So you’re looking for a new opportunity and you want to update your LinkedIn profile (or you just want to update it for the sake of updating it, because you’re just that good!), but where do you even begin?
Here’s a basic checklist to help you get started:
To Do Checklist: [ ] Profile Picture [ ] Tagline [ ] Summary [ ] URL [ ] Experience [ ] Education [ ] Skills Don't Include:
- Birthday - Phone number - Address
If you’d like more tips and tricks, keep on reading!
Firstly, some background info. I am by no means an expert at this kind of thing. When I was attending McMaster University, however, I did some volunteer work at the Career Centre. After getting coached and mentored on the ins and outs, the dos and the don’ts, of LinkedIn profiles, I was tasked with reviewing and critiquing the LinkedIn profiles of my fellow graduate students there. Of course, my own profile was reviewed as well and luckily has required only a few updates here and there since that first major overhaul.
Disclaimer: The tips mentioned below are just suggestions and are by no means required on any profile. In the end, it is your LinkedIn profile and as such should be a reflection of you. Also, this blog post was generally written with a tech audience in mind, but the ideas can easily be tweaked to suit other industries as well.
Anyway, moving on…
I’ve heard some debates about this one. Personally, I was a bit hesitant to add a photo to my professional profile. After all, when we first started learning how to write resumes, weren’t we always taught to avoid including images and information, such as personal photos and birthdays? Well, with the advent of online profiles such as LinkedIn and about.me, the rules have changed somewhat; now, your profile generally has a higher chance of being noticed and clicked on if it’s more complete – and that means adding a profile picture. And I’m not talking about a ten year old picture of you from university that looks more like a younger sibling than you, nor a drunken selfie you took one night while you were at so-and-so’s bachelor/bachelorette party. I’m talking about a real picture that, ideally, gives your professional network a bit of insight into who you are. It doesn’t need to be a picture of you in a suit and tie where both you and the photographer feel stuffy and awkward. It should just be, well, you, just cleaned up and ready to go.
This refers to that one- or two-liner right below your profile picture. It’s a good idea to do a little research around LinkedIn and see what kind of things other people are writing on their profiles. It’s even better if you are able to find profiles that are similar to yours in terms of experience and goals. I have included some examples below:
- “University Student” – Bad! Based on just this information, I have no idea where you go or, more importantly, what you study. And, let’s face it, people are busy and likely won’t have time to read every profile from top to bottom. It’s better to catch their attention right from the get-go.
- “Engineer at CodePath” – Meh. I see you’re an Engineer, that’s great. But what if I don’t know what CodePath is or what their products or services are? It’s not clear what kind of Engineer you are. A Software Engineer, for example, implies a very different skill set than a Chemical or Environmental Engineer.
- “Software Engineer at CodePath” – Good. This tagline is clear and concise.
- “iOS/Android Engineer at CodePath” – Better. Not only do I know you’re an Engineer, but I know which platforms you have experience on.
- “Master of Software Engineering Graduate at McMaster University with a Focus on Code Generation and Experience in Java, Swift, and Other Mobile Technologies. Currently Seeking Full-time Software Development Opportunities in San Francisco Bay Area” – Whoa there, buckaroo, too much information. Many of these details would make sense to include in other sections on your profile instead.
On a resume, this is probably equivalent to a Summary of Qualifications section or an Objective section. Admittedly, I’m guilty of not giving this section the attention I gave it when I first cleaned up my profile. Back then, I opted for the Summary of Qualifications route (which, by the way, is what I’d suggest you do now). I had a bulleted list that summarized my qualifications at a glance. It included some technical skills as well as “soft” skills that are sometimes overlooked by Engineers when updating their LinkedIn profiles. If you would rather display your objective, I recommend being specific if you can. An example of a general objective statement is “I am looking for a position where I can use my experience and skills to grow and expand the company”. There is nothing actually wrong with this statement, but a more specific objective would be better, such as “I am looking for a position as a project manager for a tech start-up”.
The default URLs provided by LinkedIn are usually something like https://www.linkedin.com/in/Jane-Smith-123456789 which looks complicated and a bit overwhelming. Your profile is a part of your brand and it’s accessed via your URL, so you should try to make the URL clearer and easier to remember, such as https://www.linkedin.com/in/JaneSmith. I think the setup for this is under Public Profile Settings. If your name is common and it’s difficult to find a unique identifier, feel free to add an alpha-numeric hash, but try to avoid using things like your birthday.
A lot of people I meet only think to add their paid work experiences to this section. But let me tell ya – and this is important – this section can include “relevant” volunteer work experiences as well. This is particularly useful if you’re a student or professional with limited experience in your field; including your relevant experience in your profile can help showcase the skills and experience you gained and getting paid for it is ultimately just the icing on the cake.
