A Guide to Optimizing your LinkedIn Profile: 20 Hacks to Launch Your Career

Are you on LinkedIn? If you are running a business or looking to build your personal brand in the world of marketing and advertising, this shouldn't even be a question. Yet many people still don't know about the networking platform for businesses and professionals.

Previously the web's less fun, more formal networking platform, LinkedIn has over the last two years transformed itself into the marketplace for professionals looking for jobs and businesses looking for top talent in their industry.

With more than 630 million members, an effectively crafted LinkedIn profile can catch the eye of someone looking to offer you your dream job. Think of it as the online equivalent of a traditional networking event where you go to meet other professionals, make conversation and exchange business cards. As one guy put it, it's Facebook for your career, but without the baby photos and ads.

On LinkedIn, you add "connections" in the same way you would send a friend request on Facebook. All your professional experience, skills and achievements are in your profile and easily accessible to recruiters and connections. How do you create a LinkedIn profile that catches the eye? Here are 20 hacks for a brilliant profile.


20 Hacks For A LinkedIn Profile That Will Launch Your Career:


1. Get the headline right

The headline of your profile goes just below your name and is essentially a one-line description of what you (or your business) do. LinkedIn scans for keywords so make sure to use standard SEO terms in the headline. Highlight you or your business' skills and expertise. Saying something like Award Winning Creative will likely be more visible in search than just "creative". Be innovative and keep it brief, so that it's easy to read and understand. Don't be too generic. This will not make you stand out from the crowd.


2. Location, location, location

The location (just under your headline) is absolutely crucial as this determines in which searches you will turn up. For example, if someone is searching for "Brand directors in San Francisco" you will turn up in this search if that is where you work. In other words, adding a location to your profile makes you more searchable. It also has the potential to turn your online LinkedIn connections in to real life connections. If potential business partners or clients see where you live, they are able to invite you to networking events or business meetings.


3. Choose the perfect photo

First impressions matter and a picture is as good as a thousand words. Make sure you choose the right profile picture that shows you in a professional light. No selfies or low-quality phone pictures. If you can afford it, have a professional headshot taken. Keep in mind what perception you want your peers or potential clients to have when looking at your photo. Make sure you look like yourself. There's nothing worse than meeting someone in the flesh expecting to see their 10-year self. In addition to the profile photo, you can also add a banner photo behind your profile shot. Choose a photo that reflects and strengthens your personal brand.

While you don't want to overthink this, there is interesting research on what makes the perfect profile picture. Having your eyes shaded or blocked by a glare, your hair, or sunglasses affects people's impression of you negatively, while slightly squinting them will enhance it. Showing teeth in your smile is also better than not showing teeth.


4. Write a succinct, soulful summary

The summary of your profile is another important element. It's right at the top, under you profile photo and if anyone is going to read anything in your profile, it's going to be this. Write the summary in the first person and use language that comes to you naturally (and reflects your personality). You get 320 words (2,000 characters including spaces) for the summary but only the first three lines are displayed. That means you either have to put all the most important information in the first sentence, or you need to create enough suspense that viewers will click the "Show more" link.

In terms of content, give some career background, your current position and what sets you apart from others in your field. Also include some personal information like what your hobbies are as well as your values and what drives you.

If you are not a writer, ask someone who is to help you as it could really make a difference. When a person scans your summary, they should get a good idea of who you are as a person in addition to your work experience. Remember to proofread what you've written. Bad spelling and grammar are a major turnoff for potential business partners and clients.


5. Add media

To make your summary even more attractive, you can add media in the form of video, images, links, websites and projects. This is a great way to get potential business connections to click to investigate you further to find out if they like what they see.


6. Send out invites

The whole point of LinkedIn is to network. It's all about solidifying the connections you make online and offline by making them permanent with a LinkedIn connection. When you meet a new business associate or client, sending them a LinkedIn invitation says you value your connection and want the relationship to continue. A pro tip is to gather some background information on the person you want to invite and use that in the invitation to start a conversation. In addition to the connections you form via invitations, once you are connected LinkedIn makes you more visible to that person's connection as well as in search for people connected to your new contact.


7. Make your profile public

Check your account settings, and make sure that your profile is visible. This simple change will allow you to show up in searches (and be spotted by recruiters or clients).


8. Customize your URL

The benefits of customizing your LinkedIn URL are twofold. First, it will make it easier for people to find you via search or on LinkedIn search. It would increase your SEO optimization, albeit minimally, but every bit helps. Secondly, it just looks more professional and like you really put some work and effort into your profile, instead of slapping it together one afternoon. (Bonus benefit: If whoever is thinking of acquiring your services needs you to be tech savvy, this would be a good clue that your digital skills are on point). This article has advice on how to customize your URL.


9. Add your contact details

This one is tricky because you might feel that it's a risk putting your contact details on LinkedIn for everyone to access. But, let's be honest, most people with a bit of digital savvy will be able to track down your email address anyway. So add your email, phone number, website and other social media platforms (Only the professional ones. No varsity party photos!) to your profile. LinkedIn also lets you add a Twitter handle, and/or instant messaging account (such as AIM, Skype, Yahoo Messenger, ICQ, Google Hangouts, or WeChat). If you don't feel comfortable with any of this, there is always LinkedIn InMail. But this is only available to Premium users, so not everyone will be able to reach you this way. If you're a business owner, add your business name, website, call-to-action or a description of your website.


