If my friends know anything about me, it is the fact that I can get pretty annoying giving them a constant reminder to create a LinkedIn profile. Well, the reason why is because I really believe in it.
You see, having a profile on LinkedIn is like having a digital CV, a business card, and in some cases even portfolio, all at once. It is an open invitation for the whole world to see you and what you are skilled at.
Not having it, on another hand, is like not showing up on Google search. If somebody looks for sports shoes and your ad doesn’t appear, somebody else will probably steal your cookie.
“Sometimes the bravest and most important thing you can do is just show up.”
(I couldn’t find who said this quote but it’s not mine!)
Anyways, I think you get the point. Today, we will see step by step how you can create a LinkedIn profile to get the most out of your professional background. And, we will also see why!
Step 1: Profile Introduction
The first thing that people will see when they click on your profile is the introduction section. Let’s see its anatomy (using my own profile as an example):
The header is the long rectangular image right behind your profile picture. It doesn’t come by default, and it is completely optional, but I highly recommend taking advantage of it. It not only makes your profile stand out from the crowd, but it can also be used to draw the attention towards your company or services.
In my case, I used it to reinforce my personal brand, and more specifically, my blog. Of course, avoid making it too spammy or commercial. Your profile is not a tool for direct sales!
Luckily for you, having a good LinkedIn header doesn’t require mad editing or Photoshop skills. You can just hop to a free tool such as Canva, (or try their cheap Pro Version) register, and type “linkedin banner” to see some awesome templates that you can personalize as you wish.
2. Profile picture
One of the most important elements when it comes to your LinkedIn profile is undoubtedly your profile photo. People usually think that it has to be a super professional, studio-shot photo, but this is absolutely not necessary.
In fact, often times a regular, non-professional photo is better because it’s more realistic, and makes you look more approachable. Of course, it should still meet some basic requirements – don’t go to the other extreme either:
- Make sure that your photo is up to date – not of you 20 years ago, or when you had a completely different hairstyle/look that is no longer recognizable;
- Your photo should have a good resolution – about 400 x 400 pixels would be ideal. Nothing screams unprofessional more than a blurry picture. Keep in mind that the max is 8 MB.
- Your face should take up at least 60% of the frame. Photos in which you are standing at the top of a mountain, and we can barely see your face, might be great for Facebook but is not such a great idea when it comes to LinkedIn.
- Avoid using group photos. They make it really hard to distinguish you from the crowd, and other users will not be able to make an idea of what you look like.
- Make sure that the photo has a soft, natural light. Photos that are so dark that we can barely see you, or so bright that can hurt your eyes are a no.
- Selfies are not the worst idea, but the majority of them are on the other extreme of non-professional. On top of that, selfie cameras usually have lower quality than the regular ones. If possible, have a coworker or a friend take your photo instead of a selfie.
A lot of times, it takes a quick look at your headline for a person to decide whether they want to continue interacting with you.
For the majority of us, your headline will probably consist of your current job position and the company you are working at. However, if you are doing many things at the same time (work, blog, own project, etc.), it is a good place to sum them up in a couple of words.
In fact, avoid limiting your headline to just your job position and company name. Use the opportunity to say a bit more about your role, or the skills that you want to put emphasis on.
You can do this by using bullet points to divide your projects. Also, don’t forget to include keywords to make your profile easier to find on LinkedIn.
Many people use the headline to say that they are looking for job opportunities. However, avoid having your headline consist only of a phrase such as:
- Looking for a job
- I need a job
- Looking for job opportunities
Without any additional context. If you only have this in your headline, possible recruiters might not take the time to open your profile just to see in what field are you looking for a job.
Instead, write your preferred industry / position / field, followed by “looking for new opportunities”:
- Sales professional | Looking for new job opportunities
- Marketing | Looking for new job opportunities
This way, it will not only look more professional, but you will provide people with more information straight from the headline.
Another detail to consider when you decide to create a LinkedIn profile is the number of your connections.
As I explain in my previous article, LinkedIn is extremely careful about spamming and making people obsess with meaningless numbers. So, once you exceed 500 connections, you will only see “500+” in people’s profiles, but never the exact number.
However, before you reach 500 connections, you will have the exact number until then. Which is not a big deal, but having less than 500 means that your LinkedIn profile is new and not fully developed yet. Or you are just not using the platform to its fullest potential.
Now, I am not implying that you should randomly add people that you don’t know just to reach this number. On the contrary, quality is always better than quantity on LinkedIn. However, taking the time to develop your network is not only great for your professional background, but also shows people that you are actually making a good use of LinkedIn.
