Five must-haves for every LinkedIn profile (whether you’re looking for a job or not)

LinkedIn has over 467 million users worldwide and is growing at the rate of two new members per second. It’s a must have tool for any professional, whether you’re the CEO of your business or just looking to break into the world of work with your first job. Yet I see people from all walks of life and all stages of their careers getting hurt professionally because they haven’t taken the time to learn what should be included in their LinkedIn profile.

Below are five things that each profile could contain and contain correctly. The worst offense is not having a profile at all, but the following errors only require a little effort to resolve.

A professional photo

It might sound like a no-brainer, but you might be surprised at what you find if you browse the site. As recently as today, I noticed that a creative young woman new to LinkedIn took a selfie of her pretending to look surprised. Her eyes were wide and her face filled the frame. There was no backdrop. Hoping to demonstrate your original side may be okay for Facebook, but not for LinkedIn.

Because LinkedIn is a professional arena, your photo should look professional. I recommend putting on work clothes, like a jacket and tie with a white or light blue shirt. Take more time with your hair and makeup. Your expression should be friendly. Smile and look directly into the camera as if you are making eye contact with someone across the room (someone you are happy to see). Avoid posing with someone else or photoshoping someone out of the shot. Make sure the background is not distracting.

Since profiles with headshots are 14 times more likely to be seen, you can’t afford to post an unflattering photo of yourself. Recruiters are increasingly using LinkedIn to search for talent. Whether you are actively looking for a job or not, you want to spend time making an effort to select the right photo for your profile.

your name

It should be simple unless you have the same name as someone else. If so, you might want to distinguish yourself with an initial of the middle name. If you are married and want to include your maiden name, you can do that too, of course.

The conventional wisdom is that you do not include initials after your name to denote your degrees unless you are in possession of a doctorate. Use discretion when deciding to include other identifying information in this area.

A compelling and informative title

Far too many people waste this space on meaningless job titles. Most job titles don’t tell anyone what you can do. Instead, use the 120 characters provided for keywords that illustrate your professional strengths, skills or talents.

For example, if you are an experienced marketing data analyst, you should include “Data Analytics” and “Marketer” as at least two of the keywords in your title. In addition to these areas of expertise, you can also offer specific technical skills that you have. Focus on using technical skills in this area rather than soft skills. Most importantly, orient your title towards what you want to do for a new job or promotion. Think not only about what you can do, but what do you want to to do Following.

A personalized LinkedIn URL

Even people with over 500 connections are sometimes guilty of neglecting the fact that they always have the URL that LinkedIn assigned them when signing up for their account.

This URL looks like this:

A personalized LinkedIn URL looks like this:

Note that the string of letters and numbers has disappeared. Now, this is something that is usable in other areas like your electronic signature, business cards, and in business correspondence. To correct your URL, hover your mouse over the end of the URL provided. A small gear icon will appear. When it does, if you haven’t customized your URL yet, you’ll be prompted to do so in a pop-up message. Select “yes” and follow the instructions provided. It’s so easy.

Reliable contact details

To provide the contact information, click on the icon that looks like a small Rolodex card. A drop-down list appears. There you can provide your preferred email address, phone number, and even your Twitter ID. If you have a personal or business website, you can also add up to three site links to it.

Why bother with that? If a recruiter wants to get in touch with you quickly, they’ll want to pick up the phone and call you. If you don’t have a number that you’re comfortable posting to the internet (like your personal cell phone number), I recommend checking out Google’s free voicemail service.

Recruiters and hiring managers use it to find talent like yours. If you haven’t made it easy for them to understand who you are, what you do, what you can offer, and how to get in touch with you, they won’t stop looking for the information. They will move on to the next person. Don’t let a missed opportunity be the reason you don’t get the next new job or the promotion you deserve.

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