Want to save this page for later?

NextGen Magazine


Fill in the Gaps

Chris Gaetano
Published Date:
Jan 2, 2014

Have a LinkedIn profile? Odds are it could use a makeover. Though more than 200 million professionals were signed up for the networking site in 2013, only about half completed their profiles, according to the company’s estimates. The problem with that, said Alison Doyle, author of Internet Your Way to a New Job: How to Really Find a Job Online, is that the benefits of belonging to the site, like increased visibility, don’t come automatically. In fact, how high a user appears in LinkedIn search results is based, in part, on how much information he or she provides. “A lot of people think, ‘OK, I have a profile; that’s all I need to do,’” Doyle said. “But it’s not enough to simply be there.”

Besides “complete,” there are two other “c” words to consider when it comes to the site: current and catchy.  A lame, outdated profile can hurt you imagewise, said Hannah Morgan, a job search, career and social media strategist. “If it looks like you haven’t updated your profile in a while, some [employers or recruiters] might think you’re not proactive about managing your career.”

Use the list below to begin putting your LinkedIn profile to work for you.
Not only will the steps make it easier for recruiters, companies and peers to find you, but they’ll also help you leave a lasting impression. 

Customize your LinkedIn headline and URL
These actions, while small, are key in your efforts to brand yourself, Morgan explained. As part of its default setting, LinkedIn makes your current job your profile’s headline, but you’re better off replacing it with a custom headline that establishes your expertise and calls out your strengths. “The headline is the first thing that people see after your name,” Morgan said. “It should help someone understand the role you want to take and contain keywords that are important to your profession.” (For example, use “CPA specializing in family-owned businesses.”)  As for the url, you can change the one LinkedIn assigns you to one that includes your name (www.linkedin.com/in/yourname). This will look more professional on your résumé, Morgan said, and can also be included on a business card or in an email signature.

Include a profile picture
“Studies have shown that when a photo accompanies a profile, people are more likely to click on it,” Morgan said. “They feel like they know you.” What’s more, according to LinkedIn’s official blog, adding a photo makes your profile seven times more likely to turn up in searches. As a practical matter, Morgan added, it’s also a way to help colleagues or recruiters you’ve met once or twice to recognize you. “Ideally, you should be smiling and look friendly in it,” she said. And, while a selfie from your last vacation might work for Facebook, keep it office-friendly on LinkedIn. “Use high-quality, professional-looking headshots only,” Doyle warned. If you don’t have any, now’s the time to take some!

Make your “summary” say more
Use this section to highlight your skills, and give a sense of your goals and outside interests, Morgan said. She also recommends using short paragraphs and the more personal first-person voice (“I did” or “it’s important to me,” etc.) to better engage the reader. “And include your email to make it easy for people who are not connected to you to contact you,” she added.

Use embedded media to stand out
Many professionals think of LinkedIn as their online résumé, but standouts turn their profiles into online portfolios, by adding supporting documents, video, images and audio, Morgan said. (FYI, the site supports media already published to the Web, through sites like YouTube or Slideshare.net, as well as most common files from your computer.) “Using embedded media is another way to showcase your knowledge and differentiate yourself,” Morgan said. If you’re at a loss for what to include, consider adding a video clip of you speaking at a conference or, if you’re a student, leading a campus event. You could also include a slideshow of presentations you’ve prepared. If you don’t have any existing ones, take the time to create one on a topic within the profession that you find interesting, and post that.

Remember: There are no “throwaway” fields
Consider each section “an opportunity to showcase you and what you bring to the table,” Morgan recommended. And don’t overlook details that could set you apart, such as speaking multiple languages or volunteer work that you’re passionate about. If you’re a student, don’t forget to fill in the section on certifications, test scores and courses, and to include information on clubs, committees or groups you’re a part of.

Participate in groups
Search out LinkedIn groups that reflect your interests—college alumni groups, professional associations and any industry-related groups—and display their badges on your profile, Morgan said. Then, become an active participant and try to add to group discussion feeds. You might start to get recognized by other members of the group—a great way to gain more connections.

Update frequently
Experts suggest updating your profile once a month to keep it current. However, do change your status update more frequently to reflect any professional events you’ve gone to or stories about accounting that you’ve read in journals and respected publications, Morgan added.

Additional reporting by Christina Doka