Saturday, November 23, 2013

How to Create a Killer LinkedIn Profile

My sister recently reached out to me about improving her LinkeIn profile, as she's starting to reengage her professional life.  I put together some thoughts to help her, and thought that what I developed  may help others as well.

Here's the email I sent her:

Hi Foof,

Welcome to social media - my world! 

From my perspective, there is NOTHING more important than LinkedIn from a personal branding perspective. You don't need pro help, you have me, and I'd argue that I'm in the 99th percentile when it comes to LI and effectiveness. My profile is not perfect, but it is pretty damn good.

The objectives of a LinkedIn profile are twofold.  The first is obvious - this is the new extension of the resume.  It is able to tell a lot more about you than that piece of paper ever could.  The second is far more subtle, but imminently more valuable; it helps you get found.  And that's a key way of how senior executives to managers are found in 2013.  It is how business is done.

Let's start at the top:

  • Picture is critical.  Always have one, and always have a good one.  Mine is out of date and bad, and my 2014 resolution is to update it.  It does not have to be professional, but it does have to be very good. Yours needs an update.  The fact that you're a good looking woman will strongly benefit you in this area.  That's not being sexist; that's reality and the way the world works.
  • The number and type of connections are critical, as who you know is often times as important as what you know.  You need to be constantly growing this, and your goal should be to fill that area with people that are at or higher than your level.  Certainly they'll not all be that, but when people go through your contacts, they need to be impressed by the crowd with which you run.  That means being strategic about reaching out to folks.
  • Along those lines, there is a courtesy in asking for a connection.  Never, and I mean never just send out the LinkedIn template request.  If you can't spend 10 seconds personalizing it to the relationship to make it meaningful for the recipient, you're just spamming them.  These people are getting multiple requests per week, and they're certainly not accepting all of them (I accept about 10% of what I get).  Give them a reason to want to connect with you by letting them know how connecting with you can be valuable for them or by reminding them of what you once worked on together.  
  • You've got a personal URL in LinkedIn - great job!  That's missed by a lot of folks, and it makes it a lot easier for you to be found outside of LI on traditional search engines.  Nothing to change there.
  • Contact info is critical as it will be the mechanism by which many will reach you, and it also says things about you.  You're missing your phone number, and this needs to be included (then we've got to work on your phone skills - keeping your inbox clear for incoming messages, firing off "busy" texts on inbound calls, etc.).  Also, your email address says a lot about you.  Since you're on an AOL domain, my assumption would be that you're not technically savvy.  I'd suggest getting a gmail account, and branding it appropriately (just your name, and nothing crazy like "" - people hate that.)
  • Your activity stream is important.  You need to be on LI for 15 minutes every work day, developing this.  People need to see what you are doing, and you need to be sharing your professional perspective so that people can see a deeper picture of you and what you thinking.  I'm not as developed here as I'd like to be, and that's because work is just too crazy now.  In a more normal period, I'm pushing out a thought a day, and looking to get engagement from my network.  Also, your posts can automatically be published to Twitter, and I suggest you establish a professional account there.  I'd make all of your tweets on LI and would save Twitter for only professional tweets.  Never tweet any personal information.  Politics is a definite third-rail.
  • Your background and experience needs to be filled in, and needs to be filled with the specific keywords that people would use to find someone with a skill set like yours.  Think about the search terms they'd use, and then use those terms in your content.  This needs to be very strategic.  LI provides you insight to how many times you've shown up in searches, and you need to be focused on that metric with the goal of growing it on a week by week basis.
  • Recommendations are important - they're references.  You need to cultivate these as much as possible, with the goal of having a couple per your last three gigs.  Your boss or client should be one of them if possible; direct reports hold a lot less value, but they're not worthless - they give your prospective employer direct insight on the kind of leader you are from your team's perspective, and that is valuable insight indeed.
  • The best way to get a recommendation is to first write one for the person you intend to ask.  Likewise, if you ever get asked to write a recommendation, always ask for one in return.  You might not like what you get back (not that it is negative, just that it is poorly written), and you have the right to accept the recommendation and publish it or not.  I have a number of recommendations that I have not published as I felt it did not align with the brand I am trying to cultivate, and that is OK.
  • Working on any projects?  Load them in that area.  Look for things like any community projects or pro bono charity work you might be doing.  Be creative here.
  • Remove your high school from your education.  You wouldn't put it on your resume, and it doesn't belong on LI.
  • Skills and expertise endorsements are pretty much a joke.  By all means, develop a list for yourself, and if people endorse you for them, outstanding.  But by no means does this take the place of the recommendation.  I personally view these as pretty worthless as I have people endorsing me for skill sets that they've never seen me execute in the hopes that I reciprocate.  I refuse to give that away, and in the past year I've not endorsed anyone for anything.
  • Your professional groups and the companies you follow say a lot about your professional curiosity and engagement, and both of those areas need to be a strong reflection of your personal brand.  Spend a lot of time there, and make the appropriate engagements.

That's it to start.  That won't be the end - there is fine tuning to do - but if you do all of these things you'll easily have a top tier LinkedIn profile.  It will take a lot of work - LI is NOT set and forget - but if you do put in the work, it will pay dividends for you.  It won't happen immediately, but the goal is to incrementally get better every week. 

Personally, I judge my effectiveness based on the about of recruiters that are on my page, and by the amount of recruiter calls I receive,  Right now I'm averaging about 3 to the page and about a call per week.  If I was in the job market, I'd love that kind of attention.  Define your own success metrics, and head after them. 

We can talk more on this when we get together, or feel free to call me at any time.  I enjoy this stuff very much (hence my career choice), and I'm happy to help.

Love you.


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