You’ve probably heard it a thousand times: Creating a LinkedIn profile is crucial.
But that doesn’t mean simply uploading your past work experience and an endorsement or two, explains branding expert, author and founder of LinkedIn-Makeover.com, Donna Serdula. In fact, rushing through the process might actually be doing yourself a disservice.
“LinkedIn is a tool, so you have to use it like a tool,” says Serdula. “You have to be very strategic, and that’s where most people struggle, because it’s not always extremely obvious.”
We spoke with Serdula for a few tips for getting the most out of the professional networking site:
Optimize your profile
The first misstep in creating a Linkedin profile is assuming that copying and pasting your resume is enough, says Serdula. Except it’s not. “Doing that is like saying, ‘Eh, this is what I’ve done,” she explains, as opposed to, ‘This is who I am, this is what I’m passionate about, this is my mission, this is what I’m trying to accomplish.’”
A standout profile begins with a professionally shot smiling photo, and an engaging headline — one that gives viewers a sense of what you provide, and most importantly, entices them to want to click and read more, says Serdula. But the summary is where you really get to sell yourself, she explains. “You want it to be conversational, compelling, unique, interesting, but even more so, you want it to align with what that target audience is interested in learning about you,” says Serdula. “Make it that elevator pitch.”
Another tip: Incorporate search phrases. “You want to be very strategic and think, if someone is looking for me, what kind of words would they be typing into the search engine,” she says. “Then make sure you use those keywords throughout your profile.”
Build and use your network
“The first thing to recognize is that LinkedIn is very much like an old-fashioned Rolodex,” says Serdula. “And an empty Rolodex is useless.” If you want to find success on LinkedIn, you need to be constantly building a strong network, and connecting with the people you meet along the way. “It’s not just something that you do once, but it’s something that you need to incorporate into your everyday life,” she explains.
But building your network is only the first step. Next you need to learn how to leverage those contacts. That means going through your connections and asking them for introductions.
Of course, there’s also the more subtle approach: using what you garner from people’s profiles to forge your own connections, says Serdula. It could be something as simple as looking through their mutual connections, she explains. “Just knowing that you know someone in common is a great way of breaking the ice.”
For many people, creating content to share can be difficult and extremely time consuming, says Serdula, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still be active on LinkedIn. There’s always the option of commenting on and sharing other people’s content, she explains. Her motto: “If you can’t create — curate.”
Plus, today everyone has such a short-term memory, she explains. “By connecting with that person and staying a part of their life by commenting on their statuses, they’re going to remember you,” she says. “And when they do need what you offer, they’re more likely to reach out.”