#91 Nine Tips for Standing Out on LinkedIn
How to infuse storytelling into your LinkedIn Profile
Last year I created a post to help people tell their professional stories in their resumes. It included approaches to help infuse storytelling and personality into a resume. I always intended to create a version of that post for LinkedIn. Don’t roll your eyes. I know LinkedIn can feel a little disconnect from real professional life, but as someone who spends a lot of time on the platform connecting with new people and staying connected with my professional world, I have seen the value of the platform for people of all career backgrounds.
My younger sister applied for a job and was interviewed by a recruiter as the first step. She was told she’d hear back in a few days. When she didn’t, she sent a note to the recruiter on LinkedIn (he had added her and told her to reach out anytime because he was so impressed by her) and he followed up with the company—she had an offer a few days later. Social networks, though troubling in the context of the larger zeitgeist, can be valuable tools when it comes to connecting with others and sharing your story.
So recognizing how valuable LinkedIn is, I wanted to share with you ways you can infuse your unique story into your profile to help you stand out and create the right types of connections in your professional efforts. These are the nine profile elements that you can leverage to share your story and stand out on LinkedIn.
Images. Both your banner and profile are an opportunity to infuse personality into your first impression. Do you love colour? Make sure yours pops with it. Are you a bit more traditional? Show that. Let your most you shine through in your profile image and banner. If you don’t have a profile image on your LinkedIn, I’d like you to close this, go to LinkedIn, upload the best photo of you in your phone and then come back here.
Headline. Just like in an article the headline should help draw people in and give them a sense of what they might expect as they keep reading. Keep this one short, but also, use it to stand out. Don’t just put “marketer” and don’t put an entire purpose or mission statement. And please don’t use words that ten other people also have in their headline. I’d rather you just put your title than overused industry terms. Remember this is the first impression, after your name and image, that folks are going to see so make it count. Most people use their titles (which is FINE) but I saw one that said “Entrepreneur and Disruptor” the other day and I was keen to click in and see who this was and what that actually meant.
Featured Posts. If you tend to post things that are related to your work or your passions on LinkedIn, this is where you can let the world know what you care enough about to post and keep. Your featured posts, the ones you mark to stay at the top of your profile, should help provide a sense of where you’ve been and what you’re working on.
Activity. This is less of a tip and more of a call out. One of the first thing people see when they visit your profile is what you’ve been up to on LinkedIn. Make good choices, friend. In what you post, in what you like, in what you comment on and be sure it reflects the you you want to share on LinkedIn. I’m a fan of bringing your whole self to your career and love to see personal posts and moments of vulnerability in my feed, but you do what feels right for you knowing that it can and does show up in your profile for all the world to see. Because your profile is public. If you don’t have it public, you’re not doing it right. Sorry to be harsh, but what’s the point of having a LinkedIn if you don’t want people to engage with your career story fully? Make it public, please.
About. Okay. This is the section where your story can come to life in real tangible ways. I want you to take time with this one. Think about who you want to be reading it, think about the number one thing you want to get across, think about the elements of your personality you want to come through in tone, and think about how you want people to be left feeling and thinking about you when you’re done. Then decide the key moments or experiences in your career you want to highlight and get it all down. You have 2,600 characters, I’d encourage you to keep it to half that if not less—people have not visited your LinkedIn page to read a novel. Some people keep it really short. Here’s one I liked (from the disruptor above): “An agent of advocacy, innovation and change, with an aim to inform, educate and create. Made in Israel, Assembled in Canada.” For the record, this person is a real estate investor and used to work in the philanthropic space. I’ve seen profiles without an about section, I think you leave it out to the detriment of expressing your unique story—tell the people about you and why they should care. Oh! And write this in the first person. Why would you refer to yourself in the third when you clearly wrote this? Why? Just to make your reader feel removed from the experience of learning about you? First person please, if nowhere else on the page, here.
