If your LinkedIn profile is sitting there, as untended as most farmland in January, you’re missing out on some powerful opportunities to harvest connections and positive impressions.
So let’s use the month of January to shine it up, to plant new seeds – and get rid of the deadwood on your profile.
Start by taking out most or all of these tired descriptions, which were identified by LinkedIn analysts as the most overused terms: Extensive experience; innovative; motivated; results-oriented; dynamic; proven track record; team player; fast-paced; problem solver and entrepreneurial.
Then head for these seven steps to a more powerful LinkedIn profile:
1. Add some gloss and zest. Take one section a week and polish it up, add some passion and fresh material. Use words smartly and show your style, expertise and thoughtfulness in what you say about yourself. If you aren’t sure what to add, check out a half dozen others with similar work histories to see what they use. (Your material must be drawn from your career and experience – no fabrications.) After you’re done, run each section through spell check.
2. Add a very professional photo. Get one taken – it will come in handy in other ways too. Smile and look hopeful and energetic. This has impact and shows a little personality. It also makes people feel they are connecting with you, and seeing your humanity and style. It was one of the most suggested ideas in a recent LinkedIn question on improving your profile.
3. Spiff up your summary. This area gives you room to fill in some color and detail on who you are, what you stand for and what you’re the best at. It’s a place to shine and share awards and highlights and whet people’s appetites to learn more about you.
4. Show with specifics. Resume writer and author Susan Ireland suggests pointing out your successes with profit and loss, teamwork and innovation. “Give a prime example,” she said. “For example ‘First manager at ABC Bank to do such-and-such’.” Details and specifics make it stand out. However, you want to avoid specific years of experience if the total makes you “look like a dinosaur in your industry,” Ireland suggests. In that case, just say more than 10 years experience, or whatever number shows up often in job listings for openings you seek.
5. Add stand-out stats and solutions. Evolution Career Business Leadership Development founder Joseph Mullin said he wants his accomplishments to bring him recognition. So he answers three questions: How do I make or save time? How do I make or save money? And, how do I solve problems? The first two need dollar signs or percentages attached. “This is a way to tell them what I can do for you,” he told members of a LinkedIn job search group. Not sure your results are impressive? Talk to a friend. “If it can wow a friend, then it needs to be put in,” Mullin said.
6. Obtain fresh enthusiastic recommendations. Seek them out from newcomers to your circle and career. If all of them come from jobs you’ve held three or more years ago, people may wonder why you’re not wowing current clients and bosses. “The more the merrier!” writes social networking expert Neal Schaffer in his new book “Understanding, Leveraging & Maximizing LinkedIn.”
7. Add content that feels relevant to you and your career goals. Avid readers may share their favorite books with an Amazon.com widget. Post a video of yourself performing or speaking. Upload your resume and make it available to recruiters if you’re actively job hunting – Ireland has a blog post that tells how. Check the LinkedIn blog and the “Using LinkedIn” Answers sections for other ideas on neat or new features that could be valuable.
After you’ve finished all the polish and updates, give yourself a moment to appreciate your spiffed up online person. Then put a reminder on your calendar – and do it all again in six or nine months.
Also don’t forget to do “small good deeds.” In her post on making the most of LinkedIn, ambassador Lindsey Pollak suggests you congratulate contacts on a new job or share your expertise and ideas in the Answers section by replying to questions. Make sure though that you read through others’ answers first so you differentiate yourself and add value to what’s there, Schaffer reminds. “Be thoughtful and add supplemental evidence,” he writes. Then have your answers show up on your home page – to show you’re actively engaged in building community and lending your expertise.