By Josh Steimle
A dazzling LinkedIn account is an invaluable asset for professionals and almost necessary for networking purposes. The website currently hosts nearly 740 million accounts, and all it takes is a few costly mistakes to make your professional peers roll their eyes and move on to other profiles.
To make matters worse, most people don’t even realize when they are making a misstep on the platform. It’s understandable as not everyone is experienced with the effective business card of the internet. Still, some unofficial rules and guidelines guarantee your profile promotes you in the best possible light.
By rooting out these common errors, any profile can be fine-tuned and become far more effective in finding opportunities and keeping your business network strong.
1. A lacklustre headline
If your headline doesn’t have a hook, your profile isn’t likely to garner much attention. Just like a magazine headline or book title, a LinkedIn headline should be a brief advertisement of what a reader can expect to come in the profile. It’s the first thing people will see, so it’s important to make a positive first impression.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you should copy and paste your job title. Instead, focus on using keywords and actions relevant to your work, as this can improve your search ranking association.
The best headlines are brief — some say under 120 characters — impactful and leave the reader with a positive impression. It’s worth tweaking and experimenting with your own until you feel this has been accomplished.
2. An unprofessional photo
LinkedIn is a far different social media platform than Facebook and Instagram, and the criteria for acceptable photos are essential to note. A professional profile and cover photo are key components of LinkedIn. Without it, your profile appears dry and lacks the critical human element. Your photos should portray a sense of quality, composure and a hint of character. They shouldn’t be an advertisement of your physique, your latest exotic trip, or anything that distracts the viewer from your professional abilities and history. Both the profile and cover photo should be a simple statement, and it’s best not to take too many risks in this respect.
3. A resume-mimicking ‘About’ section
Perhaps the most common mistake people make in LinkedIn profiles is treating their “About” section — a brief personal biography — like a resume. The two are quite different in function. A resume should be tailored to fit the criteria of a position you are applying to. By nature, it’s more aspirational and acts as your effective pitch as to why you fit the position.
LinkedIn’s About section is for a presentation of your professional self, not necessarily seeking any single job, but stating who you are, what you have accomplished, and what you are capable of doing. Done correctly, it very well might lead to new professional opportunities. The tone here should be a confident declaration.
Remember to keep it brief as studies show that the most effective About sections can be skimmed in 30 seconds or less. Unlike photos, this section is the best place to insert some spice and showcase your unique self. Additionally, one common pitfall of the About section is being far too bland, so throw in some personal flair and colour here to stand out from the pack.
4. Skills and experiences with a lack of focus
The relevant skills and experiences section should support the claims made in your About section. Ideally, these are backed by peers for additional support. This section is critical as 69% of professionals value verified skills more than a college degree.
The easy mistake here is to list every skill and experience you might possess. Instead, stay focused and relevant towards your professional aims.
A profile with dozens of skills and listed experiences doesn’t necessarily impress, especially if they aren’t relevant to your field. It can come across as haphazard and unfocused, which is not the impression a profile should make upon the reader.
You can control what skills and experiences appear first on the profile, so use discretion in how you want to frame your expertise.
5. No personal URL
Creating a personal URL for your LinkedIn profile is an easy step that adds a layer of legitimacy to any profile. Unfortunately, those who simply go with the default setting of random numbers and letters appear less professional than those who take the time to customize.
Not having a personal URL has several negative drawbacks, the most immediate being it becomes more difficult for people to remember or find your profile. It also can show a degree of laziness or technical incompetence, neither of which are helpful labels for any professional.
When taken as a whole, a LinkedIn profile is a critical step in creating an effective digital presence for your professional self. Creating a clean and effective profile isn’t that difficult, and the positive effects of doing so can connect you with global opportunities that are truly life-changing.
By Josh Steimle
Josh Steimle is the Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author of “60 Days to LinkedIn Mastery” and the host of “The Published Author Podcast,” which teaches entrepreneurs how to write books they can leverage to grow their businesses.