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Power-Up Your LinkedIn Profile

In Articles by Wendy Buske

Whether you are an aspiring game programmer or an independent artist looking for freelance opportunities, there’s a very good chance you’ll have to face the challenge of LinkedIn. It’s like the water level of the NES Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game – super tricky but necessary to advance your game. As you navigate its numerous profile options, or comb through an often overwhelming feed of user chatter, LinkedIn can quickly become more confusing or stress-inducing than seems worthwhile.

LinkedIn is like the water level in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Yep. Totes like that.

Many people just use LinkedIn as an online version of their resume. Others share and contribute to it daily. Regardless of the industry you’re interested in, or how you intend to use LinkedIn, knowing the etiquette of this heavily critiqued and potentially deal making (or breaking) social channel should be a priority.

For this article, I’m going to focus on building a profile and provide some particularly good online resources to help guide you. I’ve pulled out a few highlights from each to create the “Cliffsnotes” guide to updating your LinkedIn presence.

Let’s break it down by section:

Your Profile Picture

Profile Image FailFirst of all, HAVE ONE. You’re competing with millions of other users – don’t instantly reduce (if not eliminate) your chances of being noticed by leaving your profile photo blank.

Second, remember that this is a headshot – not a “Where’s Waldo” image from your last vacation. Hiring managers or potential clients don’t care that you went to Disney World, they want to see YOU. The photo should also be of decent quality – well-lit and not a grainy-looking mess. If your pic looks like a poor scan of a photo taken in 1983, you’re doing it wrong.

NOT a good profile pic.

This might send the wrong message, too.

Your profile pic should be honest to your personality, but not a billboard for everything you love. It’s cool if you want to wear your favorite Doctor Who T-shirt, but is that something people in your industry would be okay with you wearing to work? Remember: you want to taken seriously.

» For more tips on your profile image, check out Why Your Profile Picture Sucks.

Your Headline

You know that blurb next to your profile image thumbnail? You can change it to say whatever you’d like. Many LinkedIn users do not realize this, and allow LinkedIn to use the default, which is your current job title and employer. There’s nothing particularly wrong with this (though some sources may argue otherwise). However, if you want to stand out in the sea of LinkedIn profiles, start doing some homework on what (preferably successful) job hunters like you are using.

Woman making a very weird face.

For reference: not really the tone your headline should convey.

There are numerous “Do’s” with the headline:

  • State what you do in specific, concise terms.
  • Include relevant keywords that highlight skills a hiring manager might be looking for.
  • Be creative. Show some personality.
  • Proofread your post! Grammar/spelling mistakes can be an immediate “game over”.

» For more headline “Do’s”, check out this article.

Danger, Will Robinson – there are also some major “Don’ts” to consider:

  • Avoid hyperbole – do not use words like “amazing”, “rockstar”, “ninja”, etc. Your credibility goes down while number of eye-rolls goes up.
  • You can be funny, but don’t be snarky.
  • Avoid self-deprecation – be confident in your skills and value, but…
  • Don’t be cocky! Seeming self-impressed will likely turn off potentials employers. Find balance in the force, padawan.

» For examples of absolute “Don’t”s, read more here.

Your Summary

This section let’s recruiters and HR departments know who you are as a person, not just a resume. Tell your career story, discuss your goals and let your personality come through. Your summary should be more conversational, but also include your background, skills, and interests relevant to the job you want.

Background character in a business setting.

It’s YOUR story. Don’t be a background character.

To make your summary more “search engine friendly”, consider what keywords recruiters may be looking for, and include them as “naturally” as possible into your summary.

» For an example of a good summary, as well as some additional tips you can use, check this out this Steve Woodruff article.

Your Experience

Regardless of how much or how little experience you think you have, if you’re at the point of creating a profile, you probably have enough to get started. The key in this section is to be detailed. Don’t just treat this as a bulleted list. Remember – while you know what that job title at your past/current employer means (i.e. “Strategy Coordinator”, “Webmaster”, “Office Assistant”), those terms can mean ten very different things to the recruiters looking at your profile.

S-Mart employ Ash, from Army of Darkness.

Pictured: a simple customer service representative.

Describe what you do – be specific – and what makes you valuable doing it. You can also include media and links to specific projects you want to showcase, encouraging profile viewers to immediately see examples of your work.

If you’re not yet working full-time in your desired industry, be sure to include any relevant freelance, volunteer, and unpaid roles you’ve had that illustrate your work, interests, and commitment level to pursuing your goals.

» For more detailed tips on how to tie what you’ve done to what you can do, check out this Power Formula blog.

Your Education

The education section can be incredibly detailed or a simple checklist of things you’ve accomplished. The importance of this section is based around the job you’re looking for, how far out from graduation you are, and how much experience you have beyond your education. Above all, be aware of the specific education background requirements of the companies you want to work for, and tailor your information toward their areas of interest. (But be honest, LinkedIn Loki.)

Whether you have an MBA or a few community college classes under your utility belt, list the schools you have attended, any societies and extra curricular activities you participated in, honors you received, and pertinent test scores: SAT, ACT, etc.

Keep in mind: the longer you’ve been in the work force and the further down the timestream you are from your formal academics, the more recruiters will focus on experience. Some hiring managers may zero in on degrees and honors, but most are concerned about what you’ve done and what you can do. If you’re 10 years out from your undergrad and it’s not from an Ivy League school, you’re probably safe to downplay those details in favor of workplace accomplishments.

» Here is a detailed list of how to update your Education on LinkedIn.

Your Interests

Interests, like the Summary, should showcase both your professional and personal self. Focusing solely on industry buzzwords (“Blogger”, “Marketing”, “Social Media”, etc.) is a missed opportunity to show off who you are. Especially in nerd culture, we’re so focused on the fandoms we love and sharing those with others. Take this opportunity to make LinkedIn more social. You’ll increase the chance of getting an “in” with a manager who shares similar interests.

» For more reasons why you should list some of your interests, view this article.

The Quest Continues…

Just remember that we’re all still learning and, as LinkedIn grows, we’re all challenged with keeping up. I’m never completely happy with my profile, and I don’t spend nearly the amount of time engaging with the vast network of LinkedIn-ians that some recommend. I am, however, constantly striving to stay current and relevant. So join me in embracing the pain that keeping up with it can be, and enjoy the wonderful connections it may provide. You need to.

About the Author

Wendy Buske


Nerd For A Living co-founder Wendy Buske is our marketing director and podcast co-host. She is also our primary speaker panel moderator at conventions and events. Wendy is a digital producer at award-winning advertising agency, Rodgers Townsend. She has over 8 years of agency experience in digital media, advertising and marketing. Her specialties include digital marketing strategy with a focus on branding, website usability, email marketing, social media, content SEO, copywriting, public relations and relationship management, and event coordination.