When Was The Last Time You Updated Your LinkedIn Profile?

Today, we’re talking about your LinkedIn profile, and some of the ways you can use this thing for better networking, thought leadership, building up your personal brand, and scoping out your competitors.

We’re assuming that you already have had a LinkedIn profile for a while now, and that you’re maybe logging in once a month or so to check out a message or a new notification. And we also bet that you log in way more when you're job-hunting, right? Look, your profile is important whether you're job-hunting or not; if you have a professional reputation to uphold, this is a key place to do it. If you need to brush up on the basics of filling out your profile first, skip right on over to this post with your LinkedIn 101.

Now, let’s gear up for next level. Before you leave your office today, make these pro-level tweaks so you can up your Influencer status.

Take a look at yourself. Your profile picture should be well-lit, high-quality (at least 500 x 500 pixels) and ideally taken by a professional photographer if you’re able to swing it, because that photo is the key to getting you better connections and getting you on top of search results. Is the photo you have showing your most professional face? Can we clearly see you, and only you, in a professional setting or against a plain backdrop? If not, consider finding a local freelance photographer who can take some headshots of you; we promise it’s worth it. (If you’re in the DC area, we highly recommend our talented friend LeAnn!)

And don’t forget your cover image. There’s only a small amount of space for an image at the top of your profile (LinkedIn recommends 1,584 x 396 pixels), but you can add something here that tells more about your or matches your personal branding. The trick is to keep it professional; don’t pick the same kind of cover image you’d put on your Facebook profile, because this is a different kind of audience. If you have a great photo of yourself doing work in the field or presenting to colleagues, that’s perfect. Again, a great photographer can help get some action shots for you that illustrate what you’re all about. If you don't have action shots, consider designing something with Canva.

Now, consider your headline. This is the line of text underneath your name. Most people will put their most current job title, but pros flesh it out a bit more (you have 120 characters to work with) and use key words that help them appear higher in search results. Think about how you’d describe your work to a new colleague or friend, using three words, and try different combinations to find a description that describes your professional expertise to someone succinctly. You can format this creatively, using symbols | like | this, or turning it into a short sentence (“I’m a digital strategist and copywriter for social impact orgs.”).

If you’re stuck for ideas, type your job description into the search bar at the top of the page. You’ll receive job listings with that title, as well as other profiles using that title that you can browse to see how they’ve set things up. Remember that every job type is different; a developer might have completely different qualities and experience to highlight versus a non-profit CEO, so see what various people have put in their headline so you can determine what’s standard for your field.

And don’t be shy about checking out other profiles, even if those people might get a notification from LinkedIn that you’ve checked them out. Networking is the point of this platform! But if you’re feeling shy, change those privacy settings.

Let’s take a gander at the rest of your profile. Are you using key words to help yourself show up in search? As we mentioned last week, LinkedIn is focused more and more on using key words and hashtags to deliver the best content to the people who want it, and that includes you. Brainstorm a few key words that describe your work experience and job history, and again, see what words came up repeatedly in your profile browsing to figure out what’s commonly used for your industry. You might describe your work in a certain way, but the people you want to connect with (maybe for a new job, or maybe for networking, or potential readers of your blog) might use different terms. Find out, and work those terms into your profile where you can.

Delete if needed, and be ruthless. You’re not required to put your ENTIRE work history; keep it the most relevant to your current goals. What jobs would you mention to that hypothetical new friend? Which would you highlight to a potential employer or client?

Don’t forget to include work samples. You can upload presentations, documents, photos, videos, websites and more; here’s a handy list of formats. Real pros will show what they do, not just tell us!

Give us your skills, your honors, your awards. Not just nunchuck skills; what do you want to be known for in the working world? Don’t be shy when you add skills or awards to your profile, but do be honest; your contacts can endorse you for your skills, and it adds a level of credibility to your profile to be endorsed by other professionals in top areas of expertise. In fact, LinkedIn will indicate if someone who endorsed you for a skill is ALSO highly skilled in that area. Sneaky!

Review your recommendations with a keen eye. Recommendations have been around on LinkedIn profiles for a long time, but when was the last time you reviewed them to make sure they still make you look good? You can choose not to show certain recommendations if they’re very old, or you can request a revision; however, the best thing to do is to keep asking for more from respected colleagues. Again, don’t be shy, but do be honest.

Expect that your current employer and colleagues will look at your profile. Don’t put anything here that you’d be embarrassed for them to see. (This is an obvious rule, but worth repeating!)

Let’s test out what you’ve done so far. Scroll to the top and click “Edit public profile and URL” to see how your profile appears to, well, the public, who may or may not already be connected to you. You can control what’s visible to strangers and to friends here, and at the top right you can make sure you’ve claimed your personal URL with your full name.

Click on over to your feed. It’s time to start being a presence in the LinkedIn universe! You’ll notice a few stats and items of interest on your Home feed; specifically, you’ll see who’s viewed your profile on the left side, as well as stats about any Company Pages you’re managing and hashtags and communities you’re following. On the right, you’ll see trending articles and suggested Influencers to follow. But the center part of the page is the key; this is where you can write articles to publish on LinkedIn, and engage with your contacts and communities you’re following.

We recommend starting to post here at least 2-3 times a week, including a mix of articles you’re professionally interested in, new blog posts or content you’re creating or from your organization, and comments and likes on the posts of others. This is how you’ll be noticed in the world of LinkedIn, and now that you’ve spruced up your profile you’re ready to get more views and invitations to connect, right?