LinkedIn profiles and summaries

LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network, and we can’t overstate how important networking is – not only during a job search, but throughout your career. LinkedIn lets you build a profile to attract recruiters and opportunities. You can also keep track of who you know and how you know them – from friends and family to colleagues, classmates, advisors, and potential clients. Best of all, you can use LinkedIn to grow your network and find opportunities. You can schedule an appointment with an advisor to review career writing like LinkedIn profiles and summaries.

5 steps to a great LinkedIn profile

1. Write a catchy, keyword-savvy headline.

Your headline appears next to your profile picture in searches and at the top of your profile page. Use this space to say who you are in a succinct way. The job of a good headline is to help you appear in searches and to attract views to your profile. Use words recruiters are likely to use when searching LinkedIn for candidates. Encourage clicks by crafting a headline that is clear, specific and engaging. LinkedIn will generate a headline for you based on your latest education or experience. “Student at MIT” is clear but vague. “Mechanical Engineering Student at MIT” is better, but doesn’t tell a recruiter if you have the experience or interest they’re looking for. Consider fuller headlines like “MIT Mechanical Engineer with a Passion for Building Medical Devices” or “Software Developer, C++ Expert and MIT Computer Science Grad.”

2. Use a good quality head shot for your profile picture.

Quality suggests professionalism, so don’t just upload a poorly-scanned Polaroid with your sister awkwardly cropped out, or a full-length picture that makes your face indistinguishable in a thumbnail. A headshot by a professional photographer is ideal, but not required. Grab a friend and a camera (most smart phones will do) and find a neutral, well-lit background. Don’t forget to smile! If you’re wondering if your picture is any good, try getting anonymous profile picture feedback with PhotoFeeler.

3. Describe your experiences like you would on a resume.

Don’t just list titles and dates; use action verbs and specific details to describe your contributions and accomplishments, just as you would when making an effective resume.

4. Complete your profile, especially the skills section.

Fuller profiles sort higher in searches, as do skills with more endorsements. Feel free to include volunteer activities, publications, and awards to show off a more complete picture of who you are. Just make sure to strategize the order of profile sections so that the most relevant (usually Summary, Education, Experience, and Skills) are on top.

5. Add media to your experiences and summary to build an online portfolio.

Don’t just tell, show. Link published articles, images, videos, presentations or websites that show off finished work you’re proud of or accolades you’ve received. Connect these media directly to specific positions in your Experience section or to your Summary.

How to write a LinkedIn summary

Don’t skip writing a summary; it’s the keystone holding your whole profile together. A well-written summary can score you an interview on its own merits – or at least cast a favorable glow over everything that follows. The rest of your profile is already a summary of your experience and skills. Like writing a cover letter, you want to complement what’s in your resume, not repeat it. This is your opportunity to share your motivations, express your passion, and sound like the kind of person somebody would want to work next to every day. While there are no hard and fast rules to crafting a good LinkedIn summary, there are a few parameters to consider. You may find some written in the third person, with statements like “John is an experienced web developer.” It’s up to you to find a writing style that works, but the first person is usually more natural and direct. As for length, an elegant quote can have impact, but might leave too much unsaid. Meanwhile, recruiters don’t have time to read your whole memoir, so try to strike a balance with a few short paragraphs. The best way to write a LinkedIn summary is to read a bunch of them and emulate the ones you like. It also helps to schedule an appointment to have a career advisor review what you’ve written.