In this article, I revisit the LinkedIn profile to discuss what was and what is. Creating a profile that brands you is the ultimate purpose of your LinkedIn profile. However, your profile alone won’t effectively accomplish this goal; you also need to create a focused network and engage with your connections.
Although not a lot has changed since August 2018 when I wrote the original article, there are changes worth mentioning.
Brand or Message
This is more important than many people realize. If you don’t create your profile with a clear brand or message in mind, you’ll have an unfocused profile. Delivering a message that expresses your value consistently is key to keeping your brand alive.
This goal remains the same and is more important than ever considering COVID-19 has sidelined us from in-person networking. Online branding spills over to in-person branding when if you reach out to people after you’ve connecting with them. Case in point, when I meet someone in person, I’m often told they’ve seen my profile, posts, and articles.
Major profile sections
1. Background image
Your background image is your first chance to brand yourself on your profile. It is important to use a photo that is relevant to your work or what you enjoy doing. Your image should be sized at 1,584 by 396 pixels for the best results.
More job seekers are getting the message that their background image, also called background banner, is a necessity, lest they want the bland image LinkedIn provides (see below). My valued colleague, Kevin Turner, would call this #blanding.
2. Profile photo
If you think a photo is unnecessary, you are sadly mistaken. A profile sans photo gives the impression you can’t be trusted. In addition, people won’t recognize and remember you. LinkedIn says profiles with photos are 21 times more likely to be viewed than those without.
Your photo is a huge part of your brand. You don’t have to necessarily dress to the nines for it. Just look professional and presentable. This is one area of the profile where I haven’t seen a huge difference. However, LinkedIn users are pushing the limit, as illustrated by Recruiter Amy Miller‘s photo. I think this works for her.
Perhaps the most critical component of your branding, your headline tells readers your title and areas of expertise. Don’t scrimp on this one — it carries a lot of weight when optimizing your profile. You have 120 characters to use — make them count.
LinkedIn increased the character count to 220 for all, which allows you to tell a longer story. I’m a huge fan of the extended Headline, as it contributes to your story and keywords. My Headline (below) is about 180 characters long. This allows me to include four titles, a tagline, an accomplishment, and my hashtag.
4. About (formerly Summary)
Much has been written about the About section, so I’m going to spare you the verbiage and simply say your summary must tell your story. It needs to articulate your passion for what you do, how well you do it, and a call to action (how you can be reached).
There’s been a significant change here in terms of character count. At this initial writing the count was 2,000. Now it’s 2,600. What is one to do with the additional 600 characters? I personally didn’t add much to my About, other than excerpts from Recommendations.
Think the About section isn’t important? Recruiter Bernadette Pawlik reads About before going onto the Experience section.
In the past, your dashboard area contained a lot of handy information: views of your profile, views of your latest post, and the number of searches you appeared in. In addition, you could ask for career advice, turn on “career interests,” and check out the salary range for your position.
This area changed significantly. Creator Mode was introduced which has not been a deal maker for me. It shows the number of your followers in the Snapshot area, as well as the number of views for your recent posts. Two nice touches are having access to your network and easy access to your saved items.
Career Interests has morphed into Providing Services. You can also indicate that you’re open to work by selecting Open to in the Snapshot area. As well, you can choose to don the #OpenToWorkBanner, which leaves me with mixed feelings.
6. Articles and activities
This area below your dashboard is visible to everyone who visits your profile. Visitors will see how many articles you’ve written and the number of posts you’ve shared. When I see very little info in the activities section, that means the person hasn’t made an effort to engage with their network.
This section hasn’t changed and it’s still an area I look at to see how much my clients are engaging on LinkedIn. I’m adamant about my clients not only reacting (Liking) to posts, but also commenting on them. Better yet, they should write their own posts.
Too often, people skimp on the details in their Experience section. This is particularly the case with C-level job seekers. You don’t need to include everything, but your major accomplishments are required. Note: Your job titles carry significant weight in terms of keywords.
If you are in the job hunt, you need to give hiring authorities a greater picture of what you did. Focus on the accomplishments. Read this compilation of LinkedIn Experts who offer their opinions of the Experience section: 13 LinkedIn pros talk about creating a powerful LinkedIn Experience section.
Don’t be afraid to add a little more character here than you would on your resume. Were you a D1 athlete? Mention that under “Activities and Societies.” Did you complete your degree while working full-time? Mention that in the “Description” area.
Nothing has changed here, but I still tell my clients that this is a section where they can continue to brand themselves by adding more description of what occurred when they attended school.
Plus: One of the best ways to brand yourself as a hard worker and possess time-management skills is to write that you earned your degree while working full-time. That’s if you did, of course.
9. Volunteer experience
Don’t neglect this area. Employers appreciate people who give to their communities. This is also a section where you can showcase your personality. Your volunteerism doesn’t have to be job-related. But if it is and is extensive, list it in your experience section.
I’ll continue to promote this area on a LinkedIn profile. Sadly, too many people don’t list their volunteerism, thinking it’s not pertinent. Well, it is.
10. Skills and endorsements and Recommendations
You can list a total of 50 skills, and others can endorse you for those skills. Take advantage of this section, as recruiters pay attention to the number and types of skills you have. When you apply for a job through LinkedIn’s “Easy Apply” feature, the number of skills you have for the job are counted.
Once considered one of the top features, Recommendations (seen above) have been relegated to the basement of your profile. Should you continue to ask for and write recommendations in light of this change? In my opinion, yes. Recruiters will continue to read them.
I would like to report that Recommendations can be moved toward the top of your profile, but this hasn’t been the case for many years. The best you can do is direct people to your recommendations from the About section, as I have done at the bottom of my About .
One of the major blunders LinkedIn has committed is anchoring this section in the basement of the profile. I say this because important information lies within, including lists of projects, organizations, publications, and patents.
This section shows visitors your interests in influencers, companies, groups, and schools. Recruiters might glean some information about you, based on the groups you’ve joined and the companies and schools you follow.
When this article was first written, this section was called Rich media and resided in your Summary (now called About), Experience, and Education sections. Here you can post videos, audio files, documents, and PowerPoint presentations. See this as your online portfolio.
This section is much approved. One click and you are taken to the media of your choice. I call this an extra because this feature isn’t used as much as LinkedIn would like. This is too bad, as it is your online portfolio.
15. LinkedIn publishing
LinkedIn gives you the opportunity to blog on topics of interest and share the posts with your connections. If you’re consistent in blogging, you’ll develop a following. Promoting your blog is entirely up to you. In the past, whenever you published, your connections would receive notification of your posts. Not so anymore.
Not a great deal to report here in regard to changes. LinkedIn still doesn’t push out the articles published on their platform. Approximately 1MM of its users utilize Write an Article. Some members have been granted a newsletter license, and it’s not clear why only a handful are.
Video is becoming more important to stand out on social media. A good video must contain content that is relevant to your network. Small technical things like smiling, proper lighting and sound, and a steady camera are important.