April 15, 2019
These days, your LinkedIn profile is your professional public face. Often, potential employers will look through your online profile to learn as much as they can about your background and interests, before they contact you. If you don’t have an excellent profile with a compelling story, they may never call you – and you may never know why.
If it’s been awhile since you updated your profile, now is a good time to make sure it’s up to date, and represents your current ambitions. Start by reading through the whole thing, adding any missing or new information, and updating what is already there, as discussed below.
You should have a nice, professional headshot. “Professional” in this case that you look like a professional – not something cut out of a snapshot, with someone else’s arm in the background. It should also be a fairly recent photo – people who meet you in person after seeing your profile should recognize you, not be surprised.
This is a brief summary of everything you are, how you want others to perceive and remember you. “Student” may be accurate, but is that how you really want potential employers to think of you? “Research Associate,” or even “Geochemist” is better, and “Ph.D. Geophysicist with expertise in development of remote sensors” is even better.
This is probably the most important section. Make sure all your relevant jobs are included, along with dates. The description should include your accomplishments, not just what you did. Include quantitation where possible – how many samples did you analyze, how big was the watershed, etc. Make sure to include all the techniques you used, and work in keywords for which employers will search. If necessary, provide background information, describing what you did is important.
This section is fairly stable. However, if you are still in school, make sure to update your anticipated graduation date as it moves closer.
This is where you can list and explain unpaid work. Include professional organizations to which you belong, and especially any committees on which you serve, activities you organized, people you managed, and so on. Long-term volunteer commitments are especially important.
Skills and Endorsements
Currently, you can select up to 3 skills to highlight. Are the three you selected still your strongest selling points, and the skills you want to use to propel your career forward? You can include additional skills, and select a few well-written endorsements from others to further emphasize the most important ones.
This is where other people can write about projects you worked on together, your skills, abilities, and working relationships. You can request recommendations from others, and review what they write before it is publicly posted to your profile. Again, a few well-chosen recommendations go a long way, and you need to be careful not to go overboard.
This section includes honors, awards, publications, languages, certifications, and so on. You should include your major awards, and summarize less important ones. Include a brief description for awards with which people may not be familiar.
This section lists all the groups you have joined. Review the list and see what it says about you and your interests. Do you want your current employer to see that you have joined a group named “Awful Bosses”?
While there is no official length limit to a LinkedIn profile, there is a practical limit. You want to include everything that makes you look good, and especially all the keywords that will make you appear in searches. But you don’t want to overwhelm your reader. If it’s too long, they won’t read everything, so they may miss something important.
Once you’ve edited each section, go back and look through the overall package. Does it make sense altogether? Does it tell a coherent story? Does it show off your best skills, and make it clear where you want to move professionally? Does it include all the keywords that a potential employer might use when searching for someone like you?
Updating your LinkedIn profile, as well as your other personal data documents (resume, curriculum vitea, references… ) is a good way to evaluate where you are in your career, and where you want to go – then create the profile that will get you there.
Lisa M. Balbes, Ph.D., has been a freelance technical writer and editor at Balbes Consultants LLC for over 25 years. She is the author of Nontraditional Careers for Chemists: New Formulas for Chemistry Careers (Oxford University Press).