Polish Your Personal LinkedIn Profile for the New Year

Carla Turchetti by Carla Turchetti on January 8, 2014
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The beginning of a new year is an excellent time to reflect on your professional accomplishments of the past 12 months and update your personal LinkedIn profile accordingly.

With 259 million members worldwide, LinkedIn offers a powerful tool for small-business owners. Entrepreneurs can use the social networking site to recruit employees, boost their small business, or position themselves as experts in a particular field. Knowing your objective makes it easier to create and maintain an effective profile.

“First, decide with this new year what is the goal of the LinkedIn profile,” says Donna Serdula, founder of LinkedIn Makeover, a company that specializes in professional branding through LinkedIn.

“[The social network] is a database of professionals for professionals, and people are searching that database,” she adds. “Your LinkedIn profile should be optimized with all the skills and abilities you bring to the table. Only then will you get found.”

Carefully Choose Your Keywords

Serdula suggests that you start by incorporating the keywords in your profile that you would like searchers to find. “What are your strengths? What are your abilities? What are your core competencies? What has changed, and what have you always had or always done that perhaps you haven’t really thought of before?” she asks.

Your keywords should be specific and related to things like proficiency in a particular software app or business-development strategies or successes in project management. The keywords should appear in the different sections of your profile.

“Look at your job description and see what words that exist within your job description truly define you,” Serdula says.

Make sure that your summary section is not simply a cut and paste version of your resume or bio. “Your summary is your first impression — it’s that digital introduction to your reader. You want to give them something that speaks to them directly, is conversational and narrative, and talks about who you are and how you can help them.”

Seek “Celebrity” Endorsements

Serdula believes that endorsements and recommendations from others are important components of a LinkedIn profile. “When people are endorsing you for a specific skill or skill set it’s very much like a person giving you a thumbs-up,” she says.

While endorsements are quick clicks, recommendations are written paragraphs that Serdula regards as powerful. “It’s not so much what the person says, it is who says it. You can drill in and see where that person sits within the corporation or company,” she says.

“You don’t want to just get them from vendors or people under you or people who sit lateral with you, you want to aim a little higher,” Serdula advises. “When the person looks at the LinkedIn profile and sees all these recommendations from employers or movers or shakers within the industry, that’s what sets it apart.”

Serdula says it is completely acceptable to ask people for recommendations or even go a step further and write the recommendation for them. Let them know that, of course, they should feel free to edit what you have written.

Schedule In-Person Meetings

After you’ve perfected your profile and put your best digital foot forward, step away from the computer. “Success on LinkedIn is getting off LinkedIn,” Serdula says.

Pick up the phone and call your contacts to schedule some face-to-face networking time. “Use LinkedIn to get closer to people, then get off it to forge that strong, personal relationship,” she recommends.

Carla Turchetti

Carla Turchetti is a veteran broadcast, print and digital journalist who is passionate about small businesses and the stories behind them. Carla is a small-business columnist at the News & Observer, the regional daily newspaper in Raleigh, North Carolina.

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