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Five years ago, if you posted your LinkedIn profile, you were most likely looking for a new career opportunity. That is not the case today.
Being on LinkedIn is a must for every working professional. It's the single most important networking venue (online and off), it's where prospective employers and recruiters can learn more about you, it's where you can learn more about others, and it's the best resource for "people" information and connections.
Many hiring executives and recruiters will tell you that if you're not on LinkedIn, you don't exist. That's a strong statement but a reality in today's world where having an online presence is a must, whether you are looking for a new job or simply strengthening your professional visibility.
With this understanding of how important LinkedIn is for the management of your career—today, tomorrow and in years to come—this article will focus on creating LinkedIn content that accurately positions, brands and aligns with your current and long-term objectives (whether you're searching for a job or not).
Most important, you'll learn how to write content that makes you unique and memorable so that readers know who you are, what you do and how well you do it.
A caveat for those who are actively looking for a new job: Know that LinkedIn is just as important to your search as your resume is. Dedicate the time and intellectual power necessary to write a profile that is interesting, captivating and distinctive.
Preparing to Write Your LinkedIn Profile
The most important thing to know about writing LinkedIn content is that it should not just be a cut-and-paste of your resume. Most likely, you've worked hard to craft a professional resume that is only one or two pages long, sharing the most relevant highlights and important information about your career. I often refer to resume-writing as telling your whole career story in half the words. It can be challenging.
LinkedIn profiles are more than a resume because of all the space you have available to write: up to 2,000 characters for your summary; up to 2,000 characters for each job description; and ample room to include any extras such as professional affiliations, publications, volunteer work, academic highlights, PowerPoint slide shares, videos, graphics and so much more.
Profiles allow you to share a much deeper and richer portrayal of your professional career with a generous sprinkling of your personality. That's where your writing style comes into play, because you have so many options for how to write your profile.
The other critical component to consider when writing your profile is your
use of keywords, which are the foundation for how people search LinkedIn. That's particularly relevant if you're actively searching for a job and want to be found by recruiters and hiring managers. Just as with resumes, use of keywords in profiles create a pathway to finding qualified candidates.
Although keywords are an integral part of online search, they are just as important in engaging your readers. Actual human beings—not applicant tracking systems—will read your profile, so be certain that you communicate the depth of your experience by using keywords that demonstrate you're a knowledgeable HR professional with a strong portfolio of skills and qualifications.
Be certain to naturally integrate keywords throughout every section of your profile. Since many keywords (e.g., recruitment, retention, training and development, benefits and compensation, OD, HRIS, SHRM-SCP) reflect your exact experience and credentials, it's easy to work them into the Summary, Professional Experience, Professional Credentials and other profile categories. In fact, one of the most powerful ways to use your most important keywords is in your LinkedIn profile headline, as you'll read in the section below.
Make the Most of Each Section of the Profile
You can play to certain strengths in each part of the profile and communicate the precise information you want readers and potential employers to know:
Name. You might think there's not much to consider about writing your name, but you'd be surprised. Think about the following:
It's very important to include your most notable professional credentials as part of the name field—for example, Leslie R. Johanssen, MBA, SHRM-SCP. Those few extra letters communicate a lot of important information about you.
Contact Information. If a network connection, recruiter or prospective employer wants to contact you, make it easy for them by including your mobile phone and e-mail address. You might not check your LinkedIn messages every day, but you'll be sure to pick up the phone or check your e-mail.
Headline. Your headline might be the single most important field in your LinkedIn profile. You have 120 characters (letters, punctuation and spacing) to communicate who you are and what you do as it aligns with your current and future career goals. Most people will focus on hard skills that create the perception of how they want to be seen. For example:
Senior HR Executive | 15+ Years Leading Global HR, OD, Staffing, Employee Retention, Succession Planning | Fortune 50
Or, you might choose to showcase job titles:
CHRO | EVP – HR & OD | Managing Director – International HR Operations
You might choose to highlight company names:
Built Dow Chemical's Global HR Function | Expanded J&J's Asian HR Operation | Launched New HR Organization for YouTube
You might decide that a branding statement is the best use of your headline:
Strategic HR Executive who builds HR organizations that enrich human capital assets and strengthen business performance
Whichever you choose, here's your takeaway: Use your headline to showcase what's most important about you based on your career goals.
Summary. Writing LinkedIn profile summaries is, perhaps, the most fun section of all. With 2,000 characters to use, you have great flexibility and creativity about what information to include and how to present it. In fact, it doesn't even have to be just text. You can include links to websites, webcasts, graphics and other multimedia tools.
Just as with your resume, your goal is to focus on information that clearly communicates that you're a talented HR professional while positively differentiating yourself from other, similar candidates.
Here are a few ideas for how to strategically approach writing your summary:
Tell your life story as it led to your career. This will only work for certain job seekers, but if you can relate your entire life story and what led you to HR success, it can be compelling and a great differentiator.
