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This is the first part of my LinkedIn blog miniseries. Please be sure to check out the brief companion YouTube tutorial video that accompanies this post, in which I give tips on how navigate LinkedIn, add and edit sections, and more, so you can update your profile using the steps in my checklist below.
Whether you love LinkedIn, hate it, or are a reluctant user, you need to periodically update your LinkedIn profile to make sure it is relevant, accurate, and compelling. A current, polished profile helps you create opportunities for yourself.
To make updating your profile easier, I’ve created a checklist in which I break down the process into 10 steps. You can work through the checklist all at once or a step at a time. This post covers an overall review of your entire LinkedIn profile; stay tuned for next month’s post, which will help you craft killer “above the fold” information, expanding on Step 3 below.
Before you get started: if you’re unfamiliar with all the LinkedIn profile sections, review the “Add profile section” tab that appears slightly below your profile photo. You will be able to see the names of every section. Be sure to watch the YouTube video I made (referenced above), which shows you how do this so you can easily work through the following steps.
I’ve found outdated email addresses, websites, and social media handles countless times when reviewing clients’ contact information in their LinkedIn profiles. Your goal is to make it easy for people to contact you, so this simple step is priority number one.
If you’re unsure how to do this, see my YouTube video or do a Google search for “how do I customize my LinkedIn URL?” for guidance. You can also consider whether you want to brand your URL by appending it according to your expertise. For example, you could use “/Sabrina_Smith_Neuroscientist.”
“Above the fold” is an old-school term that refers to having the most important information above the fold of a newspaper. For LinkedIn, I think of this above-the-fold area as the horizontal background banner, profile photo, and other introductory information. Does this information showcase who you are as a professional? If not, add or revise content as needed. The headline that appears directly below your profile picture is a crucial spot to tell people what you do and the value you bring. You can also incorporate keywords into this section. Moreover, you can review all other aspects of the “above-the-fold” part of your profile such as recording your name.
Incorporate keywords to help with keyword optimization. You can take a first-person approach if you choose (using “I”), but don’t go overboard. Your About section will be boring if 80% of the sentences start with an “I + verb” sentence structure. Instead, vary sentence structures by starting with an introductory clause, “my…” or a different subject.
This aptly named section features posts you’ve made, links you’ve included, and other visual information. This newer section in LinkedIn offers prime real estate in your profile for you to show what you do, not just tell. My clients have used this section to share videos of themselves giving talks and appearing in the news, highlight posts that gained substantial engagement, and showcase websites.
In case you didn’t know, anyone who can view your profile can see your activity—in other words, how you’re interacting with and adding to content on LinkedIn. Review your activity section by clicking on “Show all activity.” From there, you will see tabs for “All activity,” “Articles,” “Posts,” and “Documents.” Whereas “All activity” shows everything (all you have liked, commented on, posted, etc.), the “Posts” tab reveals specifically what you have posted and reposted. Critically review your activity. What does it say about you? Are you the snarky person causing trouble? Are you the mentor always supporting your direct reports, students, or peers? Are you the subject matter expert posting helpful content that both showcases what you do and educates your audience? Review, analyze, and then strategize your next steps.
Use strong verbs and show clear accomplishments. If you’re between roles, make sure you have an Experience entry that goes “to present” in terms of dates. This helps your rankings so people can find you more easily. You can also consider adding a “Career Break” entry. If you do this, be sure to write a concise description that describes how you spent your time. If you have older roles that no longer serve a purpose on your resume and could, perhaps, invite age discrimination, feel free to remove them. Add media to each entry, as relevant, to enhance the visual appeal of your LinkedIn profile.
You can include up to 50 skills on your profile, which can help people find you via keyword search. If you take this approach, be strategic. I’ve seen people include the following as three separate skills: life sciences, life science, lifesciences. I think most would agree that is not the most advantageous use of three skills. When updating your skills, omit any you no longer want to use or that are outdated. Additionally, order your skills with the most relevant first.
If you have recommendations listed as “pending,” review them and either add them to your profile or not. You can also use this time to send a request for a recommendation. Good timing for this request is after you’ve finished a project, when you’ve changed jobs, when a colleague or boss has changed jobs, etc. In short, times of closure and transition can be good moments to ask for, and give, recommendations.
Your goal is to have a complete and compelling profile. This is difficult to achieve if you don’t thoroughly review every section and add information that supports the professional brand you’re building. Take care to add relevant information without cluttering the profile. For instance, it’s helpful to add substantial, recent volunteer commitments, but it’s unlikely you need to list a one-time engagement from 15 years ago.
After updating your profile, be sure to proofread! Print it and read it out loud. Doing so will help you catch errors.
People react to LinkedIn as they do to cilantro. Some people love cilantro and incorporate into as many dishes as possible—and then other people hate it because it tastes like soap to them. Unlike cilantro, LinkedIn should not be avoided even if it causes (what may feel like) a similar aversion. Almost all professionals should cultivate use of LinkedIn to leverage its capabilities and prevent missed opportunities. The checklist above provides an easy, streamlined process to help you update your LinkedIn profile to ensure it is current and reflects you or your brand. You’re well on your way to proactively managing your career!