10. Don't use jargon

If you're "motivated" about your career, "passionate" about doing your best work, and are "highly creative", then LinkedIn has news for you: so is everyone else. Every year the network releases its 10 buzzwords, which are the most used words by users to describe themselves. With recruiters using keywords to identify the ideal candidates, think about the words you're using and choose them wisely. It's important to ensure the words you use are selling you.


11. Ask for recommendations

Testimonials can get you far in life. Think about it. You don't go to a new restaurant if you haven't heard good things about it or didn't first read the online reviews. Why then would someone want to hire you without getting a few reviews first? It's the same principle as why we use references on our resumes. So ask your current or past or current colleagues, managers or former classmates to write you a short recommendation. If you've worked on a specific project with someone, ask them to recommend you for the skills and attributes you showed while working together. Aim to have at least one recommendation for every role you list.


12. Publish articles

Blogging has become a central tenet of online marketing. But drawing an audience to your business website to read your blog can be challenging. That's why many top influencers stopped publishing their own blogs and now only blog on platforms like LinkedIn. Thus, they go where the audience already is instead of trying to bring them where they are.  

LinkedIn's publishing platform is still relatively new and research on what makes a good post on the platform is still developing. But suffice it to say that a well-written article can let your audience know where your area of expertise lies and illustrate that passion you said you had in your profile summary. It will also contribute positively to building your personal brand. In addition, LinkedIn's bots will pick up that you are an active user and the information will add insight about your profile. 20 LinkedIn posts per month can help you reach 60% of your unique audience, according to LinkedIn.


13. Make the right connections

Be discerning when deciding who to connect with. Whether it's someone you admire or someone you've had business dealings with in real life, the right connection can go a long way. They can endorse your skills or write you a recommendation.


14. List your experience

Given the fact that 91% of employers prefer their employees to have some sort of work experience, listing yours is arguably the most important part of your LinkedIn profile. In fact, your profile is viewed up to 29 times more if you have more than one position listed in the experience section.

While this section of your profile is not exactly the same as a resume, it serves the same purpose and is where recruiters will focus their attention. List all the work you've done, including freelance work, side hustles, and one-off projects, not just your 9-5 jobs.

If you have held various positions at the same organization, list them all. In 2018, LinkedIn rolled out a new feature that automatically groups consecutive positions you've held at the same organization into a single section. This is a great way to highlight the multiple roles you've had at a specific organization, while not risking the rest of your past experience getting pushed too far down on your profile.

Also list your responsibilities and accomplishments. Be descriptive, but don't to ramble on about specific details unless they include numbers that strengthen your case. The best way to do this is with a bulleted list for each role. Even though LinkedIn itself doesn't allow for bullet points, you can add them by typing Alt + 0149 on Windows, or option + 8 on Mac.

The most important thing to remember when listing your experience is that skimping on this section can really be damaging to your image. Rather write the bare minimum than adding generic or nonsensical information just for the sake of it as this will raise questions with recruiters and potential business connections. In this case, less can really be more.


15. Education

Listing your education can be very valuable, especially if you're still a student or new in the job market. Always use your highest academic level first. Users who list their education are featured in LinkedIn searches 17 times more than those who don't. If you want, you can also list the activities you participated in while at university/college as it attests to your character and interests. If you work in an industry that requires you to have specific certifications or qualifications, remember to add them!


16. Skills endorsements

Like recommendations, the skills you list and other users' endorsement thereof may seem like a nicety, but in reality it makes a big difference to the visibility and credibility of your profile. While it's always added to your SEO, ever since LinkedIn added a skills filter for recruiters in 2015, the value of your skills and endorsements increased tremendously. Look at your listed skills to be sure they include terms that recruiters would use to find someone like you. Use LinkedIn's standard terminology when you can. For instance, when presented with a choice such as "writer" or "content producer" choose the one LinkedIn suggests for you. You can include up to 50 skills in your profile (Remember to activate your ability to be endorsed and to endorse.) List them in order of the strength you ascribe to each of them.


17. Add another language

This is a pro-tip to increase your searchability in other parts of the world. While LinkedIn doesn't allow you to have more than one profile, it does allow secondary language profiles. If you do speak more than one language, it can be absolutely worth your while to translate your profile to that language. Each language profile gets its own URL and this, as well as adding keywords in more than one language will be great for SEO.


18. Update your current position

Users who have up to date profiles are discovered up to 18 times more than those who don't. This is because LinkedIn's search algorithm prioritises profiles that are complete even above "connections in common".


19. Volunteer experience

While volunteer experience isn't necessarily an essential element of your profile (meaning, it won't count against you if you don't have any) it does speak to what you do in your spare time. It demonstrates your values and nature of your character. This can be valuable as businesses, clients and companies often look for people who are good personality fits. Listing that you've done volunteer work shows you are a balanced individual and can make up for a lack of experience and/or education in your profile.


20. Promote your profile

Promote your LinkedIn profile everywhere you can. Link to your profile on your email signature, Facebook and Twitter accounts, and websites to create inbound links. If you have a business card, also add it on there.

Finally, social media can take up a lot of time so adding another networking platform to your life can seem like a big ask. But where other platforms are more socially tuned, LinkedIn is the one network that could really add value to your career. Try to update it every now and again and spend 5 minutes a day scrolling through your home feed and interacting with other users. An easy way to do this is to work it into your morning routine. Sit down at desk, open emails, check LinkedIn… as simple as that.

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