LinkedIn.com is the world’s #1 professional networking web site with over 130 million worldwide members (as of early 2012). Leaders from every industry have a presence on the web site (it’s not just for the business world), and 2 new members join the site every second of every day, on average. Despite these amazing statistics, many professionals ignore this revolutionary tool. Of those who have accounts, very few take the time to design LinkedIn profiles that represent them well.
A well-constructed LinkedIn profile can be one of your greatest marketing tools for your job search and career. However, a poorly designed profile can actually damage your personal brand and lower your perceived value to employers and potential contacts. Here are the 9 deadliest mistakes you can make with your LinkedIn profile:
1. You don’t have a professional head-shot (or any head-shot) on your LinkedIn profile. Most people on LinkedIn ether have no head-shot at all, or they use a picture where they look unprofessional or unhappy (because they aren’t smiling). A picture is worth a thousand words, right? Since LinkedIn is a professional networking web site, your picture should be a head-shot from the neck-up, and you should be in professional attire. You should not be wearing a baseball cap or a bicycle helmet, unless that’s what you wear to work. (Save the casual pictures for Facebook.) If you don’t have a great headshot picture, just put on some business attire, and get a friend to take a picture of you up against a solid white wall. Make sure you look friendly and professional.
2. Your headline is boring or unclear on your LinkedIn profile. Most LinkedIn profile headlines are dull, unoriginal, hard to understand, or simply damaging to your perceived value. Like a good “elevator pitch,” your headline should be clear, original, and compelling. Your headline is valuable real estate, so don’t waste any of the 120 characters LinkedIn gives you. Either list one or two relevant, impressive achievements or a 5-10 word description of how you make other people/organizations better. If you have space in your headline, you can also include your email address, so that you are easily accessible to anyone who wants to connect with you. (Note: If you are unemployed, do NOT write that you are unemployed. Focus on past achievements and what you bring to the table for potential employers.)
3. Your LinkedIn profile summary isn’t impressive. A great summary should be written to impress your target audience of employers or your colleagues. It should include your contact information (your email address at the minimum), several relevant achievements, your dream or professional mission, and a short story for why you are passionate about your dream or professional mission. Your summary should expand on your headline and should also be clear and compelling. After reading your summary, anyone should know EXACTLY what you do that adds value to other people/organizations and what you are trying to achieve in your career. You can write your summary in the third person, or you can use bullets. Summaries written in the first person tend to sound arrogant when discussing achievements.
4. Your specialties on your LinkedIn profile are too broad. As your career progresses, you could have a wide variety of specialties. However, you should not list every area where you have any knowledge, experience, or talent. I’ve seen people highlight specialties as broad as “Human Resources,” “Internet Marketing,” and ”Accounting” in one LinkedIn profile! If you claim you are an expert at everything, you appear to be an expert at nothing. Only list specialties relevant to the career you want to build, and make sure your specialties are specific.
5. You are not involved in any groups. LinkedIn allows you to join up to 50 relevant groups. You need to be active in at least 10-20. If nothing else, it shows that you are passionate about a topic or field. There are also a number of ways to build connections through these groups and to learn more about topics or fields.
6. You don’t have any recommendations on your LinkedIn profile. Get at least 3 recommendations from clients, bosses, colleagues, professors, or peers. Focus on quality rather than quantity, although quantity is definitely not bad either. Don’t just get recommendations that say how great you are. Get recommendations that focus on results you have generated (i.e. making a company money, finding new customers, creating a new program, leading a team or project that produced certain results, and so on). When you request recommendations, you can also tell the person writing the recommendation what you want them to say. This gives you control over what they write, and it makes it easier for them. Note: Some people will not be comfortable with this, and you can only do this with people you know very well.
7. Your LinkedIn profile does not highlight your past achievements and results. Like most of the resumes that come across my desk, most LinkedIn profiles are unimpressive and way too modest. No one cares about what your past responsibilities were. They care about the RESULTS you have achieved. How have you made other people or organizations better?
8. You look like you don’t know anyone. All other things equal, someone with 427 connections appears to be much more valuable (as a connection or as a potential employee) than someone with 27 connections. Social proof can work for you or against you. While you don’t need to have 500+ connections, having less than 100 connections is a major red flag these days. It makes you look like you don’t know anyone or you don’t care about relationship-building. If you can’t find 100 people you know on LinkedIn (from your academic, personal, or professional network), then you definitely need to start making networking a bigger priority online and offline. (Note: Given their youth, students and recent grads can get away with having fewer connections. However, they can also really stand out by having more connections.)
9. You don’t have a Vanity URL for your LinkedIn profile. Use a “vanity” name for the web page for your LinkedIn profile (i.e. www.LinkedIn.com/in/firstnamelastname). Your vanity name is very search-friendly when people google you. This is also much easier to include in your email signature (hint) or at the top of your resume (hint) than the traditional URL LinkedIn gives you when you sign up for an account.
While LinkedIn can definitely help you get your dream job and advance your career in a variety of ways, a bad LinkedIn profile can KILL your career! When someone checks out your LinkedIn profile, they should think “Wow, this is someone I absolutely need to hire!” or “Wow, this is someone I definitely want to get to know!”
What does your LinkedIn profile say about you right now?