So, when you create a LinkedIn profile, try to build your network with valuable connections over time. Don’t just ignore this part as many people do.
Step 2: Summary
The next key section of your profile will be your summary.
Summaries are very important because they allow you to introduce yourself and share more about your professional background. But they are also a great opportunity for you to include keywords that will make your profile easier to find by recruiters and potential clients.
Here are some of my top tips when it comes to having a good summary:
- First of all, although quite obvious, have one. It is amazing how many people directly skip the summary part;
- Avoid talking in 3rd person, it makes you look less approachable, and it just sounds weird. I have seen people doing it and it looks very impersonal and non-authentic.
- Include relevant details of your professional background such as years of experience, sectors of expertise, and qualifications.
- Provide specific data to back up your results. For example, you can mention that you have helped your team increase sales by 50% in the last year.
- Do not make it too long, but make sure to include at least 4-5 sentences. Think of your summary as a digital elevator pitch that should tell people the most important things that they need to know in less than 30 seconds.
- Do not make your summary too dry. Try to spice things up by implementing storytelling, or simply by telling a bit more about your personal life as well. And no, I don’t mean your love life, but hobbies that could be interesting to share.
Step 3: Articles & Activity
The next section will be a summary of your latest activity. Unless you have set your profile to more private settings, this information will most often than not be public.
Now, articles and activity are obviously two different things.
Articles are written by you directly on LinkedIn’s native content platform. It used to be called LinkedIn Pulse, but now I think that it no longer has a specific name. Articles are a great way to get active on LinkedIn with your own content without the need to have a blog.
I highly recommend that you write them every once in a while. They usually get more visibility than third-party content, and they are an awesome opportunity for you to show your expertise.
On another hand, activity is everything that you do that might appear on people’s feed, such as:
- Your posts;
- Likes and comments to other people’s posts;
- Shares and recommendations;
Of course, this section is not something that you set up quickly when you create a LinkedIn profile. It is more like a long-term strategy. However, I do think that it’s important to talk about it so that you pay a bit more attention to the content that you produce or interact with.
After all, recruiters or potential clients might decide to check your activity. So, you need to ensure the quality of your interactions if you have certain professional goals in mind.
Step 4: Experience section
One of the most important sections that you will have to fill out and keep up to date when you create a LinkedIn profile is undoubtedly the experience section.
It is usually the biggest part of your digital CV, and it depicts your experience in a detailed way that no summary will be able to.
But of course, filling it out requires complying with some good practices so you can make sure that you are doing it right. Let’s see them.
Job diversity is only good to some extent
This recommendation doesn’t apply to everyone, but I need to put it out there.
Let’s say that you have worked over 10 different jobs in the last 10 years. Waiter, receptionist, office assistant, etc. Now imagine that you are looking for a job, and you are actively using your LinkedIn profile to reach recruiters and contacts. But you are a little bit frustrated because you haven’t received any calls yet.
Your CV needs to portray you skills and capabilities in a consistent way. If you have managed to work different jobs, this obviously says great things about you and your ability to adapt. However, you need to portray it consistently throughout your CV.
What I am trying to say is that companies usually look for certain experience in one skill or area. So, if it looks like you haven’t specialized in a single area, they might decide that you don’t have enough experience in it. And they will not call you.
In this case, what you need to do is select one specific job that you would like to have, and build your CV around it. Let’s say that you want to work as an office assistant.
Now, start building your CV and try to include only the jobs that are as closely related as the one of an office assistant. This might include your previous experience as:
- A hotel receptionist;
- Program coordinator;
- Sales assistant;
And others. The point is to focus on one area and exclude jobs that you’ve had but are not relevant to it. In our example, this could be your previous job as a waiter or a food delivery driver. Unless that’s your focus area, example.
This will create a consistency throughout your whole CV, and companies will be able to see your area expertise clearly. Sometimes, including absolutely everything that you have ever done might do more harm than good because it confuses recruiters about your skills.
Now that you’ve only included a list of selected positions, focus on describing them in a similarly consistent way.
Do not include everything
This tip is similar to the previous one, but not necessarily related to a variety of job positions.
As you are developing your professional career, you will find out that some job positions are no longer contributing to your goals. Let’s say that you are a Marketing Manager with 7-8 years of experience who is aspiring to become a Marketing Director.
Or a Marketing Manager in a bigger company.
At this point, you have probably done multiple Marketing or Advertising internships in your early years. You probably don’t have to include all of them in your digital CV if you are far past the point of internship.
Although it will depend on the case, of course – sometimes, it’s good to see your complete trajectory.
But my advice is to evaluate each position that you’ve had so far, and evaluate if it’s relevant for your current goals and career steps. Do not fall into the trap of including everything just because you can.
