An effective profile is one that will help you get noticed by the right people, whether it’s to help in your job search or with your career goals. Below are tips for making your LinkedIn profile professional, relevant and searchable.
1. Include a profile photo to add credibility and give others a more personal connection to you. Your profile is more likely to be visited from search results and your invitations to connect are more likely to be accepted if you include a photo on your profile.
A professionally taken photo looks best, but it would suffice to have someone take a good headshot of you with a neutral background that shows you looking professional and friendly. Use a civilian image instead of your official military photo, because you want to show the recruiter how you’d fit in at their company.
Keep in mind that your photo will not only be seen when you come up in a search or when someone views your profile. It also appears, for example, on someone’s profile you’ve endorsed or recommended, next to your discussions or comments, and when LinkedIn suggests you as someone others may know.
You can also include a header image (the rectangular image at the top of your profile) to help brand yourself visually. Use an image that reflects your industry, such as cybersecurity, logistics, or defense. You can find free LinkedIn header images by searching on the Internet.
2. Create a descriptive Headline that describes your top skills and goals using keywords and phrases. The keywords you put here increase your search-ability, and they should be targeted to your audience to show them what you bring to the table. Saying that you are “transitioning from the Navy” leaves a recruiter guessing what skills you have and what job you’re targeting. Do the hard part for them by pointing out exactly why they should check out your profile.
The headline is right up there in importance with your profile photo for getting noticed, so make those 120 characters count!
3. Edit your public profile URL, which is the web address that points to your LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn assigns this URL when you create your account, but it contains random characters after your name that you should clean up. While in edit profile mode, click the link on the right for “Edit public profile & URL.” To the right you will see options for editing your custom URL and setting your profile visibility. Click the pencil icon next to the URL and remove the random characters so it ends with your name. If your name is taken, add other characters, like a middle initial, to make it unique. Now your URL looks cleaner and more recognizable when sharing the link on your resume, in your email signature, and on your transition business cards.
4. Use the About/Summary to highlight your strengths. This section is where you can tell your story (briefly). Describe your accomplishments and what you bring to the table. Use keywords important in your career field that recruiters would likely be searching for. Add a list of specialties that lists your strengths. Include transferable skills you acquired from your military service (e.g. leadership, team work, strong work ethic, decision making in adverse conditions) that transfer across disciplines, especially if you are starting on a new career path. Keep your summary short and sweet, with either bullets or a few brief paragraphs to define your brand. Make sure the first few lines of this section pack the most punch, because that is all that shows without the reader clicking “see more.”
5. List all your current and past employers and education. Include your top keywords in the job titles, and load the work descriptions with keywords that describe your skills and accomplishments. If a past job has nothing to do with your current career field, list it with a short description, using those transferable skills to describe your duties and responsibilities. Listing all your past employers and education will help you find relevant connections and build your network.
6. Add keywords to the Skills section that are relevant to your career field. List the skills that are your strengths, since other users will be endorsing the skills you list here. Check the profiles of colleagues and those in your career field to get ideas on what skills and keywords to use throughout your profile.
7. Ask for recommendations from people in your LinkedIn network. Click “Add profile section” and select “Additional info” from the drop-down list. Below that click “Request a recommendation.” A good rule of thumb is to have 2-3 recommendations from managers, supervisors, colleagues, etc., for each job listed in the employment section of your profile, or at least for your most current jobs held. Also get recommendations from those you’ve done volunteer work for.
Share Your Profile
Now that your profile is complete, share it with others. Add your public profile URL to your resume, email signature, and transition business cards. Save your LinkedIn profile as a PDF file to attach to emails or print out and include with your job applications (click the “More” button to save your profile to a PDF).
The more complete your LinkedIn profile is, the more likely you are to come up in someone’s search. Recruiters and hiring managers are using LinkedIn to find candidates who are a good match for their openings, and if that’s you, make sure they know it from your profile!
About the Author
Karin Durkee is the Director of Social Media for Corporate Gray. She is a military spouse, educator, technology consultant, and author of “Social Media and Your Job Search: Maximizing Your Network for a Successful Transition.” Karin presents social media workshops to transitioning military members on installations in the Washington, D.C. area.