Experience. This is the copy and paste section from your resume. Where you’ve been, how long you were there, what you did. BUT the what you did part is key. This is where you can lean into HOW you did it. If you have links to live projects, videos, or anything you worked on and feel proud about, take advantage and add media to a few of your experiences. I have links to my last freelance pieces for my freelance section. If you’re actively looking for a job, tailor this section for your IDEAL job. The dream job that you want a recruiter to reach out to you about. With your resume you have the luxury of tailoring it with each new application, LinkedIn is oddly more static, but that means you want it to attract one thing really well rather than try to make it be all things to everyone—the marketers in the room know that doesn’t work. You also get to spend a bit more time telling people how you did it, in the role description. Keep it short but also make it sound like you—voice and personality still matter here.
The Rest. Education, volunteer work, skills, awards, projects, publications. These sections add texture to the hard work you put in above and prove you are who you say you are. If you talk about being an advocate for children in your about section then show you’ve been a volunteer with a kids organization for five years, that’s walking the walk. Fill these sections in IF you have something to share. Not everyone will read it but that recruiter for your dream job might and you want to put everything on the table.
Recommendations. I LOVE this section. It’s a chance for other people to brag on you. And a chance to say, “See? I wasn’t making it up.” For this one, though, you need to be choiceful in who you choose to stand and speak for you. The hope is that they’re going to add new dimension to what you’ve already said by providing a lens into what it’s like to work with you. This section is essential. What I will say is that some folks don’t respond when you reach out with a request for a recommendation. I suggest you send the request via LinkedIn then follow up via email (because not everyone is on LinkedIn like that). And do it while you’re at a workplace with them or fairly soon after leaving so the experience of you is fresh in their minds. Try to update this every year or two. I looked at mine for this piece and realized I could do with one or two new ones, which will likely come from clients as it’s been awhile since I’ve been in a workplace with someone. That’s okay. The recommendation should be people who will best speak to your skills, not necessarily a boss or lead. It’s your LinkedIn page, you get to choose.
Start with the fundamentals. Sorry to end with the beginning, but this is how it came to life. If you haven’t already, I REALLY encourage you to read my post on How to Craft a Resume. It has some really great questions to answer before you get started and then dives into specific tips for crafting a resume that I think will also help you in infusing more of your story into your LinkedIn profile. This is one of my most popular and shared posts for good reason and really encourage you to take advantage.
LinkedIn Stories Well Told
Finally, I wanted to share some examples of what I’m talking about. What you’ll notice is that a lot of these folks approach their profiles in their own unique ways in order to get their stories across in a way that reflects who they are. And that’s the real lesson here: get in there, explore, and figure out what best brings to life who you are professionally and share it with clarity, heart, and humanity. You can’t do it wrong.
This is my profile. Obviously, I’m not going to do a post about storytelling in LinkedIn profiles and not share what I’ve done with my own. It is imperfect, like me, which I enjoy. Mine is ever a work in progress and I go back and tweak it as my perspective and my experience changes, but the fundamentals remain.
This profile is the disruptor I mention above. I don’t know him personally, but he showed up in my feed and I explored a bit because his headline made me curious. Now I may rent a 7-bedroom home in PEC with my family in the fall. (Because your profile is a form of marketing, you and what you do and his worked on me).
This profile is a great example of infusing your entire profile with personality. She is a Blue Haired Unicorn according to her (very long) headline and that comes through across the profile. She does her own thing and a good number of things counter to what I suggest above, but that is what makes this so clearly her. There are no hard and fast rules here. The only real rule is share you.
Braveen’s profile (you may remember him from our Storytellers I Admire series) is very spare and feels just like him. Thoughtful with only the most important details included.
Another Storyteller I Admire feature, Prasanna Ranganathan, has an about section in his profile that is long and detailed and full of all of his magic and wisdom. Perfection.
I think what I wanted to get across with this post and these examples is that this is your profile and it should in all the ways possible reflect what makes you a magical, unique, wonderful person who people may want to work for, collaborate with, or hire. That’s the point. Your magical story is the point. So I encourage you to take a look at your LinkedIn profile (and start one if you don’t have one already for Pete’s sake!) and see what you might change to better reflect your story. Share what changes you’re considering or that you make in the comments. I love to explore new profiles so share that link too!
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