Many of the LinkedIn profiles of potential c-suite clients I review have not been touched by human hands. The LinkedIn member has not changed the default headline automatically populated for this spot, based upon their current, or most recent job title.

LinkedIn Headline Mistakes

A headline like “CIO at XYZ company” may or may not work for them.

Not only is your headline one of the first things people will see on your profile – second to your photo – it’s the thumbprint first impression that’s carried along throughout all your LinkedIn activities, to help describe and distinguish your value.

  • Post something to a LinkedIn Group . . . your headline and photo go along with you.
  • Post an update to your profile . . . your headline and photo accompany your update when your network is notified.
  • Send someone a LinkedIn InMail . . . your headline and photo go with you there, too.

And most especially, your headline is the most important SEO (search engine optimization) spot on your profile.

One of the main ways recruiters and hiring decision makers at your target companies identify good-fit candidates is by searching relevant keywords on LinkedIn. Through company and industry research, you need to identify which keywords and phrases must be in your headline and elsewhere in your LinkedIn profile.

Want to get the most impact from your LinkedIn profile?

Don’t make these 3 mistakes in your LinkedIn professional headline:

1.  Neglecting the right keywords

As much as I’d like people to reinforce their personal brand by getting some personality in their headline, I feel packing it with keywords is more important. For the most part, save the descriptive adjectives for your Summary and Experience sections, and elsewhere.

You should use your headline as a means to draw people to your profile. That means making sure it contains the keywords the people you want to attract will be searching on LinkedIn to find people like you.

2.  Typos, misspellings, abbreviations, and spacing issues

LinkedIn and other search engines may not recognize phrases that vary from the exact words in any way.

  • Proofread diligently for typos and misspellings.
  • Avoid abbreviations.
  • Be careful using characters to separate words and phrases. Leave a space between commas, slashes (“/”), dashes (“–“), pipes (“|”), etc.

For instance, the phrase “CFO, Senior Finance Manager” may be doomed, if it looks like any of these:

CFO, Senior Finance Manger (Manager is misspelled)
CFO, Senior Finance Mgr (Manager is abbreviated)
CFO/Senior Finance Manager (slash with no spaces)
CFO|Senior Finance Manager (pipe with no spaces)
CFO–Senior Finance Manager (dash with no spaces)

3.  Too many superfluous words

Space is limited in the headline to 120 characters and spaces. You must use that space to your best advantage.

An expressive word or two is okay (such as “gutsy” or “Pioneer”) for emphasis, but you should be concentrating on getting the best keywords and phrases in there.

Place statements like “seeking opportunities in XYZ” or even jazzy ones like “I help sales teams soar” in your Summary section instead.

Here’s a well-written headline that may be doomed because of formatting issues. Can you spot the errors?

CFO-Senior Finance/Operations Excutive – Alternative & Mobile Paymts Pioneer, Global Montization, E-commerce, SaaS, M&A

Here’s one (at 115 characters and spaces) that is much more likely to help that person’s profile land higher in search results. It’s better to sacrifice one of the keywords, so that the rest of them will be parsed correctly by search engines.

CFO, Senior Finance & Operations Executive – Alternative & Mobile Payments Pioneer, Global Monetization, E-commerce, M&A

More Posts About LinkedIn:

How to Make Your LinkedIn Profile Professional Headline SEO-Friendly

The 3 Most Important LinkedIn Profile SEO Places for Relevant Keywords

Add Special Bullet Point Pizzazz to Your LinkedIn Profile

2 LinkedIn Personal Branding Tips You Don’t Know

Your Personal Brand Online and the LinkedIn Privacy Dilemma

graphic by Meredith Atwater

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It’s time you faced it, if you haven’t already.

You’ll probably have to do a lot of networking to find and land your next gig . . . unless you’re very, very lucky.

Executive Networking

So, get your head out of the job boards and stop wasting so much time sending your resume out in response to online job postings.

Did you know that, although the vast majority of job seekers use job boards to find jobs, only a very small percentage, maybe around 5%, will land jobs directly through them?

First things first. Don’t start your job search without knowing what kinds of job(s) you want and which companies and organizations will provide opportunities that mutually benefit you and the employer.

That requires targeting and researching, say, 15-20 companies, on how you can help them meet their current needs and challenges. In other words, determine what makes you a good hiring choice for them.

You can hop onto the job boards as one means of company research but, please, don’t be tempted to spend the biggest chunk of your job search efforts responding to postings.

Your mission is to use your research to help you define your personal brand around what differentiates your unique value from your competitors, and create your resume, biography, LinkedIn profile, Google Plus, and other career materials.

Then you’ll network your way into the companies you’ve targeted those job search marketing collaterals towards, whether or not they’ve posted openings for jobs you want.

Work on circumventing the gatekeepers (i.e. Human Resources).

Identify and connect directly with executive recruiters, key hiring decision makers, and employees, where they hang out online and offline. LinkedIn Company profiles and each company’s website will help you find them.

You may not know that one of the best ways to land a job at one of your target companies is through a referral from an employee . . . at almost any professional level. Employers are more attracted to people referred by their own employees because they feel they already know them. And the referring employees may receive a monetary reward for bringing in a good-fit candidate. Everybody wins.

This proactive approach will lead you to the goldmine of “hidden jobs” at your target companies. That is:

  • Jobs created around specific candidates’ unique promise of value, once they connected with and had dialog with companies’ hiring decision makers.
  • Existing positions in which an incumbent is replaced when someone better comes along.
  • An open slot, waiting to be filled, that isn’t advertised outside the company. Only internal people know about it.
  • Jobs that, for whatever reason, are not advertised or visible, and can only be uncovered and accessed through networking.