Got a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science? Great! How about a second Bachelor’s degree, but this time in Business Administration? Good for you! Some people may tell you to put all your degrees and certifications on display. However, I beg to differ – in certain circumstances. Generally, you would want to include all your degrees. After all, how else could you defend that apparently random four-year gap in your employment history? Ultimately though, I think it’s key to put up the degrees and education that are relevant to the type of position you’re looking for. For example, if you have dual undergraduate degrees in computer science and business but would like to focus on software development for your next opportunity, it might be beneficial to showcase the technical side more.
From a technical side, this section should be relatively easy to fill out with languages, platforms, etc. It may also be a good idea to include “soft skills”, such as leadership, communication, and teamwork. The Skills section also has the option to trigger the Endorsements on or off. Personally, I don’t use this feature as I found it made my profile looked somewhat cluttered. That being said, it doesn’t hurt to display Endorsements if you want to.
Adding websites may be particularly useful and can include such things as your personal website, blog, Github repository, portfolio, etc. You’ve worked hard – go on and show off a little. You can also use the Websites section as an opportunity to showcase your personal interests which may help portray how well-rounded you are, something that a lot of companies look for nowadays. For example, say you’re an amateur photographer and love taking photos of landscapes – you can add your online portfolio here if you want to.
Volunteer Experience & Causes
Your relevant work experience can either be included in the Experience section or here in the Volunteer Experience & Causes section. Generally, however, it may be better to reserve this section for other volunteer experiences – both work and non-work related. This Volunteer section provides an opportunity for you to show your involvement in the community, your interests outside of your work (again, looping back to that well-roundedness), etc.
When I was first learning how to review LinkedIn profiles, my mentor at the time told me it’s a good idea to have an active Recommendations section in my profile. However, in my personal experience, I don’t really know anyone who reads them, so… up to you, I guess? It certainly doesn’t hurt to have up-to-date recommendations on your profile (which can be either work- or school-related, FYI) that say how great you are. It may also give you an excuse to get back in touch with old team members, colleagues, superiors, etc. However, if you’re going to ask for a recommendation from someone, it’s best to ask them while you are still in active contact with them or, at the very least, the memory of you and your work is still fresh in their minds.
- Languages: No, you cannot tell people that you have “Native or bilingual proficiency in Java”. If you do have any actual languages, such as Italian or French, under your belt though (or even if you’re still learning), go ahead and tell people about it.
- Certifications: Professional or other certifications that you feel are good reflections of you.
- Honours & Awards: There’s no need to include your Spelling Bee award from the second grade, but if you have any relatively recent honours or awards, add them in. This can include university scholarships too if you want, but there’s no need to include the amount.
- Courses: Got any relevant courses? Ehh… let’s be honest, you probably have a whole degree’s worth of them. Choose about a handful of them to add here, some combination of your favourite classes and advanced-level courses; otherwise, it’ll look too cluttered.
- Projects: Use this subsection to showcase some of your favourite projects, along with a description and start and end dates, if available. You can even add links to your team members’ LinkedIn profiles.
Are you well-rounded (not just busy)? What do you like to do for fun? I have actually been asked these types of questions in interviews before, and I think they’re fair questions. Being well-rounded may portray a wider set of skills and higher levels of learning, not to mention can make you more fun to work with ;). Unfortunately, with the new LinkedIn redesign, I’m not actually sure where this section is anymore or if it’s even available to display on profiles anymore.
Following companies, tech groups, etc. connects you with people who have similar interests, not to mention helps keep you up-to-date on what’s going on in the industry. Long story short: they provide a network within a network, and networking can be a key factor in your future success… or not, but you’ll never know unless you try making those connections first!
- You’re not limited to writing in list form or paragraph form when you’re describing your Experience, Education, etc. I’m a fan of lists because I find them easier to read (and write!) and organize ideas in my mind, but the section details may also be written in paragraph form.
- In these same sections, try to pay attention to the tense that you write them in. For example, if you worked at some company three years ago, I’d expect the description to say something like “Worked on Project X” versus “Working on Project X”.
- I’ve seen profiles written in both first person and third person, so you’d probably be fine writing in either one. Personally, I opt for the old school way of writing everything in third person format, but it’s ultimately your choice. Just try to maintain consistency, whatever your decision is.
- Similar to resumes, it can be useful to Google those common, key words that recruiters and leaders look for on profiles.
- There is such a thing as adding too much information. While it’s nice that LinkedIn profiles don’t imply the one- or two-page limits that are expected of resumes, you should still maintain some mystery and not spill out your whole life story on your profile. I don’t have any particular rules for you to follow here, but keeping your Experience sections, for example, relatively current (within the past 1-3 years) or limiting it to 3-6 positions is probably a good guideline.
What not to do:
- Don’t include your birthday, phone number, or address.
- If you get messages on LinkedIn and you’re not particularly interested in the opportunity, don’t be rude about it or intentionally burn bridges because you never know if you’ll cross paths with this person again later.
- People do tend to fluff up their profiles a bit, but don’t make stuff up outright. You will be dinged for it later.
Awesome – you made it to the end of this post! I hoped you learned something helpful along the way :).
Until next time!