LinkedIn, love it or hate it, you need to be there if you are in business.What ever you are doing.
Most profiles are kind of half arsed attempts to sell a CV to someone. Many are self conscious, even more are filled with corporate speak as engaging as drying concrete. And yes, those that are so grit-your-teeth-positive you have wonder why the world is in the state it’s in with all these superheros around.
This guide aims to help you create a profile to celebrates the real YOU – the person inside the CV. Its about being authentic, and whole, as well as smart. If you want safe, grey, corporate speak that diverges from the truth when its convenient just to inch up the greasy pole, you’re in the wrong place.
So first things first, word counts and mechanics.
I’m not going to talk jobs, recommendations, education and all that factual stuff. You should be able to do that yourself without too much angst and pain. What I’m going to look at is the headline (briefly) and profile – the two things that make you feel like you’re standing naked in the front of every potential boss or client for the rest of eternity. They aren’t easy to write, in fact, I’d say they are the hardest things you will ever write.
Word counts for LinkedIn are reasonably generous. The headline is tweet length – 140 characters. You have more to play with for your profile, currently 2000 characters, but the way things are going with LinkedIn at the moment – it seems to change day by day – that could be 200 characters or 20,000 characters tomorrow.
Headline = 140 characters
Summary = 2000 characters
If you do feel anxious, as though committing yourself in words on LinkedIn is akin to nudity in the board room, then give yourself a break. The web is a reasonably anonymous place until you start shouting about your presence. That said, changing your profile will get flagged in all your network as a status update. BUT you can do everything you need to do to get your profile tickety-boo offline, so scribble and edit until you are happy. When you’re there THEN upload.
Hit hard on your headline.
Smack ‘em with your USP, the essence of you, your most marketable trait and give it spin. How? Here’s one formula that works well:
problem – solution – value.
What’s the problem your market has that you can solve for them, and what value does it have? Add a twist of personality, what makes you deliver your solution so well, what you bring to the task and you’re away. You’ve got a mere 140 characters, so best make it snappy.
Purpose – what do you want your profile to do for you?
a) help you build a network
If you want to build a network make sure you list all your past jobs and education to help you find connections and help past connections find you. If you don’t you’re missing out on opportunities.
b) get you in front of the eyes of the recruitment army
If you are looking to move to a new position, then fill your profile with the right keywords to help you come up in searches. That will mean focusing forwards on where you want to be, not necessarily looking back to where you’ve come from. Recruiters sesarching is just like google searching and you want to be on their first page. Get there by using keywords (headline above all else) and having at least 3 recommendations, more give your profile more weight in searches.
c) give your expertise a boost for consulting and freelance contracts
If you’re a coach, consultant or therapist of any kind your profile needs to give a strong sense of who you really as a person for prospective clients and as an expert for media, speaking engagements, writing assignments. Make sure you’re recommended and your recommendations speak to the skills you are offering.
d) none of the above…
If you’re not sure what your profile’s purpose is, it will be hard to figure out where to focus your profile and you run the risk of it being a bit bland, a bit vague a bit beige.
Who are you?
The $10M question – underneath all of that guff, bluster, bravado and whatever else you’ve been putting into your CV of late – who are you really? Deep down. Get digging!
Dig for values, approaches, beliefs, things that you wouldn’t ever give up. Those traits you couldn’t change if you want to.
Totally stuck? Invest in at least an hour with a career coach or get busy with some psychometrics like wealth dymanics, strengths finder or good old Myers Briggs… more on this in other posts, search the blog.
For example – I can’t help myself wanting to KNOW about things, I’m a natural born researcher. I have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and love to write about my discoveries, simply and clearly… BUT – and everyone has a BUT…
What are your weaknesses?
I don’t know what your BUT is, but my big BUT is that curious as I am I’m also hopelessly eclectic, I find out and I move on.
That’s not to say I don’t go deep, I do. But I tend to go deep with lots of different things. Which I’ve always thought was a terrible weakness, but for clients this is great – I can become engrossed in the finer points of leadership coaching one day and the macro-economic argument against foreign aid the next.
Take a look at yourself and review those shameful secrets you keep about your modus operandii:
- Do your weaknesses actually translate into strengths?
- Are what you think of as failures really hidden gems you’ve ‘forgotten’ to mention?
- Can you rehabilitate those weaknesses and bring them into centre stage?
For instance if you think being quiet or shy is a weakness, does it give you opportunity away from the fray of those fighting for attention. Maybe you are highly perceptive? Or listen well? It’s up to you to have a poke around in those dark corners of your work persona. There’s gold in them there hills.
So you know your strengths right?
But times, they are a changing. Rapidly. So rapidly in fact that if you haven’t taken a look at job boards for a while you may be in for a shock. Maybe your skills aren’t as valuable as you thought they were?
Given the cool economic outlook coupled with an ageing population, openings in senior positions aren’t there: too many seniors are sitting tight. Any plans to step up to senior management team might best be put off. Instead you may be looking to your left or right, rather than ad astra.
But maybe your skills are even more valuable than you imagined. Working in the creative industries and know how to code? Ruby on Rails? Joomla? You can get prospects queuing from here to the moon to talk to you. Or possibly you are the last of the dinosaurs: postage stamp designer, perhaps. What’s more likely is that you’ll find jobs putting skills together in new and interesting ways.
What’s important is to look at how your kind of thing is being described and try and pick out the keywords that are ‘on the money’. In my line of business, copywriters are now also content creators, editors have become content strategists or curators.
Double check your keywords against what people are searching for on LinkedIn – massive search return means you need to refine, tiny means you may need to head towards the mainstream. Those are the keywords you are going to put in your profile. Only the ones that fit you, of course, just in case you were thinking of crafting a work of fiction.
What do you want someone reading your profile to do next?
Coming back to the beginning, what’s your profile for?
If you know that you’ll know what you want to happen next so make it obvious and easy.
- If you’re looking for a salaried position, reference your own resume and include it on LI as a download
- If you’re available for contract work, say so and say what kind and whether that’s short term or long term contracting
- If you’re consulting, describe the kinds of clients you work with best.
Be bold, be honest and be brave. You’re not going to get much interest or opportunity if your main selling point is that you blend well with beige. Nobody wants to work with a shadow, a shape shifter, a people pleaser. Personality and personal values are integral to your competitive advantage now.
Today we are blessed with immense freedom to express ourselves, our values, our talents like never before. Grab that opportunity and push it as far as you can. So what if some people don’t ‘like you’ – that’s great, you’ve weeded out some career dead ends and dead hours, weeks or months. By bringing yourself to the party, your peers, potential employers and prospects will thank you for it: they will know who you are, and that allows you to be who you are.
If you’re reading this and about to revise your profile on LI do connect with me when you are in there, I’d love that. You can find me at www.linkedin.com/in/jennykowalczuk
If you’ve got any questions, ask away, that’s what the comment box is for and I’d love you to fill one up.