A well-maintained online presence can mean all the difference in your job search. And career experts say it's worth paying careful attention to your LinkedIn profile in particular. It offers a way to display your experience and skills, all while building connections with professionals in your field.
"It's a great tool for making connections and finding job leads, but it's also an opportunity to advertise your professional brand," says Amanda Augustine, career expert at TopResume.
A resume is confined to a specific format and just a few pages, but a LinkedIn profile gives the opportunity to share dynamic information about your career history. "You can give a bigger taste of your personality than you're able to express on a resume," Augustine says. "Every material that you're building — your resume, cover letters, LinkedIn profile — they're all trying to tell a story."
Here are three ways to build your LinkedIn profile to stand out and make connections, according to Augustine.
"Make sure your LinkedIn profile is completely filled out and that the information is consistent with the details on your resume," says Augustine. "While both tools may present your candidacy slightly differently, the story they tell must be the same."
When recruiters look you up on LinkedIn, your job story shouldn't have any inconsistencies. That means company names, start and end dates, and job responsibilities need to carry the same information as they do on your resume.
"You still have to make sure that wherever you're advertising yourself, your skills, and your qualifications, they tell a similar story, both online, on paper, and face-to-face or screen-to-screen," says Augustine.
Video by Mariam Abdallah
When you edit your profile, don't forget about the "headline" field in the intro and the "summary" field in the about section. Leave those blank, and you're missing prime opportunities to highlight your skills.
"Most people don't actually customize their headline — you have the ability to do that. It can even be a one-liner that's describing the type of professional you are and the benefits that you offer," says Augustine.
Use the summary section to give viewers a broad view of your history and capabilities. It's OK to get personal: While you wouldn't use pronouns like "I," "me," or "my" on a resume, you can on LinkedIn, Augustine says. In fact, she recommends it.
"Include why you're so interested, engaged, and passionate about this certain industry or this certain field," she says. "Think of it as a marketing exercise, in the sense that you're trying to think of what terms would somebody use if they were searching for a candidate like you."
Because LinkedIn is a social media site, it allows users to post articles, videos, and other content, and comment on things colleagues share. Do both, Augustine suggests.
Publishing articles to your LinkedIn profile helps show your point of view and share what you're passionate about or things you've been researching in your industry, she says. And commenting on other people's posts puts your name in relevant conversations about topics in your field and allows you to engage with others.
"That's kind of the beauty of LinkedIn. You can have a more three-dimensional view for readers, for recruiters, for hiring managers, of who you are as an individual as well as a professional," says Augustine.
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