Your Guide to the Perfectly Optimized LinkedIn Profile

LinkedIn is one of the oldest social media platforms out there, and most people have created an account for themselves at some point in their career. What many don’t realize is that this social media network can be very valuable when utilized correctly. With the aid of a compelling profile, LinkedIn can be helpful for a variety of purposes, from people changing companies or industries, to increasing sales (especially for B2B companies), in positioning yourself as an expert or influencer in a certain field, and even in answering a business challenge that may have you at a standstill.

If you’ve logged in to LinkedIn recently, you may have noticed many changes taking place with regards to profiles and overall website layout. Don’t let these changes overwhelm and prevent you from taking advantage of everything this social network has to offer! Regardless of how often you log in to LinkedIn, job seekers, recruiters, marketers, sales representatives and professionals alike take note of these ten best practices for LinkedIn for the modern professional:

1.      Keep your profile up-to-date

First and foremost, keep your profile up-to-date! As previously mentioned, LinkedIn is changing at a very rapid pace. It can be difficult for even social media professionals like myself to stay on top of this platform. As I write this article, I guarantee you that something is changing on LinkedIn that may make part of this blog post outdated. That said, I recommend logging into your account at least once a week. This will allow for you to update your account with any new features that have rolled out, interact with anyone who has interacted with you, and more, depending on how you’re using LinkedIn. If you’re working to update your account, you will most likely be logging in more often, but once your profile is where you’d like for it to be, logging in once a week should become your new habit.

2.      Set personal goals

Now it’s time to take a step back and discuss goal setting. LinkedIn is a very dynamic platform, but it isn’t one-size-fits-all. How you leverage LinkedIn is going to vary based on how you plan to use the platform. Job seekers, recruiters and those working in sales will all have different goals. Most will simply be professionals seeking to have a well established presence on the platform, which is recommended; you never know how your contacts will come in handy later on down the road when you become the job seeker. Whatever your goals, there are many resources online to help you in your niche. For example, check out this article providing LinkedIn etiquette for job seekers, recruiters and PR professionals.

3.      Utilize all that LinkedIn has to offer

LinkedIn Official Tweet

LinkedIn Official Tweet

Now that you have direction, the next best practice for the modern professional is to explore all of the features available, and utilize what makes sense for you. Before exploring too far, be sure you have filled out the basic sections that are included on your profile—that should go without saying. When you’re filling out your profile, you’re building a professional persona, so keep in mind that it isn’t just what you say that counts. Are you unsure what I mean? Check out this official LinkedIn tweet.

The basics aside, LinkedIn also recently added some non-essential features that do work really well for differing industries. For example, in assisting one of my dearest friends with her profile, we discovered the Certifications feature was very useful for professionals in her industry (law). This process will take some time, but if you are logging in once a week, you will be able to easily handle this task.

Helpful tips for building your LinkedIn profile

Remember your profile is going to vary based on how you’re using LinkedIn, your background and how long you’ve been in the workforce. A few tips for anyone building out their profiles:

  1. Use your resume! LinkedIn is essentially your online resume, so you’ll find that most of what you already have prepared on your resume is going to be helpful in expanding your LinkedIn profile; especially when brainstorming how to use features like Honors & Awards and Volunteering & Causes.
  2. If you’re stuck on what to include in your job description(s), contact your HR department and include your official job description. CEOs will find it a best practice to simply include a summary of the company they run in lieu of a job description.
  3. When building your profile, always keep in mind you should optimize it for searching rankings. Learn more about what Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is and how it works.

4.      Use a professional headshot

One of the biggest pet peeves I experience as a LinkedIn specialist is coming across a poor quality profile image that does not bear the resemblance of a professional headshot. It has been my experience, both professionally and in observing my own connections on LinkedIn that both the apathy some have in checking their account and the insecurity many feel about using this platform are made very apparent in the images they choose to use on their professional profiles. In a world where photos dominate on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram, I am extremely perplexed how often the misuse of a profile picture occurs on LinkedIn.

What does make sense is that a majority in the professional world are wary of their personal life being made public and confused with their professional lives. There have been many examples of social media fails that have ruined careers, including many relating to photos, both of which are perpetuating this fear. However, this insecurity should not prevent you from having a photo represent you in a clear, professional manner on LinkedIn. Even if you are just trying to maintain a presence on the platform, it is recommended to put your best foot forward. You are marketing yourself, after all.

Publish your work

One of LinkedIn’s most recently rolled out features is perfect for anyone who has a blog. Prior to this feature, blogs had to be included wherever they made sense within your profile.

5.      Utilize the blogging feature

My recommendation: utilize this new blogging feature! If you have posted blogs to your profile before, simply remove them from the sections you’ve already placed them and repost them from your own profile. Beware of posting them all in one sitting unless you have your newsfeed notification setting turned off—you don’t want to SPAM your connections! Why is this feature good? Once you post a blog it will be included as a post in your connections’ newsfeed. It will also show up at the top of your profile. What’s more is that any blogs posted to your profile will help further the depth of your experience and your efforts to position yourself as an expert or influencer in your field.

