Editor’s Note: The BAA will be hosting two free webinars on strengthening your LinkedIn profile — on Monday, Sept. 28 from noon-1 p.m. and on Tuesday, Sept. 29 from 1-2 p.m. (both Central time). For more information and to register, click on this link.
Over the past few months, more than 1,000 alums have connected with the BAA LinkedIn profile – many of them younger alumni who are looking for their first job (within their actual college major) or older alumni who are struggling to find a new position. I’ve looked at many of those profiles and seen some opportunities to improve their chances of recruiters and potential employers finding them online.
For those of you who think LinkedIn doesn’t matter because you’re not in the job market, rethink that. People who have you on their calendar will often sneak a peek at your profile to see if you have anything in common, and people searching for executives with specific skill sets or experiences may well find you with a speaking or networking opportunity that will pay dividends.
The first step is deciding your goals for your profile, figuring out what would make you special to your target audience, and identifying some keywords that will deliver first or second-page search results. Look at the profiles of your managers, of mentors, or of people who are doing what you want to do. Keep in mind that the tone of your profile changes based on your job situation, but don’t go overboard. Entrepreneurs should not make their profile about their company (that’s why there are Company Pages). People who are in jobs they love could write profiles focused on thought leadership, and perhaps open the door for a job they’d like even more. And job seekers should highlight their strengths and identify experience that will make them a better candidate (and don’t forget that volunteer activities and student activities are a way to demonstrate leadership and organization skills).
Here are five ways to quickly improve your results if you’re not already doing them:
- Post a Professional Photo. People connect with people, particularly if they’re photos exude a positive attitude. Many of our LinkedIn connections have made a choice that falls into one of five categories: (1) no photo; (2) group photo; (3) cropped photo that was clearly taken in a party atmosphere; (4) the “I’m holding a phone because I’m too busy” shot; or (5) the cheesecake shot that is appropriate only if you’re looking for acting or modeling gigs. No of these ranks first among the worst, although I did have one client who had a serious medical issue that made her face droop. We worked to get a shot that minimized the issue that she could feel good about.
- Focus on your Summary. First, you need to have one. I’ve been surprised to see how many people who are actively looking for jobs are only using the Experience sections. Talk about what you do most often, what you want to be doing, and explain why someone would want to hire you or work with you. Show what makes you special and/or different from everyone else who’s searching for people. Make them want to contact you. And consider attaching other media (e.g., portfolios of your best work, video clips). Avoid attaching your resume because I presume you’re customizing it based on the opportunity. But make sure that you’ve fully filled out your Experience section, using your keywords to explain the challenge you faced, the actions you took, and the results you achieved for each position. Your Experience section is your WHAT; your summary is your HOW, with the opportunity to highlight your major accomplishments.
- Write a Compelling Headline. Your headline is what people see when you invite them to connect or your profile shows up in their search results. If you work for Bank of America or Baylor University, people will easily find you in a search. People say it’s easier to find a job if you have a job, so avoid a headline that says “Baylor grad looking for work” because it comes across as a bit desperate. Focus instead on the value you bring to a prospective employer. Look for ways to grab the reader’s attention while staying professional.
- Proofread it. I’ve rejected great job candidates because of a typo in their resumes. I believe typos are the best indication of your attention to detail. If you don’t care about your resume or LinkedIn profile — also known as your most important marketing documents — why would a prospective employer or client think you’re going to care about their project? Check your spelling. Check for run-ons and fragments. Take a look at it after you save it; you will often get weird breaks within paragraphs.
- Optimize the order of your profile components For those of you who are recent graduates or in graduate school, consider moving your Education section up to after your Summary or after your Experience. I believe that Baylor alumni would prefer to hire Baylor alumni; make it easy for them to find you. All you need to do is go into Edit Profile mode, find the section you want to move, hold your cursor over the arrows to the right, and drag up or down.
For more tips, please consider registering for our monthly LinkedIn webinars, including the ones we’ll hold early in the week of Sept. 28.
Peter Osborne is the Chief Marketing Officer for the Baylor Alumni Association and a consultant who helps individuals and small businesses strengthen their brands and increase their visibility. He is hosting the BAA’s monthly 15 Ways to Improve Your LinkedIn Profile and Strengthen Your Corporate Brand webinars.