Showcase your achievements throughout your career, within different positions or within various functions in HR. Short bullet points are often the best way to display different accomplishments. Don't write a laundry list; rather, break achievements into sections of short paragraphs or with headings (e.g., Recruitment & Staffing, Benefits & Compensation, HRIS Technology).
Highlight your distinguishing qualifications such as high-profile public speaking engagements, publications, press coverage, etc., even though you're going to include this information in more detail in the appropriate section later in your profile. This type of information truly is unique, so put it up front and use it to your advantage.
Include industry experience, company names, product names and any other particulars that will make you memorable and relate to your current and/or long-term career objectives.
Display recent academic achievements such as new degrees, certifications or particularly well-known training programs.
Skills, core competencies and similarly titled subsections are a nice addition anywhere throughout your summary. You can include them after your headline, integrate them in the middle of the summary to break up the text and improve readability, or add them as a small section at the end. These lists are easy to read and great for keyword scanning.
Include your mobile phone and e-mail address at the end of the summary so it's easily accessible if someone wants to reach out immediately.
Most important, focus on what really matters about you and your career. For example, if you're looking for international HR opportunities and are fluent in four languages, be sure to draw special attention to those capabilities. Call out any skills that make you the talented and relevant HR professional that you are.
Professional Experience. Short job descriptions, long job descriptions … The debate goes on and on as to which is better. Yet the answer is so easy: It depends on your career, your specific work experience, your achievements and success stories, your current goals, and many other variables.
There are 2,000 characters per job description field, and you should use them as you wish to tell stories, share achievements, explain challenges and obstacles you've overcome, showcase projects and performance, integrate critical keywords, and more. There is no one right way to write LinkedIn profile job descriptions, other than to write well, communicate important information and demonstrate the positive results you've delivered in each position.
Here are just a few ideas for how to strategically approach writing your job descriptions:
$3B consumer products company | 22K employees | 48 operating locations
$20M HR & OD budget | 18 direct reports | 2,200 HR employees worldwide
Start your job description summary with your No. 1 achievement in that job. Describe the achievement in short paragraphs or bullet points.
Use CAR (challenge, action, results), OAR (opportunity, action, results), STAR (situation, task, action, results), or what-and-how structures to describe your achievements. For example:Challenge: Partner with C-level executives of new tech venture to rapidly staff and onboard new employees and management.Action: Built a high-tech, high-touch HR organization to keep pace with accelerated growth in both U.S. and international markets.Results: (follow with three to five bullet points on your most significant achievements related to the challenge and actions).
Tell the story of each job in a narrative style, beginning with why you were hired or promoted, what your overall responsibilities are, and how well you've performed. One style that I often use is a
short introductory paragraph (two or three lines to describe overall scope of the job) followed by three to five bullets of achievements.
Use a short, quick, easy-to-read bullet-point style. You want each bullet to have enough information to bring value to your profile but not focus on routine responsibilities that you may have already written about in your summary.
If you have multiple areas of responsibility in your jobs, along with lots of achievements, consider using subheadings in your job descriptions. These will allow you to break the bullet points into shorter lists where similar items are included together. Plus, you can use keywords in the subheadings that reinforce your brand and career goals.
Note that you can mix and match the above styles to create the job descriptions that are most compelling for you.Education. Completing your LinkedIn education section should be easy, as it is factual information about degrees, majors, colleges/universities and dates. Of course, you can add more information as it's appropriate, valuable and interesting. Consider:
Course names if you want to highlight a few in particular.
Internships, externships and international studies.
Academic affiliations and leadership positions.
List training programs you've attended, with the title and sponsoring organization or university. Dates are recommended but not necessary if they're going to age you.
If you have a particularly long list of continuing education, include only the training that is recent; is related to HR, strategic planning, leadership, communications and other relevant areas; or was taught by prominent organizations (such as SHRM) or universities (such as Harvard).
The Extras. There are numerous other LinkedIn sections you can add to your profile as relevant to you and your career. Consider the following, if applicable:
Volunteering and causes.
Wrapping It Up
Writing your LinkedIn profile can be a really rewarding experience—a look back at how far you've come in your career and all that you've achieved. It's a running biography of your professional life and, once completed, easy to update and maintain as the years go on.
Know that LinkedIn is here to stay and your LinkedIn profile is very often your first point of introduction. Make it powerful, make it memorable and make it something that you're proud to share.
Wendy Enelow is a certified master resume writer, job and career transition coach, and professional resume writer who has worked with professionals and executives worldwide for the past 30 years. She has written more than 20 books on resumes, cover letters, keywords and career management, including the recently released Modernize Your Resume: Get Noticed … Get Hired (Emerald Career Publishing, 2016) and is the Job Front columnist for American Legion Magazine. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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