6.      Leverage in-person relationships online

One of the easiest, most effective ways to build your network of connections and give life to your profile is to connect with your real world connections on LinkedIn. You already have relationships with these professionals, leverage them! Not only can your real world connections be used to help you on your profile (skills, recommendations), they can be valuable later in the way of leads in a job hunt, in boosting sales and more. How does this get done? Promote your LinkedIn account on your marketing assets; update your business card, add a LinkedIn icon to your email signature, link to your account on Twitter, etc. Another way to achieve this is to import any database of contacts you have to your LinkedIn account. Once done, they’ll get an invite to connect. One best practice to make an on-going habit is to connect with professionals as you meet them. Do you attend conferences? Do you frequent networking events? Surely you meet others in your day-to-day business? These are all great opportunities to immediately connect with others and expand your LinkedIn network. What’s more is these connections will undoubtedly be interested in you and the content you push. It’s a win-win.

7.      Take advantage of recommendations

LinkedIn Recommendations (not to be confused with endorsements, which are now tied to the Skills & Endorsements feature) is one of the oldest and most credible features LinkedIn offers. This feature highlights exactly what makes LinkedIn amazing—it allows for your connections to provide insight into your professional strengths, typically as they relate to your position and your working relationship with the person providing the recommendation. I have found that many are too shy to ask others for recommendations—fight this urge and utilize this feature! As long as you have a positive working relationship with the person you’re requesting the recommendation from, you should have nothing to fear. In most cases, the worst that could happen is either they say no or simply ignore the request. Because LinkedIn is a true networking platform, be prepared to provide recommendations for others as well, either in exchange for one you have requested or as a request from those who value their relationship with you. Finally, recommendations are important because they add depth and credibility to your profile since this content is coming from others. Let others tell your story for you!

8.      Interact with your LinkedIn network

As previously mentioned, LinkedIn has many audiences. Regardless of how you use this platform, interaction should become your best practice. At a minimum, when logging in at least once a week (see above), you should be liking posts within your feed, posing questions within professionally relevant groups you have joined, assisting in answering questions within these same groups and requesting and providing recommendations. Routine interaction will not only help you maintain important relationships, but it will help keep you, your profile and your company top-of-mind; your likes, posts, etc. show up in your connections’ newsfeeds!

9.      List your skills, get endorsed

If you have had a LinkedIn account for quite some time, this best practice is for you. Previously LinkedIn prompted its users to list their professional skills in their Summary, and now there is a new home for these: Skills & Endorsements. Are you not savvy on LinkedIn? Review your profile. If you have skills still listed under your summary, this is a big sign that you need to update your summary! It’s also a sign to any avid user of LinkedIn that you don’t log in very often. I recommend moving your skills to the Skills & Endorsements section and then revamping your summary. Are you skeptical about this feature? In 2013 I was asked by The Network Journal to provide my insight on this new feature. Check out this article highlighting the reasons you should take the Skills & Endorsements section seriously.

To fully utilize this new feature, take a moment to brainstorm exactly what it is you do. Here are some helpful questions to ask yourself: What buzzwords are involved in your career? What skills will future employers look for? If you were really great at your job, what words would you expect to be there? If you are trying to position yourself as an expert or influencer, what should be included to convey to target audiences you are just that? To look at it from another angle, if you’re familiar with blogging, these skills are similar to hashtags. If you were to blog about yourself, what hashtags would you include?

Chances are, people have already provided some skills for you to approve to include on your profile. It’s also important to frontload your profile with skills you have thought of so that you can frame your professional story for yourself. Once enough skills have been listed, LinkedIn is going to automatically start asking your connections if they would endorse you for these skills. Over time you’re going to begin having publicly supported credibility for these skills.

10.     Make sure your company is listed correctly

The final best practice for the modern professional is also important for veteran LinkedIn users: be sure your company/companies are correctly listed and tagged. If you included it before, how could it be incorrect? There are many factors at play here, but simply stated: companies change and so does LinkedIn. The rise in prominence of LinkedIn company pages, mergers, bankruptcy and more will affect a company listing over time. However, LinkedIn has also started featuring company logos, etc. in a more visually appealing way. If you already have a company listed, but want to see if there is a newer listing, simply go in and edit the position you have listed for that company. Under the company name, delete what is currently there, and begin retyping the name of the company. There is no simple way to find every company, so this may take some troubleshooting on your end. Your goal here is to find the most accurate company name possible, along with the most professional looking logo. Once you have listed (or relisted) the companies in your work history, you will find your profile is that much more visually appealing.

Conclusion

If you’ve made it this far, you have the drive to do what it takes to maximize your LinkedIn profile. Making the most of your profile is going to be an on-going journey, and the good news is that regardless of how much you use LinkedIn in your career, your profile will never leave you. The more you maximize your profile, the more you can use this platform to your advantage, personally and professionally. Good luck and happy networking!

Did you find this blog useful? Connect with me on LinkedIn, and be sure to follow Zion & Zion on LinkedIn.

Are you a student or young professional looking for an internship? Read what one of our senior interns has to say about finding the right internship, and how LinkedIn can play a large role in that process.