You’ve ignored your LinkedIn profile for the last several months, or maybe you never filled out all the sections when you first joined. Some profile sections are cut and dry- Education, Skills, Interests, and Accomplishments- so maybe you started with those and now are unsure what to do next.
Optimizing the rest of your profile might sound like a foreign sport, so when it comes to hacking the harder areas- Photo, Headline, Introduction, and Experience- we’ve got you covered. In fact, you’re primed for taking advantage of a festive season chock full of parties and gatherings, gift exchanges, and opportunities to reacquaint yourself with friends and colleagues. Here are some ways you can get your LinkedIn profile employer-ready and your career search in full speed this holiday season..
Smile! (You Need a Photo)
Sage advice you’ve probably heard already about your LinkedIn photo: ensure it’s a good quality headshot (not an obvious selfie) in a professional pose, wearing attire that is appropriate in your industry. Next, you might be wondering how to get a professional-looking photo on the cheap, because the last time you posed for a professional photo was for your high school graduation or wedding.
Not to worry! You can get the photo you need this holiday season with minimal effort. Many of the large drug store chains offer this service (you can find options in your area if you search for the phrase “where to take a passport photo”).
If you prefer to do this at home, you can use your own phone or tablet, along with a tripod, a timer, and an online tutorial. For those of you who have a friend with a good-quality camera, ask them to take a quick snap for you against a plain background with appropriate lighting.
Now for a really fun idea! If you’re planning a holiday party, you can get your friends in on the act by setting up a DIY photo booth. Reserve the first half of the night for those professional, plain shots, and then decorate that backdrop with some fun decorations and pose with wacky props. There are several photo booth how-tos, but here’s a short one to check out.
Once you have your photo, use an editing app for any finishing touches, follow the prompts on LinkedIn for uploading, and you’re good to go (you might want to save the wacky shots for your private album).
Craft a Great Headline
When you first set up your LinkedIn profile, your headline will default to your most recent job title and organization. This can be useful if you’re looking to stay in the same career, and it may even help you meet a recruiter’s keyword search, but why forfeit an opportunity to showcase your creativity? Change it to better reflect what you do and why employers should seek you out amongst all the other people with your job title.
I know. You’re probably stumped on what to say in those 120 characters.
Remember, it’s the holiday season, and you’ve got parties on your calendar. Use them to do a little field research. One of the questions I like to ask family and friends is “for what type of help would I be the person you turn to first?” or “if someone were to ask you what I do well, what would you say?” Take note of their responses, find the through-line, and translate to a great headline.
For example, if they all mention a combination of reliability, tech savvy, and being able to quickly share the main idea of a story or problem, you might say:
Helping others master the tech tools at their fingertips to solve problems.
Your LinkedIn Introduction
Now for that introduction. You could fill it with copied phrases from your job description, but that won’t give you a dynamic narrative.
Those holiday parties are once again going to provide great fodder for your profile. Be intentional when you introduce yourself to new people. Be sure to have a few talking points and interesting anecdotes to share (professional ones, yes, but also a few personal ones that are appropriate for mixed company, so you present as a well-rounded, multi-faceted person).
Also take note of how others introduce themselves. What do you learn about their professions when making small talk? Is there some lingo or phrases you can adopt for your own introductions?
While you’re engaged in chats, observe your conversation partners- what do you say that makes them laugh, has their eyes light up, or draws them in a little closer? Even better, perhaps they respond with a “you know, I have a friend who’s been looking for an expert ______”. What do these cues tell you about the details you should add to your LinkedIn introduction?
Test out your narrative at holiday gatherings and see what other guests seem to be attracted to. Work and rework your intro until it’s a great blend of beautiful form and function, succinctly giving the reader quantifiable details about your abilities and the “wins” of your work history, while also showcasing your personality.
This approach also works for your experience section, so we’ll delve into that next.
You know what I notice about the experience sections of many LinkedIn profiles? The older positions listed have more robust descriptions- maybe they are fully optimized with quantifiable achievements and KPIs, or a more general outline of job responsibilities. As users change jobs, they may update the company and their job title, but leave the description blank.
Don’t do this! Allow your experience section to display a thoughtful, engaging-to-read description about your abilities.
One easy format to follow is to use a few sentences to describe what you do as if you were telling a friend what you do at work. Something like, “After a year at the company, I was promoted to lead the new team that’s working on creating and implementing our employee engagement strategy. I get to work with managers and teams to help them build better functioning teams.” Then follow up those sentences with two or three ‘key accomplishment’ bullet points that showcase your impact and allow your reader’s eyes to skim those key metrics.
Again, you can “test out” your descriptions this holiday season by sharing anecdotes at different gatherings. During holiday dinners, when the topic of work is apt to come up, ask your family members what they remember you enjoying most in your previous jobs. In what areas would they say you are most gifted? And of course, return the favor for anyone else who might be teetering on the edge of career happiness.
Connecting With Others on LinkedIn
Whenever you visit LinkedIn, you will receive suggestions for “People You May Know”. Former colleagues, neighbors, and classmates may come up in these lists. Of course, it’s a natural fit to connect with former and current colleagues, mentors, and managers. Be sure to personalize your message when you request to link (there is a wealth of information online with ways to do this effectively- this article from The Beamery sums things up nicely).
Remember that the holiday season is a great time to expand your reach. A ready-made list of contacts that you may not have thought about is the people you send holiday cards to. Ingenious, right? You’re already reaching out, so you might as well make one more touch point!
After that, grab those business cards you’ve collected throughout the year at conferences, workshops, and other events. Get in touch with each of them - the holidays are a great reason to reconnect.
‘Tis the season of giving, so start with an offer you are willing to make them. Maybe there is someone in your network you’d love to introduce them to, or you have expertise you can lend them in a short term project (write a guest post for their blog, proofread their dissertation, volunteer at a holiday fundraiser they are coordinating).
If you’re at a loss for a match between your skills and their needs, you can always reference a topic you previously discussed, a conversation you want to revisit, or even a pertinent article that you find worth sharing.
With a polished photo, well-crafted introduction, and some holiday help from your friends, you’ll jettison to LinkedIn success quickly, before the New Year even begins! You’re all set for your next round of connections!
About the Author: Victoria Crispo
Drawing from her years of experience in career development, Victoria Crispo propels job seekers and career changers towards taking control of their searches with confidence and removing fear, uncertainty, and other blocks to success. In both the corporate and non-profit sectors, she has led in-person workshops and seminars, webinars, and conference programming. She previously served as a writer and content manager for Idealist Careers. Victoria is currently working on a series of career and personal development workshops- connect with her on LinkedIn and stay tuned for details!