LinkedIn can be intimidating if you haven't used it at all or had much experience with it. Even if you have, the experience of trying to update or revamp it can be stressful, much like writing a resume. Knowing which sections matter the most for recruiter and employer searches is important. You also need to know how to develop content to maximize your impact in the space available.
If you're looking to be found, the first thing to check in your profile is that your contact information is visible. Include your email address and anywhere else you'd like to be found (Twitter, Facebook, blog or website) to the contact information section of your profile. If you don't, you may miss out on opportunities.
1. Professional Headline. There are two ways people use the headline on LinkedIn. Some use their current or past job title while others choose a descriptive headline that summarizes their professional background. What's best for you depends on your goals and how you intend to use LinkedIn. For example, if you're using it for work, marketing or business development purposes, you should use your title and company name in your headline. If you're job searching or always keeping your eyes open for new opportunities, it's better to use a descriptive headline. LinkedIn allows you to use 120 characters, so utilize as much of that real estate as you can to explain the main skills, degrees or experiences that define you and what makes you unique.
2. Summary. This is probably the place on LinkedIn where people have the most trouble. Summaries vary greatly for this reason. Some folks overshare, and it can become a bit too personal for social media, let alone a professional site. Others use generic phrases, like "driven and self-motivated project manager," which sound too stiff and not personal enough. What's the middle-of-the-road solution? Provide an example, or several examples, of specific work you've done and use metrics wherever you can. If you don't have numbers to demonstrate your achievements, you can say how you've helped your company do something or how you've made a difference in your community. You'll have space for generic skills and phrases in the skills section. Include your passions in the summary and why you chose your field and what you love about it. Let people get to know you professionally with a hint of your personality or interests.
3. Experience. Another key section of LinkedIn is work experience. Many people leave the job description fields blank under their job title, company and dates. This is a mistake unless you are prohibited from doing so. Some industries and firms almost exclusively use LinkedIn instead of resumes. Therefore, you should treat your LinkedIn job descriptions as seriously as you do in your resume. What did you do in your jobs, and what impact did your work have on a process, team, person or the company? Use key skills and phrases from your line of work as much as possible here.
4. Skills. This section can be complicated because "skills" can mean anything from technical to industry to other professional expertise. You should include everything in which you feel confident. Think about the knowledge you have in your field and other skills that are likely important to employers you may target, from computer skills to technical and professional skills. This is also the place to put the generic skills mentioned above. But don't go overboard. "Oral and written communication" is fine, but "excellent time management" sounds silly. Avoid adjectives when listing your main skills.
5. Additional Information. This is your chance to show a more personal side. What activities do you enjoy outside of work? If an employer views your profile and the profiles of several others with similar educational and professional backgrounds, and something in this section piques their interest, they will want to talk to you.
If you are unemployed, you're probably wondering whether to leave your last position's dates as "to present" or put in your end date. Many recruiters will tell you to include a job entry, even when unemployed. The reason for this is that many of them will limit their search for candidates by checking the "current title" box. To avoid being missed, you can create a mock job listing in the current job section. This should include the job title or titles you are looking for. In the company name box, you can write "In Transition" or "Seeking New Opportunity." Focus on creating unique content for the sections above, and you will have an above average LinkedIn profile. Keep it professional but not too stiff or generic, and you'll be well on your way to getting noticed by recruiters and employers. If you are still stuck, check out profiles of well-known executives or LinkedIn's top-rated professionals to get an idea of what a great profile looks like.
Originally Published on US NEWS by Marcelle Yeager.