Among the many benefits LinkedIn offers both job seekers and careerists, it is one of the best places to build your online personal brand and differentiate the unique value you offer your target employers.
Don’t believe me? Try Googling “your name” right now.
If you have a fully fleshed out LinkedIn profile, it should come up as the first search result for “your name”, or at least within the first several results. (This may not hold true if you have a common name.)
That’s powerful stuff . . . and just the thing recruiters and hiring professionals are looking for, when they Google your name to assess you as a candidate.
If you have NO LinkedIn profile or one with very little content, you won’t have that valuable search result associated with “your name”, like so many of your job seeking competitors do.
Along with the many things you can do on LinkedIn to proactively promote yourself as a job candidate, your LinkedIn profile itself will be working hard for you passively, just by sitting there . . . if you know what to do with it.
I’ve outlined below 10 LinkedIn things you need to do, whether you’re job hunting or just mindful of career management.
The first 6 are the things you need to do to make your profile work passively for you.
The last 4 things are those you need to do to make your profile work proactively for you.
Many, many job seekers (probably many that you’ll be competing against) are NOT doing these things. If you do, you’ll be that much ahead of the game, and much more likely to be found on LinkedIn and get the right people reaching out to you.
[PLEASE NOTE: As of this writing, this is how the noted LinkedIn features work. Like all social media, LinkedIn is continuously changing, so some of the features I describe below may no longer exist, or may function differently.]
Get your LinkedIn profile together to promote your personal brand
1. Start with targeting specific employers that will be a good mutual fit.
Know which companies and organizations you will build your profile content and networking efforts around.
Targeting and research will also help you identify the important keywords and keyword phrases you need to use throughout your profile.
These keywords represent your areas of expertise, or hard skills. They are the words and phrases recruiters and hiring professionals search on LinkedIn to source candidates like you.
How do you uncover the right keywords to use?
By researching your target employers to identify the skill sets and other qualifications you have that will help them meet specific current needs.
2. Optimize your LinkedIn profile headline for better SEO (Search Engine Optimization).
The profile headline is perhaps the most important place for the relevant keywords that support your brand, which are also those that will be searched most by hiring professionals looking for candidates like you.
Don’t use this prime real estate for fluff like “Results-driven Leader” or things like “Seeking opportunities in ____.”
Instead (and if you can safely let the world know that you’re job hunting), add things like “seeking opportunities in” into your About section. Leave out fluff like “results-driven” entirely. That kind of phrase does nothing to differentiate you and it’s not a phrase that will be searched by anyone.
Here is a headline that will draw people to this job seeker because of its keywords:
Chief Data Scientist for the Fortune 500 | Artificial Intelligence, Data Analytics, Product Development
But take it further and add in some personality:
Chief Data Scientist for the Fortune 500 | Artificial Intelligence, Data Analytics, Product Development, Thought Leadership | My mantra for business survival in the technology sphere: Unlearn. Transform. Reinvent.
LinkedIn gives you quite a bit of space for the headline. Use it wisely and to your best advantage, and include a balance of your hard and softer skills.
3. Add your top skills in the “Skills & Endorsements” section.
Skills & Endorsements are another place on your LinkedIn profile that factor into SEO. Prioritize by listing your 3 top skills first, because these are highlighted on your profile.
Over time, you’ll see people connected to you endorsing these skills. Your prioritization may be thrown off, as the numbers of endorsements rise. You can go into “edit profile” to re-order your skills.
4. Write brand-driven, compelling content for each applicable section of your LinkedIn profile.
Remember that the more content on your profile, the more likely it will contain more of the relevant keywords that will support your personal brand . . . and help you get found.
Assuming you have already worked on defining your personal brand, create content that will position you as a good-fit candidate for your target employers.
As you develop LinkedIn profile content, ALWAYS put yourself in their shoes. Answer questions like this:
- What do they need to know about you?
- What challenges are they facing that you’re uniquely qualified to help them overcome?
- How will you help them meet current pressing needs?
- What makes you a good culture fit for them?
- What super powers (or areas of expertise) of yours will most benefit them?
Spend time writing your About section to showcase more than your hard skills. Generate chemistry for yourself as a potential employee. Use storytelling to help draw people in.
Check out each possible profile section and see if you can add at least something to as many of them as possible, even the little-used sections like:
- Honors & awards
- Test Scores
- Licenses & certifications
- Volunteer experience
5. Build up your number of connections.
Keep connecting with more people on LinkedIn who can help you meet your career goals. The wider your network, the greater potential for people to connect you with job opportunities and help you meet your career goals.
And, LinkedIn says that 500 or more connections will make your profile land higher in search results, so keep at it to build your connections to 500 and beyond.
6. Use LinkedIn like it’s your personal website or home base online.
I often recommend that my clients create a personal website with a blog for online branding. But this is not realistic for everyone.
The next best thing may be to use LinkedIn to house pretty much everything you’d put on a personal website. For instance:
- The About section is the same as a website “About” page.
- Project sections on your profile can be used for special projects, case studies, and additional contributions and achievements that don’t fit in the Experience section.
- Just like a “Contact” page on a website, LinkedIn allows you to add various contact information at the top of your profile.
- On a website you can add visuals to better attract people to your brand. On your LinkedIn profile you can add video and images in the Featured and other sections, and links with images to external documents, photos, sites, videos and presentations in some sections.
- The ability to blog on a website is a huge bonus, and a terrific way to demonstrate your subject matter expertise. LinkedIn gives you the ability to blog, as you’ll read in #7 below.
Build brand evangelism and keep your online personal brand top-of-mind with your network and others on LinkedIn.
7. Blog on LinkedIn using the Pulse publishing platform.
Blogging is a great way to share your expertise, build community and brand evangelism, and position yourself as a niche expert.
Write about the things you know. Your areas of expertise become the topics you should write articles about.
These areas of expertise are also the important relevant keywords you’ll use throughout your LinkedIn profile, to help recruiters and other hiring professionals find you.
If you’ve published white papers and articles elsewhere online, post them on LinkedIn, too. Just copy and paste each one into a fresh Pulse article page, add an image or video, add in hashtags before posting, and post the article.
Once you post an article on Pulse, also post it as an update. More about this in #9 below.
8. Write LinkedIn recommendations for others and ask them to write you one.
Recommendations are important. They help people assessing you validate the claims you’ve made about yourself. When well written, a recommendation tells people why you’re someone they should consider.
Maybe the best way to get a really good LinkedIn recommendation is by first writing one for them.
You may not realize this: A recommendation you’ve written for someone includes a link to your profile, which many will click on to read about you.
It’s okay to help people write your recommendation. In fact, it’s a good idea to let them know what kinds of information you need to be in the recommendation. You may even suggest that you write the recommendation yourself and send it to them to edit.
9. Post LinkedIn updates regularly, say, once a week or so.
A great way to keep your personal brand top-of-mind, sharing updates also helps you demonstrate your subject matter expertise and engage people in discussion.
A tip to make your updates more powerful is to tag people in the updates, and add hashtags.
10. Comment on and react to other people’s LinkedIn updates and Pulse articles.
Chiming in on others’ updates and Pulse articles does double duty:
If you write something pithy, you’ll position yourself as a subject matter expert.
You’ll make people (probably those in your network) very happy. They’ll appreciate that you took the time to comment on something that’s important to them . . . which builds brand evangelism.
Even a simple “like” has benefits, and takes no time at all to accomplish.
More About LinkedIn and Executive Job Search
This article was first published for my LinkedIn Personal Branding Expert gig at Job-Hunt.org.