By Anne Evenson
Tips to help build your professional reputation.
“Don’t second guess your professional first impression.”
Mitch Miles, LinkedIn Strategy and Personal Branding Coach
LinkedIn is the world’s largest online professional network, where people can manage their professional identity online. LinkedIn is also an excellent place for people to showcase their professional expertise and connections, and it’s a vital tool for job hunters, especially during the Covid-19 crisis.
As social distancing becomes the new normal, your LinkedIn profile is likely the first place hiring managers will visit after looking at your resume. Your LinkedIn profile is a critical component of your personal brand, so it’s essential to maintain a clean, current and active digital identity.
Build Your Personal Brand
Begin with your LinkedIn profile picture, which can strongly affect how potential employers and professional connections perceive you. To make a good first impression, use a high-resolution image that meets the latest size requirements. Make sure that your face is the focal point of the image. Crop the photo just above your head to the top of your shoulders, so your face fills the frame. Dress for the type of job you’re seeking, and don’t be afraid to do a little filtering or photoshopping, as long as the photo still looks like you. And remember to smile with your mouth and your eyes!
The next step is to add a compelling background photo. This is the most significant visual element on your profile, and you want to use it to communicate the things that matter most to you. The right background image complements your personal brand and helps people remember you, so think carefully about how to use this space. Use tools like Canva to create an image with your logo if you’re an entrepreneur or freelancer, or visit stock photo websites that offer quality, high-resolution photos for a fee. Look through the pictures on your phone to find images that hold some significance for you. Make sure that the image you use is crisp and clear and meets the latest size requirements.
Tell Your Story
Beneath your background photo and your name is your headline. Many people use their current job title as their headline, but this is a missed opportunity. Use the headline to tell people what you do, what makes you tick, and how you see yourself professionally. There are many variations, but one formula you can use is: Your Skills & Expertise | Keywords Related to the Position You’re Seeking | The Value You Offer | Something Unique About You
For example, Creative Writer | Content Strategist | 77 Published Articles Helping Veterans | Baseball Fanatic
According to LinkedIn, your summary is the number one thing recruiters look at while viewing profiles. Don’t leave this section blank; this is your chance to tell your own story in your own words! Many people use this section to list their skills and previous job titles, but LinkedIn offers opportunities to highlight those areas further on in your profile, so don’t be redundant. Use this opportunity to tell people how you make positive contributions using your skills and experience and why that should matter to them. Devote some time and energy to writing a few drafts of your summary and share it around to people you know and trust. Your summary is a unique piece of content on your profile, so use it wisely.
Beware of using too many buzzwords in your profile. Buzzwords are terms that have become almost meaningless due to overuse. Some of the most worn-out buzzwords include adjectives like ‘creative,’ ‘certified,’ ‘experienced,’ ‘focused,’ ‘passionate,’ ‘specialized’ and ‘strategic.’ It’s not that you can’t use these words to describe yourself, but don’t use them alone without demonstrating that you possess these qualities.
Show Off Your Skills
Establish your industry knowledge by listing your relevant skills and experience with various tools and technologies in the ‘Skills & Endorsements’ section. LinkedIn allows you to add a maximum of 50 skills to your profile, and every one substantiates your headline and summary. Remember only to include skills that are pertinent to who you are and what you do.
Don’t miss an opportunity to take a ‘Skill Quiz.’ These quick tests allow you to demonstrate your skill levels for various software programs, and once you’ve passed, they display a ‘Verified Skills’ badge on your profile. You can retake the quizzes as many times as you like, and you choose whether to show the results. According to LinkedIn, applicants with verified skills are 30% more likely to be hired, and showing proof of your capabilities enhances your personal brand.
After you’ve completed your LinkedIn profile and built your network, you can identify people you’re connected with whose endorsements you value. Once you’ve added a skill, you can use ‘Skills Endorsements’ to ask 1st-degree LinkedIn connections to validate your skills, which boosts your credibility and strengthens your profile. The courteous way to achieve this is to reach out to contacts whom you believe genuinely merit an endorsement from you; this often elicits an endorsement in return. Don’t hesitate to send them a polite message requesting an endorsement for a few of your skills too.
As you gather skills endorsements, remember that relevance is important. If your area of expertise is digital marketing, but the people who are endorsing you have only worked with you on events, then you probably need to manage your endorsements so that they reflect what you do and who you are.
Highlight Your Background & Accomplishments
In the ‘Background’ section of your profile, you can include your work experience, education and any licenses and certifications you hold. LinkedIn even offers you space to display your volunteer experience, which is an excellent opportunity to show how civic-minded you are.
Don’t forget to add ‘Accomplishments’ to your profile. These include all of your publications, patents, courses, projects, test scores, languages, honors and awards and the organizations to which you belong. If you’re multi-lingual, LinkedIn even allows you to add an additional profile in another language.
Finally, look at other LinkedIn profiles and take note of the people who have cultivated a professional persona that captivates your attention. Ask yourself what it is about their profiles that you find interesting and memorable. With your own robust and exciting LinkedIn profile, you’ll be well on your way to building a solid professional reputation for yourself. Next, you’ll be ready to build and maintain your network.
Anne Evenson is a native Austinite and a proud Veteran’s spouse with over 20 years of marketing, communications and program coordination experience in the public, private and nonprofit sectors. She is also a sculptor, jeweler and all-around dabbler in the arts and loves to help military-connected individuals discover their inner creativity.
Learning and professional growth go hand in hand. For regular career insights and information on continuing education programs offered by UT’s Center for Professional Education, subscribe to our monthly e-newsletter, It’s Your Career.