often, LinkedIn profile pictures are cropped photos from a vacation or a wedding. It’s great that you’re in a suit; it’s not so great when it’s a tuxedo because you were a groomsman once.
Go put on professional, work attire and pose in front of a great camera (not an iPhone 4). It’ll be even better if someone who has photography skills can capture and edit the photo for you.
The quality of the photograph demonstrates the effort you’ve put into showing what kind of professional you are. It doesn’t take too much effort to pull this off and it’s a photo you can use for years on all kinds of platforms. If you’ve had a headshot taken while at a previous job, you can use that as well.
Include a complete and thorough work history
I know you’ve been tailoring your resume for every job you apply to—right? Sometimes, that means leaving out some past work experience. But your LinkedIn profile is totally the place for you to mention every volunteer position and freelance gig you’ve had in the past.
In this day and age, a lot of us take on projects outside of our full-time jobs or while we’re in school. Copywriting and blog writing is especially common among communications professionals, and it should absolutely be included in your profile. You never know what piece of experience may be considered super valuable to an employer and all that experience counts when you’re in the communications and marketing industry.
However, you can continue to leave out any part-time work that isn’t relevant to your industry. Employers can already assume that you worked at a coffee shop while you were a student—and it doesn’t interest them.
List awards, memberships, certifications, language skills, etc.
Making yourself stand out during the job hunt process is crucial. If you ever won “Employee of the Month”, that should be on your LinkedIn profile. Part of a PR association? Add that too. If you’re multilingual, even if it’s not in the French language, add that as well. If you’ve completed a course relevant to your profession, absolutely include those certifications to your profile.
It is eye-catching to have something on your profile not everybody else has and if it makes a recruiter pause in their tracks, you’ve already solidified yourself in their memory more than the hundreds of other candidates they’ve looked into that week.
Also, you have no idea what will be seen as super valuable to the employer so don’t doubt yourself. Include anything that makes you special.
Show off your work samples
A pretty cool, and underused feature, of LinkedIn, is the ability to upload media to your profile. Here you can share any freelance writing or even press releases that have gone out on the wire with your name attached. You can also add pictures of yourself at an event you organized. This shows your field experience and images can leave more of an impact than words.
Don’t worry about including pictures of yourself working on a school event. All that experience still counts, especially if you’re an entry-level professional. Just make sure to update these attachments from time-to-time as it’s more effective to feature recent work rather than work from several years ago.
If you already have a portfolio where your work samples are neatly organized, include a link in the intro section of your profile.
Build up your network with relevant connections
Remember in high school when people were desperate to increase their friend count on Facebook? As adults, our interest has shifted to hitting the 500+ mark on LinkedIn. Now, don’t start adding connections left and right. Instead, hone in on people in your industry that you want to get to know better or who work at companies you admire.
Include a personalized message with your request, explaining why you want to connect. This ups your chances of them accepting and also creates a dialogue between you and that person.
While you and your new connection make not become the best of friends, being a part of their network gives you access to exclusive perks. On LinkedIn, people post job opportunities, promote events they’re attending and share industry tips. This is all content you wouldn’t see if you weren’t connected with them.
Also, connect with recruiters and follow companies you’re interested in because they will also post job opportunities, sometimes exclusively on LinkedIn. If you’re already following them, you’ll get ahead of everyone by seeing them first.
Be as active on LinkedIn as you are everywhere else
Saved this one for last because it will be the most time-consuming, but fruitful way, to improve your LinkedIn profile. We’re all obsessed with social media but that obsession rarely serves our career prospects. People forget about LinkedIn until they want to brag about a new gig. However, it offers plenty of ways to show your passion for your industry.
Share interesting think pieces and news, and connect with leaders from all over the world. Join in on the conversation, just as you would on Twitter or Facebook. Every time your name appears on someone’s feed, you’re building familiarity with industry folks who would otherwise never know you exist.
And who knows? They might click on your profile and love what they see.