LinkedIn provides an excellent platform for getting your name out to prospective partners, clients or employers. Whether you use LinkedIn to network for your home business or to look for a job, your LinkedIn profile is an important aspect of using LinkedIn that you need to get right.
While LinkedIn makes it easy to fill out your profile by providing basic online forms for doing so, there are some things you'll want to keep in mind as you go through the process.
Unlike Facebook or MySpace that also have strong social and entertainment aspects, LinkedIn is exclusively geared toward professionals. Nearly half of LinkedIn members are decision-makers for their companies, so you'll want to make your best impression.
Before You Create or Edit Your LinkedIn Profile
People, businesses, employers, etc. who don't already know you are likely to use LinkedIn's search to find what they're looking for. Therefore, it's important that you consider the one or two most important phrases for which you'd want to be found on LinkedIn. Your key phrases might be skilled plumber, freelance writer or whatever applies to you or your business.
As you build your LinkedIn profile, you'll use your key phrases in several important places. In the meantime, you might want to search in LinkedIn for the phrases you're thinking about and see whose profiles come up at the top of that search. Take a look at their profiles for ideas.
Be sure to save your changes in each section.
Components of a LinkedIn Profile
A LinkedIn profile has several main components:
- Title. This part of your profile appears directly under your name. It's a one or two sentence summary of who you are or what you do. Use your key phrase(s) here, but construct it so your title makes sense. This is essentially who you are or who you'd like to be.
- Summary. Your summary allows you to create a free-form description of your experience, expertise and your objectives. There are two sections - Professional Experience & Goals, and Specialties. Make sure this area is well written using proper grammar and is typo-free. Use short paragraphs with just one or two sentences each.
DON'T write a novel here. DO use your key phrases in this area wherever appropriate. Try to keep your summary punchy, to-the-point and interesting. List each specialty on a separate line. Use dashes, asterisks or plus signs to start each line so it looks like a bulleted list.
- Experience. LinkedIn allows you to create a rather lengthy online resume with your current and previous work experience listed. Be honest, but don't be afraid to work in your key phrases in this area. Also keep in mind, that if you are currently active in more than one position - say you offer consulting services part-time, but you also work for a bank, the position you list with the most recent start date will appear at the top of your employment list. If you want your consulting business to appear first, the start date you indicate (say, February 2009) needs to be later than the start date for your bank job (say January 2009).
Use your official job title (if you have one) but include your key phrases when outlining your experiences and (better yet) successes. Keep your descriptions easy to read - use short sentences and then press the enter key to insert a line break. Use asterisks or + signs to make it look like a bulleted list. The goal is to keep your readers engaged so they don't want to leave right away without finding out more about you.
- Education. Since your LinkedIn profile is an online resume, this area is important if formal education is expected for what you do. Taking the time to fill out this section can make your profile stand out and it can also help you gain connections by putting you in contact with former classmates and fellow alumni.
- Additional Information. Just as it is with a paper resume, you'll want to consider adding information that can help make your profile stand out. Within your LinkedIn profile, you can add a photo of yourself, link to your Twitter account, your websites, awards and so on. You can also include your interests. Just don't list anything you wouldn't want a potential customer or employer to know about or you wouldn't want to be public information. Keep your LinkedIn profile professional.
You can include up to 3 links plus a link to your Twitter profile. The default text might be "My Website" or "My Company". Instead, when you're adding links, select "Other" in the websites section. This allows you to create custom text for you link, such as "Freelance Writer Site", if you were targeted freelance writer as your phrase. Many people make the mistake of accepting the default for these links, which does nothing for getting them found in LinkedIn or on the web.
- Recommendations. After you have established a LinkedIn profile and have built up some LinkedIn connections in your network, ask for recommendations from people who are familiar with your professional skills. The right recommendations can help your profile stand out and they might help you land more work. One of the best ways to get recommendations is to first write a LinkedIn recommendation for someone. During that process, the person you recommend will be asked to write one for you.
To see how your LinkedIn profile looks to the public, click the link next to Public Profile on the Edit My Profile page.
Keep Your LinkedIn Profile Up to Date
Creating a LinkedIn profile is an easy undertaking, but it can prove to be more important to your at-home business than you may realize. Since this online resume is available around the clock to potential connections and even possible employers or clients, you will want to make sure it shines. You'll also want to make sure it's up-to-date. In fact, each time you update your LinkedIn profile, those in your network will be notified.
View My LinkedIn Profile and Connect
You can view my LinkedIn profile as an example. If you want to invite me to join your LinkedIn network, indicate that you are a Home Business reader in your invitation so I can give your request the proper attention it deserves.
This article is part of The Ultimate Guide to LinkedIn.