Why should you have a LinkedIn profile? Why should anyone?
Obviously if you’re looking for a job, you want to put yourself out there and let recruiters know you have skills they might need. If you are a recruiter yourself, you need a channel to contact prospective clients or employees. Or maybe you just like networking with other business people, or want to round out having a profile on every major platform (and yes – there are actually some people for whom that’s a real reason).
But I’m thinking of another reason. A bigger one, for most of us.
I’m thinking that the real reason for having a profile on LinkedIn is that it is the only place you might have a public profile that’s all about your professional life and your unique personal brand. And LinkedIn allows you to craft this public, social face in any way that you please. It’s like having your own website, with all your professional information on it, but you never have to pay for hosting, and never have to purchase ads or search terms to drive traffic to it.
So the real value of LinkedIn for the average Jane and Joe is that it allows you to focus on your personal brand, and start to create a place for that brand to live. It’s a place for you to be purposeful about who you are, and where you’re headed. And it’s free. All it costs you is a little time to make it work harder for you, and you can have a knockout presence on your own little corner of the World Wide Web.
Here are some specific ways LinkedIn could be working harder for you, beyond the bare minimum of your job history.
- Upload more than your resume – There might be significantly more important elements in your profile than just the points of where you’ve worked. Be sure that you’ve explored all the other areas of the profile that they offer, especially if they apply to your chosen field/specialty. For example, when I won some awards last year, I found that there was a special place just for these on my profile.
- Get it URL – You can get a specific custom URL on LinkedIn. It’s part of your contact data right under your main profile header. If you click on the little cog icon, you get a page where you can see Your public profile URL. You can create or edit this custom URL to make your LinkedIn public profile easier to find or type for other people. Many people edit this URL so it’s clear and attractive, then add the URL to other profiles or even their business cards.
- Link to your heart’s content – Look for the areas in your Contact Info that allow for links and use these links to direct people to other work that you’ve done, people you’ve helped, or things that inspire you. If you have a company website, then by all means link to it, but what about a portfolio on Behance.net or another site, showing beautiful pictures from a recently completed remodeling project? Or a link to a blog where you contribute to the thinking around a specific topic? Adding detail about what you’re interested in can round out your profile and add depth and personality. Just be sure to only link things here that add to your personal brand. If you have a personal Pinterest account that is not appropriate for business contacts to see, or is private to only you or your friends and family, then leave those links off. Think about these items as helpful additions, not confessing to every account you have online!
- Don’t forget to summarize! – In addition to your employment details, be sure to take advantage of the Summary section of your profile to talk about why you do what you do. That’s a key element of your personal brand. (Read more about defining your brand here).
- List results, not just responsibilities – When you add a job into your work history, be sure that you don’t just talk about what the role was responsible for doing, but describe how you improved things, and what you achieved for the company. Think about housing your accomplishments in each job, rather than reporting on the job description.
- Get endorsed for your skills – By now, you’ve probably had someone endorse one or more of your skills, but did you know that you can edit these? If you go to your Skills and Endorsement section and click on Add Skill, then you get all kinds of options to be included in recommendations to your contacts, and options to add, remove or manage endorsements. If you take a look at the list, you can probably find one or two that shouldn’t be there, and maybe one or two that should be!
- Pull out the big guns: Recommendations – One of the most powerful items in your profile can be recommendations from co-workers, bosses and employees. It’s a chance for other people to comment on your work, which greatly increases the credibility of the content of the recommendation. They are basically reviews on the work that you’ve done, by the people you’ve done it with. For this reason, be sure that you only ask people who have good knowledge of your work to provide one. You don’t want a review that sounds like they barely know you, or are just friends with you. The good news is, if the review is so-so, or not well constructed, you can work with the person to try to get it right.
- Pay attention to Karma – Don’t just reach out for endorsements or recommendations from other people, but return the love a little bit, and offer your endorsements or recommendations for other people that you’ve worked with as well. Stay honest, direct, and be sure to say What and Why, when you’re leaving feedback. Be sure that you don’t reveal anything you shouldn’t in terms of proprietary information, but try to be specific about what that person does well. If you’re associating with quality people in this way, it can only reflect well on you too!
Share your stuff, but be wise – Sharing stuff that you’ve worked on is a great way to let people into your process and let them know what kind of product you produce, it’s like they can try you before they buy you. But do be careful here: there can be intellectual property concerns if you’re posting something to which you don’t have the rights. So be sure that you don’t post anything that you don’t own outright, so you can avoid damaging anyone’s competitive advantage. Lastly, make sure that the work is the best representation of you before you share as well, because you don’t want anything but your best work to be on display.
- Follow judiciously – There are opinion leaders, thinkers, and people who are generally ‘out there’ on all kinds of issues. And it’s helpful to know what the buzz is about. Seek them out, and follow companies and people that can inspire you. But do your homework and make sure you’re making the right bets when you choose to follow someone.
- Participate like a Boss – Go ahead and like or comment on the articles that people are writing or posting. Join a group or two, and start commenting on articles that other people in the groups are offering up.
- Keep the changes coming – I’ve written about this before, but if you’re not keeping your profile updated, you’re probably missing out on some significant traffic and attention. Plus, this means you’re not taking advantage of the platform to record your successes over time.
- Don’t forget the headline – Right under your name is a space for you to put some text, called your Professional Headline. Most people put their title in here, or state their occupation in some way. But this is prime real estate, digitally speaking, and you can take advantage of it for stating your motto, approach, core belief, or whatever can make the best impression about you and how you work. I’ve seen people put up to 116 characters in this headline (it holds 120), which is a lot of space to talk about what makes you special.
- ‘When it’s time to change, it’s time to rearrange‘ – Pay attention to the order of your profile components on the page. Are you highly skilled in a foreign language, and want to showcase this skill? Then don’t let that profile component languish in the middle of your page – move it up! When you place your mouse over a section in your profile (in edit mode), an up and down arrow appears that you can use to drag the whole section to a new location.
- Become a Publisher – Over one million people have now published on LinkedIn, and it’s a great way to get your voice out there. If you’ve got something to say, and think that your perspective can be useful to other people, then try writing an article, or post a link to a great news story or blog post. You may not have much of a network now, but it can grow over time if your content is interesting and relevant.
And here’s an extra bonus of something that may be working against you. Be sure to proofread all of your profile carefully. It’s sad to say, but one thing that can turn people off is poor spelling or grammar. Even small errors can make an otherwise great profile look sloppy. It’s a sour note than can spoil a lot of careful preparation on your part, so definitely take the time to double-check.
Maybe your LinkedIn profile isn’t the perfect spot to host your personal brand. You might prefer to have complete creative control over how everything looks, or add a bunch of pictures, or videos, or spinning cat heads, or whatever. But it has got a lot to offer you as a host for your professional content, and it just might be the right place to let your unique personal brand shine.
MetaMorph Corporation is dedicated to creating the future of unique personal branding. Find out more here.