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How to elevate your LinkedIn profile

What’s fantastic about a LinkedIn profile is it allows you to show off how great you are, without the restraints of a one-page resume. There are so many ways to customize what you want to say about yourself and how much, all while making you stand apart from the competition. If you’re an entry-level professional, it’s all the more important to fill in the gaps where you lack work experience by demonstrating what else you bring to the table.

We know employers will absolutely look at your profile, even if they’re expecting to see the same information that’s on your resume. Since they’re going to make the trip, make it worth their while and increase your chances of landing an interview.

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 a reference. It’s better you 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.

If you don’t have a lot of work experience, you can also ask former classmates who have worked with you on a major project or event. Once they submit their reference, it will appear on your profile. Not many people have references, so if you manage to have at least one or two, it will make you stand out.

Image credit: Temple University

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, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Outlook”. Instead, add skills that are valued, but not everyone possesses, and you didn’t have room to feature in your resume. For example, photo and video editing skills. Then have your connections endorse you in these skills. You 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 last summer. Go put on professional attire and pose in front of a great camera (not an iPhone 4). 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. If you’ve had a headshot taken at a previous job, you can use that as well.

Your work history should be complete and thorough

I know you’ve been tailoring your resume for every job you apply to (right?!) and 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 this day and age, a lot of us take on all kinds of projects outside of our full-time jobs. Copywriting and blog writing is especially common among communications professionals, and it should absolutely be included on your profile. You never know what piece of experience may be considered super valuable to an employer and all experience counts.

List awards, memberships, certifications, language skills, etc

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. Anything that makes your profile look more fleshed out, and different from the rest, is a bonus. 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 others they’ve looked into that week.

Tell your story in your own words with a summary

There’s a reason they often ask you in interviews “tell us about yourself”. No matter how much information they include, resumes do not paint a complete picture of a person. The LinkedIn summary, which appears right at the top of your profile, is an opportunity for you to show off your personality and writing skills. Don’t just fall all back on the auto-generated summary LinkedIn will make for you. Tell your own story, in your own words, and find a way to make it brief but impactful. Skip cliches and key phrases, because the worst thing you could do is make yourself sound like everybody else. Or sound… boring.

Image credit: Tech Waffles

Show off your work, and keep it fresh

A pretty cool, and underused feature, of LinkedIn is the ability to upload media. Here you can share any freelance writing or even press releases that have gone out. You can also add pictures of yourself at an event you helped organize. This shows your experience in the field and images can leave more of an impact than words. You can write that you coordinated a pop-up event, but it’s even better if you have pictures of yourself in action. All of these pieces provide solid proof you can do the work you say you can and what level your skills are at. Just make sure to update these attachments from time-to-time as it’s more effective to feature recent work, than work that is three years old.

Build up your network with relevant connections

Remember in high school when people were desperate to up their friend count on Facebook? As adults, our interest has shifted to hitting the 500+ mark on LinkedIn. I am definitely not suggesting you start adding connections left and right. Instead, hone in on people in your industry, who work at companies you admire. Or add people you’ve seen give a speech at an event. Include a personalized message with your request, explaining why you want to connect and what you’ve thought of their speech. This ups your chances of them accepting and also creates a dialogue between you and that person.

Also, connect with recruiters and follow companies because they will post job opportunities, sometimes exclusively on LinkedIn, and you’ll get ahead of everyone by seeing them first. (And while you’re at it, follow Generation PR too).

Be as active on LinkedIn as you are everywhere else

We’re all obsessed with social media, but rarely does that obsession prove to be fruitful for our career prospects. People forget about LinkedIn until they want to brag about a new gig. But 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 folk who would otherwise never know you exist. And who knows? They might click on your name, check out your profile and love what they see.