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Are You Using LinkedIn Wrong?

Are You Using LinkedIn Wrong?
Credit: Miss Ty/Shutterstock

Are you creative? Experienced? A leader?

Well, the majority of LinkedIn's 500 million other profiles are saying the same thing.

LinkedIn released its top 10 "buzzwords" found on user profiles in March 2018, and it turns out writing that you're skilled, passionate or motivated may not leave a very memorable impression for potential employers.

With applicants fighting for limited available job opportunities, LinkedIn users must do more than offer carefully worded statements and bullet points about their skills.

"Born at the cusp of a technological revolution, millennials learn outdated techniques from college and career advisors, then apply them to a constantly evolving job search industry," said Cameron Clark, Harvard Law School graduate and law school admissions consultant.

LinkedIn continues to be underutilized for career-building and networking. Business News Daily spoke with some experts to find how they recommend making your profile stand out to land that next job.  

For many, LinkedIn serves as an online resume. But LinkedIn allows users to do more than just copy and paste their existing resume text. What do we use all that space for?

Begin with your headline. Think about how to represent yourself in the best way possible. You have 120 characters to get your message across, so use them. When you're looking for a new job, don't list your title as the position you have, but as the position you want. When your profile appears in search results, users rarely go beyond your headline and photo to get a sense of who you are.

Next, your summary is your opportunity to share insight on what drives you and makes you different. The summary is the only place where this information really belongs. You're better off writing this section in first person to seem approachable, human and unique.

"Don't start your LinkedIn summary by describing yourself as a results-oriented leader," said Kelly Donovan, principal of Kelly Donovan & Associates.

A quick LinkedIn search reveals 514,990 users who use that term on their profiles. With LinkedIn's recent profile layout changes in the past year, only the first three lines of your summary will display and users will need to click show more to see the rest. This means the first three lines need to include any critical information and should entice readers to look at the rest of your summary.  

Your LinkedIn should be a narrative of your academic and professional passions. You can use your profile to write broadly about past experiences, adding details and context that would not normally be found on a resume confined to two pages.  

When discussing an internship, focus on the skills and accomplishments that are directly relevant to future job opportunities.

"On a LinkedIn profile, that same applicant can tell a story, explaining why they chose this internship, how it fits into their future career plans and other meaningful experiences that may not fit in their resume," Clark said.

You should also build and add detail to your academic endeavors. LinkedIn's profile tools allow you to upload media files, which you can use to exhibit your skills in a direct manner. Use class presentations, research papers and other assignments as examples of your work product. This is especially relevant for those just beginning to enter the workforce and don't have many professional documents to showcase.

After you've determined what your professional presence should be and set the parameters of your expertise and areas of interest, start talking. Post regular – a few times during the work week is fine. Today's skill is being a curator, said Marilyn V. Santiesteban, assistant director of career services at The Bush School at Texas A & M.

 "LinkedIn … isn't a bulletin board," she said. "It's social media, and social media is all about interaction."

Follow organizations and industry leaders that interest you and repost their updates with your own comments to add value. Show employers and colleagues that you're passionate about your career path and you know your stuff.

You're creating a professional portfolio that anyone can see. If you created your profile years ago and have never touched it again, recruiters won't be interested.

"Show that you're learning new skills and tackling more complicated assignments by refreshing your job description and skills," Santiesteban suggested.

Your profile is updated and relevant to your field. Now what?

Linda Pophal, consultant for Strategic Communications, LLC, tells students in her marketing and business management classes to establish their LinkedIn profiles using common marketing principles, "most notably positioning their profile against identified competitors."

LinkedIn's search allows students, marketers and recruiters to search for people based on specific criteria. A job seeker could use this tool to identify other people in the geographic area with the background and credentials that could serve to compete against them. Once you identify the competition, review their profiles to see how these individuals are positioning themselves.

"You're looking for any gaps that would allow you to claim a relevant position among these people," Pophal suggests. "You want to position yourself in ways that are different from the competition, but still valued by your target audience."

Figure out who you're competing with and be better. Build a narrative, utilize the ability to support your experiences and recognize LinkedIn for what it is: a social media platform with the ability to become a robust, powerful professional portfolio.

Carlyann Edwards

Carlyann is pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in Business Journalism with minors in sustainability and music at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and will graduate in 2020. She is incredibly interested by the intersection of business development and environmental preservation. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys working for non-profit organization Carolina Thrift, running and playing the ukulele. She can be reached by email or LinkedIn.