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Branding Yourself with LinkedIn

Linkedin - Just for Resumes?

When you browse through random profiles on Linkedin, you are going to run into many which are exactly the same - they feature a name and picture, they list their current employment, and then go into a list of previous positions and educations they followed to get there.

While this is a great strategy if you want to have information laid out in a clear format, it does not make you stand out in a crowd.

Imagine a stack of resumes on the desk of an HR manager. All of them the same list, fastened with a paperclip - a stack as high as his stress levels. But jobs today aren't just about what you can do or what you were responsible for - it's also the lessons you learned, the added value you've been to your company, and how your personal philosophy meshes with that of the company that seeks to hire you.

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The Road to a Smashing Profile!

When you are preparing your Linkedin profile, timing is key. Here are a few pointers to what you should (and should not) do when you want to brand yourself properly:

  • Make sure that you have worked out exactly what you want to achieve in life, and what motivates you.
  • Get pictures taken by a professional photographer - include a face-shot with shoulders slightly off-center, a wide shot from the chest up for articles, and one or more full-body shots. Wear a nice suit and look your best. For the full-body shots, imagine positions of power - at a desk, at a presentation screen, talking in front of people.
  • Do not make a lot of connections or ask for recommendations until your profile is what you want it to be - don't waste effort (and possibly fail!) with a profile that does not express what you want it to.
  • Don't get Linkedin Premium, it's not worth it unless you have need of its advanced features. Some people say the special "premium" logo attracts recruiters, but others say that recruiters are wary of people who pay for special privileges.

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Your Profile Picture

Your picture on Linkedin says more than a thousand words; make sure it is a clear photograph from the front or 3/4 and that it has a calm (preferably single color) background. Avoid text or logos in the picture, and look your sunday best!

This means that it's best not to use a personal picture or where you wear a casual outfit! You make a much better impression with a semi-professional picture of yourself while wearing a nice suit, instead of fading away among all the others - or worse, making a bad impression!

Improving Your Tagline

The tagline is the line below your name; it's the first thing people see when they search profiles. Most people simply add their job title and the company they work for. Of course, if you are job-hunting, or don't have a job at all, you need to be more creative.

Let's start with some don'ts:

  • Do not add "unemployed", "looking for a new challenge" or something like that in your tagline. Depending on how slick the rest of your profile looks, this can make you look desperate.
  • Do not add stars, asterisks or other special characters as a way to draw attention. At best you look childish, at worst an annoying attention-seeker.

And some definite good things to do:

  • Add a really special skill or talent you have. "Solving your HR tooling issues with gusto", "I manage spreadsheets like bonsai", or
  • If you want to show you are available you can add "Will we become colleagues in the near future?" or "Seeking ways to gain experience in [industry of choice]". Rather than annoying, it reflects interest in others.
  • Check out the taglines of important people in the industry you want to work in, or doing the job you want to have.

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Recruiters, this one's for you!

What do you look at first when reviewing a profile?

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Your Summary

Your summary is where you put your soul on the table. It should reflect you, your strengths and your character. There is no need for false modesty, but keep your summary realistic.

In the first paragraph, explain what drives you and what you want to achieve in life. Then tie this in with work; what kind of work do you want to do that connects to those values?

Then speak of your success stories - where have you added value to your job? Impressed a customer? How have your special skills come into play - and why should a recruiter take notice?

Finally, explicitly state that you are looking for a job or career that resounds with the above; make sure that your contact details in your profile are public, so a recruiter can contact you when needed.

Do Not Lie - But Don't Sell Yourself Short!

Everyone may have a non-glamorous past job, or some holes in their resumes. It's important to be truthful, but there is nothing wrong with shifting focus on what you have done and learned.

Perhaps you had a night job cleaning up, but it's taught you perseverance, reliability and punctuality. Focus on that. A year trying to find yourself after a stressful period in your life can easily become a sabbatical where you re-evaluated your life strategy.

In the end, what is important is that people are impressed with who you are, and what you can do for them! Your network sees you as someone who shares interesting news or options, while recruiters see you as a potential high-flyer.

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Join the Club!

When you are ready to start hunting for jobs or immerse yourself in your field of expertise, join relevant groups that are about subjects related to your job. A Project Manager might join groups on Project Management, Agile Scrum, Time Management or similar subjects. A personal assistant might be interested in groups about Management, Networking and Travel.

Likewise, make sure to look at other people's profiles and find out what groups they have joined - this allows you to quickly find a lot of common ground with colleagues in the industry.

The same goes for companies - follow all companies you would want to work at, or are operating in your field of expertise, This will give you a pool of new network connections, but also allows you to quickly check the job opportunities they have and their latest news.

Finally, if you have a portfolio of work (which can range from art to a story to a picture of your latest scrum session's task board) or have a skill at writing short articles, feel free to add them. This can be daunting at first, but will help in bouncing your name around and establish you as someone who is an expert in their field.

In Closing

Linkedin is all about your network. It's not just about jobs but also about your personal brand. Perhaps one day you might no longer be working at your company, and a prior established reputation as an expert will get you hired quicker - or give you a pool of clients if you decide to start your own business instead.

In the end, don't be afraid to get your feet wet. Express yourself, and share yourself with your network!

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