As though your actual day job doesn’t already cost you enough time and energy, the work required to maintain your professional portfolio (not to mention ALL of your social media accounts) can feel like a job in and of itself.
Active job seekers dedicate hours on end to searching through listings and applying for positions, in addition to the time spent updating their skills and credentials. Even if you’re not looking to make a move in the near future, you know how important it is to keep your qualifications well-groomed and maintain connections in your industry. Whether you are seeking a new position or planning to stay put, LinkedIn deserves your attention. As one of the most highly-trafficked networking sites, it provides you with a solid platform where you can devote your efforts to managing your professional identity and personal brand.
Building your LinkedIn profile is no small task. From detailing your career experience and education to describing skills and accomplishments and exhibiting endorsements, your profile should present a very clear insight into you as a professional. Your summary, in particular, is a vital component in communicating precisely who you are and what work experience you bring to the table. After all the time you've invested into perfecting your resume, tracking down transcripts, and typing in every last noteworthy activity, you’re likely exhausted and might be tempted to give a half-hearted shot at the summary (or not include one at all). In a word, don’t!
Don’t simply upload your resume document and log out. The extra time it takes to craft a polished summary is 100% worth it. Your LinkedIn summary serves as your first impression to each and every visitor—including hiring managers— who opens your profile; it’s your opportunity to set yourself apart and genuinely attract potential employers. Even if you’re not engaged in an active job search, you never know what connection you could make that might be beneficial in the future. Here are five ways to strengthen your summary and truly sell yourself as a professional.
1. Paint a picture.
Each section in your LinkedIn profile other than the summary has a “resume ring” to it. Meaning? You have applied all the tips you have learned over the years to condense, simplify, and quantify in order to fit your entire career into one neat package. The summary, in contrast, frees you from that box and allows you to write candidly and in more qualitative terms. Rather than defining yourself only by official company statistics listed in your resume, open up and speak to the whole person whom your profile represents. Instead of transferring bullet points verbatim, cherry-pick the important keywords that can be developed into a narrative.
Not much of a writer? There’s no need to wax poetic, but try to tap into your creative side and paint a picture of who you are through prose. Fill in the missing pieces of yourself that the rest of your profile may fail to convey. What have you really learned from your past education and work experience, and what do you aspire to do professionally? Don’t assume that any people looking at your profile can draw such conclusions from your credentials alone!
2. Highlight your recommendations.
The recommendations section of your profile may be one of your favorites, considering it is stocked with positive reviews that boost your credibility, not a word of which you had to write yourself. Mentioning some of these accolades in your summary not only supplements its content, but it also reminds recruiters and hiring managers to scroll down to the recommendations section (which, you’ve probably noticed, is at the bottom of your profile) and read through all your glowing reviews. You may feel uncomfortable about jumping right into self-praise, but using others’ statements can kickstart the writing process in addition to supplying objective reinforcement of your own claims.
Don’t have any recommendations to refer to? Well, acquire some! Reach out to classmates, colleagues, volunteer partners, and former or current managers and ask for their endorsement. Be sure to reciprocate the gesture, though, if you expect to receive a response. When swapping recommendations, it is acceptable to collaborate with one another on the subject matter; each of you can request which specifics and keywords to hit, as long as the one recommending is the actual author of the text.
3. Showcase your work.
LinkedIn now outfits your profile with the capacity to upload infographics, ebooks, PowerPoint presentations, and any other documentation of your expertise and accomplishments. Similar to your recommendations, these tangible examples of your work may not even be noticed, unless your profile viewers are prompted to keep scrolling down. Again, make note of them in your summary and give recruiters, potential employers, and other people in your industry a reason to check them out. Citing particularly remarkable achievements piques interest and sends the message that you thoughtfully selected only those uploads that are relevant to your professional identity. I hope it goes without saying, but I’ll throw it out there anyway: None of the work you display should be proprietary or confidential. If there is any question, don’t take the chance.
4. Hold the formality.
At this point, it should be obvious that writing your summary in the first person makes the most sense. Using third-person language isn’t necessarily incorrect, but it can sound both awkward and impersonal. After all, you are talking about yourself, right? Don’t complicate the summary even further by pretending you’re referring to someone else. While you may feel the urge to be as formal as possible, you don’t want to come off as stuffy or unlike you. The most effective start to sharing your identity and executing these other guidelines is to use those first-person pronouns—don’t shy away from “I,” “me,” and “my”! Take advantage of the rare occasion when it’s not considered egotistical to talk about yourself.
5. Complete your profile in full.
I’ve stressed that an attractive overall profile carries little weight without a gleaming summary to introduce it. Keep in mind, though, that the reverse also holds true: An impressive summary loses meaning if the profile that follows lacks substance. LinkedIn programs all of the individual sections into the profile template with intention, so it’s imperative to treat each one as an integral element that warrants completion. Studies prove that users who list their education appear in searches up to seventeen times more often than those who neglect this portion. Location is another crucial detail that tends to be ignored; entering where you want to work, however, makes you twenty-three more times as likely to pop up in a search. From my experience in recruitment, I can guarantee you that candidates who have insufficient profiles are immediately categorized as second-tier and often end up disregarded altogether.
Drink that extra cup of coffee and take the plunge into writing a LinkedIn profile summary of value. Although the rigors of your current position, continuous networking, and (for job seekers) your job search may have wiped you out, all of these facets of your career depend on your ability to communicate your professional identity. Your profile summary functions as the lifeblood of your LinkedIn page and equips you with the rare opportunity to reveal this personal brand in a compelling, genuine way. Take seriously the five pointers laid out here, and you will be ready to compose an eye-catching summary about of who you are and why your connections and profile visitors should stay tuned.
Hi, there! I’m Allie Hofer, an HR professional and work-life balance enthusiast. More officially, I’m a Professional in Human Resources (PHR), Society of Human Resource Management – Certified Professional (SHRM-CP), and Recruiter Academy Certified Recruiter (RACR).
After having my first child, I opted out of the traditional office setting to work from home. Since then, I have been consulting with organizations in the public and private sectors to support the Human Resources function in recruiting, compensation, training and development, and performance management.
I started Office Hours to offer a boutique HR solution for small and medium-sized businesses and to help candidates navigate and completely own their career paths.