Create a personal brand using your LinkedIn Profile
By Bob McIntosh, CPRW, MBTI
This is the first of a three-part series about LinkedIn. In the February PDC Messenger Bob will discuss how to connect with the right people using LinkedIn. In March he will address the topic of how to engage with these connections.
For years, professionals have been told to create a personal “brand” to stand out from the crowd. This is excellent advice.
One of the most critical components in creating a personal brand online is your LinkedIn Profile. But many skilled professionals don’t know how to corral the range and depth of their talents into a compelling presentation.
In an article in Entrepreneur magazine, author Thomas Smale stresses the importance of having an effective online presence: “Do you have social media profiles? If so, are they fully fleshed out with all of your information? Do they present you in the best light possible, and make you look professional? Are you using high-quality professional photography? Are you interacting with others and sharing their content?”
So let’s look at some major sections of your LinkedIn Profile and examine how they can better help you create your brand.
But first I want to mention – as undoubtedly most of you have noticed – that LinkedIn has gone through important changes. Some of these are welcome; others are not.
Perhaps most notably, you cannot move your LinkedIn sections around as you were able to before. This change is disconcerting because, in essence, LinkedIn has unilaterally decided how your Profile is structured.
Regardless of how you feel about these changes, you will have to adapt to them in order to be successful in your LinkedIn campaign. My discussion of Profile sections will include an examination of some of these changes.
I call the first Profile section the “Snapshot,” because that’s exactly what it is: a snapshot of who you are. The Snapshot features your photo and your headline. Your headline provides descriptive words about you that appear directly below your photo.
Failure to impress viewers in these areas will hurt your brand.
A photo that is unprofessional is an immediate turnoff. Even more damaging is a non-photo. It’s believed that a Profile with a photo is 14 to 21 times more likely to be read than one without one. Your photo is the first area of your Profile that brands you.
Headlines that say things like “Seeking Employment” or “Finance Manager at Company X” are ineffective. They fail to show value.
Rather, your Headline should read like this: “Finance Manager at Company X | Financial Planning and Analysis | Auditing | Saving Organizations Millions.” This headline shows your value and brands you. It also adds keywords, making it easier for hiring authorities to find you.
Changes: The photo no longer is square and situated to the right. It is in the center and round and smaller. Therefore you need to make sure your face and a portion of your shoulders are captured in your photo as it’s now cropped.
Other changes include: We only see a person’s current place of employment instead of current and previous. In addition, the “relationship” section has been removed; there no longer is the ability to tag connections. Most notably: the Summary section is located at the bottom of the Snapshot.
Support your brand by creating a compelling Summary. This is where you tell your story, which can include the passion you have for your occupation, a statement about your expertise, and, if applicable, a characterization about how you are changing your career.
You’ll want to use close to the 2,000 characters allowed in the Summary to include keywords your Profile needs to boost your visibility. But your Summary in its entirety also must be powerful. It should mention accomplishments that will capture the reader’s attention.
You should write your Summary in either first- or third-person point of view. Don’t simply copy the Summary from your resume for this section.
Change: As mentioned above, the Summary now is located in the Snapshot area; it no longer has its own section. Also, only the first two lines (approximately 39 words) are revealed. Visitors must click “See more” to view your full Summary. Therefore, these lines must immediately sell you. I suggest a branding statement.
I’m often asked by job seekers how they should create the Experience section of their Profile. I tell them they have two options: They can either write a section that resembles the work history found on their resume or they can use Experience to highlight only their most important accomplishments.
I favor the latter approach. Nonetheless, I can understand the concern some people have that their profile may be the only document an employer sees, and so they believe showing a more complete view of their experience is the way to go. Bottom line: what’s most important in building your brand is listing accomplishments with quantified results. Here is an example:
Good: “Increased productivity by implementing a customer-relations management (CRM) system.”
Better: “Initiated and implemented – before deadline – a customer-relations management (CRM) system that increased productivity by 58%.”
To highlight your accomplishments, use bullets. Because LinkedIn doesn’t provide easy commands for creating bullets and other symbols, you need to cut and paste them from a non-LinkedIn document.
Change: LinkedIn automatically now provides a full expansion of only a few positions you’ve held. For the others, visitors must click “See more.”
Many people neglect this section, choosing simply to list the institutions they attended, the degrees they received, and their date of graduation. This might be the norm for resumes, but LinkedIn gives you the opportunity to further support your brand by telling the story of your education.
Take Mary, who completed her bachelor’s degree while working full-time – a major accomplishment in itself. If she wants to show off her work ethic and time-management skills, she might write a description like this:
University of Massachusetts, Lowell
Bachelor of Science, Mechanical Engineering, Magna Cum Laude
“While working full time at Company A, I attended accelerated classes at night for six years (two years less than typically expected). I also participated as an instructor in an online tutoring program, helping first-year students with their engineering classes. I found this to be extremely rewarding.”
Build your brand by showing visitors you are using your skills and developing new ones. It’s fine to volunteer for what I call “a good cause,” but to show people you’re serious about your occupation, you’ll volunteer in a way that requires your expertise.
(If you volunteer for a significant amount of time, it’s fine to list this in your Experience section, as long as you write “Volunteer Experience” beside your job title.)
Featured Skills and Endorsements
A healthy Skills section consisting of 30 to 50 skills is another way to strengthen your brand. The skills you list should demonstrate your expertise. Do not list skills you simply are familiar with. To further enhance your brand, the skills may be endorsed by your first-degree LinkedIn connections.
Change: The Skills & Endorsements section shows only your three top skills and one person who has endorsed you. Previously it showed your 10 top skills and more than 10 people who endorsed you. Visitors need to click “See XX (number) more skills” to see all your skills.
It is very important to receive recommendations and write them for others. By receiving recommendations, you show the value you bring to employers. Meanwhile, writing recommendations demonstrates your authority and what you value in others.
Bob McIntosh is a career workshop specialist, LinkedIn trainer, and LinkedIn Profile writer. He will be teaching the December 15th PDC class — this Friday — “Mastering the New LinkedIn for Job Search & Professional Success.” Visit his blog: Things Career Related.