How to Build Your Executive Network

1. Be ready to tell people how they can help you.

Just as you need to be prepared – through your industry and company research – to speak intelligently about trends and issues impacting your target market, you need to be prepared to speak intelligently about yourself and your value in the marketplace.

If you can’t specifically tell people what you’re looking for, they won’t know how to help you.

Relying on your targeting and research work, you should be able to easily craft a succinct statement that reinforces your personal brand and expertise, and be ready to use it at any time. Some call this your “elevator pitch”. It should be structured something like this, with your own adjustments, of course:

“I’m an expert in business transformation and high growth – the turnaround guy who rescues projects no one else can. I’m looking for a VP or CIO position, with emphasis on XYZ, at a rapidly-expanding global pharmaceutical company in the greater Los Angeles area.”

Make it vibrant, but keep it short and to the point. Practice it many times until it becomes second nature and flows easily.

2. Connect more deeply with the people you already know.

Reconnect with and revive your existing network. If you’re like many executives I speak with, you’ve neglected them because you had a job and didn’t think you needed them or you just lost track of them.

This happens to the best of us. It’s okay to circle back to them. Briefly apologize for not re-connecting sooner. Check in with them and find out what they’re up to and update them on what you’ve been doing.

But don’t rudely burst into a request for them to help you get a job. Reconnect first and revive the relationship. Then you can ask them if they have any connections at your target companies. And see if they’d be willing to recommend you and/or write you a letter of introduction, stating some of your qualifications.

Also, reach out to former clients and vendors, professional associations, community groups and lifestyle groups.

3. Cast a far-reaching net to build out your existing network with fresh faces.

Your existing network will only take you so far. At some point, you’ll have to try to connect directly with people you don’t know . . . in-person and online.

The following are networking tips to help you reach out to and engage people you already know and those you don’t.

Where to Connect and Network

LinkedIn

The gold standard for executive networking. If you’re not there already participating in Groups, posting updates, and reconnecting with people you know, and making new connections, it’s time to get busy. Leverage LinkedIn to network towards making first degree connections with people at your target companies.

Google Plus

Rapidly joining the 3 must-do social networks (LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook) to form the “Big 4″, Google+ has become an important place to mix and mingle.

Twitter

Search Twitter for your target contacts. Follow and retweet them. Also look for your target companies themselves, job search experts, and job boards. They’re tweeting job openings, offering advice and resources, and much more. An active Twitter presence also shows you’re an up-to-date, social media-savvy candidate.

Facebook and other social networks

Each one offers its own benefits. Decide how much time you can allot to social networking and which ones will work for you.

Blogs and Online Media

If your target people blog or write articles on sites, post comments that reinforce your brand and promise of value, and keep you top-of-mind with them.

Relevant Professional Associations

Hobnob with other subject matter experts and thought leaders. Join committees and communicate through their e-lists. Write articles within your areas of expertise for their newsletters and Websites. Mentor a new member and/or less experienced professional.

People at Work

Get to know those around you – your co-workers, vendors, customers, and people in other departments.

Real-life Networking Events

Don’t overlook opportunities to meet and make connections in-person at industry trade events, conferences, and local commerce events.

Volunteer Your Time and Expertise

Connect on a local level by volunteering. Tap into your areas of expertise and personal passions to lead and/or participate in community events, PTA efforts, organization Boards of Directors, fundraising efforts, sports activities, etc.

How To Keep Your Network Engaged and Happy with You

→ Practice “give to get” networking. Approach new contacts with the attitude “how can we help each other?” Don’t expect favors without giving something in return. Networking that works for everyone is all about helping, sharing, finding common ground, and being a good listener.

→ Be kind, take it slow. Keep in mind that many of the people you want to network with are probably being tapped by more job seeking connections than ever before for advice and leads. Don’t be offended if they don’t respond. They may not have the time.

→ Be a good listener. People remember those who give them that boost by being truly interested in what they have to say. Good listeners set themselves up for reciprocity in networking. They’re much more inclined to keep engaged listeners top of mind when they hear of an opportunity that may be a good fit for them.

→ Nurture relationships by staying in touch. Send birthday, anniversary, and holiday cards by regular mail. Email them with links to blog posts and articles you know they’ll like. Let them know about upcoming industry events, trade shows and other events of interest. Pick up the phone and call people sometimes.

→ Be friendly and upbeat. Nobody likes a downer who constantly complains about how bad things are out there.

→ Say thank you a lot – in person, on paper, and digitally. This is one of the most neglected networking best-practices. Nothing shows your appreciation better than a hand-written, regular-mailed thank you note for an introduction, kindness or special gesture. And remember to extend your thanks and compliments to presenters and contributors at industry events, and anyone whose work was valuable and impressed you.

Your take-away from all these efforts?

Circle back to your established, trusted network, while reaching out to new people in new places.

Strategically spreading your personal brand and promise of value across diverse outlets online and offline will link you to opportunities that otherwise may have been invisible to you. You just never know who may lead you to a key decision maker and when a great opportunity may literally fall in your lap.

More Information About Executive Networking

Executive Job Search: Research Your Target Employers

The Power of Qualified References in Executive Job Search

How to Connect on LinkedIn with People You Don’t Know . . . and Get Action

Keep Your Personal Brand Top-of-Mind with LinkedIn Updates

Executive Job Search Networking: Remember the Telephone?

3 Social Media Ways to Build Your Executive Job Search Network

No Time For Twitter? How to Tweet Less, But Tweet Quality

 

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