As we already mentioned, when you decide to create a LinkedIn profile, think of it as your digital CV. A curriculum that anyone can access freely, and evaluate your experience, skills, and knowledge in a specific area.
Many people just fill out the name of their job position and the company without bothering to describe what they did there. Do not be one of these people.
Remember, recruiters and head hunters are constantly looking out for new talent, and they will want to take a look at your job experience before contacting you. So, they need to have enough information to decide whether they want to contact you. Just specifying the job position in two words doesn’t mean anything to them.
When describing your job position:
- Include at least 3-4 sentences to describe what your job is / was about.
- Try to answer some of the following questions: What did you do there? What technical and social skills did you gain? Did you make any big achievements, and what were they? What results did you bring to the company? What new tools did you learn to use?
- To make your descriptions more user friendly and easier to read, use bullet points instead of full paragraphs.
- Do not include every tiny thing that you ever did, such as that one time when you had to make a couple of calls which are usually not part of your job. Focus on what is relevant.
- Do not make the text way too long – just as you wouldn’t do it on your regular CV. It should highlight your skills and actions, not enumerate them mindlessly.
Personally, I like to keep my LinkedIn profile up to date constantly, with each new tool or certification.
The reason why is because it is much easier to keep it updated than your regular CV. This way, when I actually have to update my CV, I can use my LinkedIn profile as a reference without forgetting anything.
Step 5: Education Section
The next step from our guide on how to create a LinkedIn profile is filling out the education section.
It doesn’t have to be as descriptive as the job section one. However, it is always better to take your time and write a couple of sentences to highlight what you’ve learned. And what you’ve achieved throughout the years.
Obviously, my example isn’t the best – it is quite poor actually. So, here is a better one:
You can include details such as:
- The modules or course topics covered within your degree;
- Your GPA, especially if it’s higher than the average;
- Achievements such as winning the local Science Fair, an olympiad or a sports competition;
- Clubs that you have been a part of;
- The topic of your thesis;
And many more highlights that you might consider relevant. On top of that, you can always upload media files, such as your thesis, or references from professors. Although to be honest, LinkedIn doesn’t support a good quality for your files, and they might look a bit blurry when you upload them.
Step 6: Licenses and Certifications
When you create your LinkedIn profile, do not forget to include your licenses and certifications if you have any. Obviously, they can be different depending on your field or industry.
This section is different from the education one because it aims to distinguish short courses from higher education. In my example, I have included courses from Google, Hubspot, and LinkedIn Learning.
You can visit the link that I’ve provided if you want to learn how to get certified for free in Marketing or Sales by these companies. Obviously, these certifications do not substitute a degree, but they are a great way to boost your CV.
LinkedIn also has a platform where you can get certifications in many areas, not exclusively Marketing. It is called LinkedIn Learning and you can check it here.
When completing this section, you can also provide details such as the expiration of the course (if any), an URL to the certificate, and a valid credential. It is not obligatory, however.
Step 7: Accomplishments
I have included the next couple of sections within the same step because their goal is practically the same. To highlight your skills in a more practical way, and give other people the opportunity to endorse your expertise.
Skills and Endorsements
The purpose of this section is to write down your key skills and let others endorse you. The reason why is because everyone can make up skills that they don’t have. However, if you have coworkers or ex classmates that have worked with you, they can go to your profile and confirm that you actually possess these skills.
So, when you create a LinkedIn profile and start adding valuable connections, you can invite them to endorse you for your skills.
The more endorsements, the more people are confirming that you have the expertise in a certain field.
Of course, do not go overboard with the skills. Select between 10-15 things that you are really good at, and focus on getting endorsed for them. You don’t want your expertise to get diluted because you’ve listed 100 irrelevant skills.
Now, LinkedIn also gives you the option to test your skills with an actual quiz. I haven’t done this yet, but it’s definitely a great idea to prove your knowledge!
Recommendations are absolutely awesome, and I strongly advise you to take advantage of them when you create a LinkedIn profile.
You can directly ask for a recommendation from another user on LinkedIn. Of course, do not ask for recommendations from random people that you have never worked or studied with.
On another hand, I highly recommend that you give some as well.
And last but not least, the accomplishment section is for those projects and courses that you want to highlight out of your previous descriptions.
Do not forget to include the languages that you speak. They are a great way to get found by recruiters who are looking for people that speak a specific language. You can also select the level of proficiency.
Wrapping it up
Now, you are ready to create your LinkedIn profile!
If you have any questions, let me know in the comments below!
As always, thank you for taking the time to read my article, and I will see you in the next one!