As a career and leadership coach and writer, I spend a great deal of time on LinkedIn and probably view over 100 profiles each week. And with over 880,000 followers there, I’m hearing from tons of folks around the world whom I don’t know at all, and reviewing their profiles gives me a clear window into the ways in which they are showing up in the world – not only on the platform itself but in their career as well.
From all this time on LinkedIn, I have a saying that sums up what I’m seeing:
“How you do LinkedIn is how you do your professional life and career.”
…and I’ve found this to be true over and over again. Our profiles reveal a great deal about us as people and how we’re approaching our professional lives and endeavors. But often, people are unconsciously communicating information that they aren’t aware of, and often what they are sharing is not as helpful to their efforts or as favorable as it could be. (For more on that, here’s my take on 5 Things Your LinkedIn Profile Reveals About You That You Don’t Want It To).
In fact, many people’s profiles are falling short, failing to make the positive impact they want because they haven’t done the right work to craft their stories in a way that will reach out and grab us, or paint a clear and compelling picture of where they’ve been and where they want to go in their work and businesses, and the type of people and opportunities they want to attract.
The top three blunders I see on LinkedIn that are holding people back from the results they want on and from the LinkedIn platform are:
#1: Your profile doesn’t tell a cohesive, compelling story that holds together or inspires
Whether you see it this way or not, your professional history is a fascinating story – it has high peaks, low valleys, compelling dramas, powerful triumphs, and crushing challenges, with lots of important learning all along the way. And it reveals what you care about, stand for and value most in the world.
But if you have no idea what your most gripping professional story is, or the great talents and experience you have, you can’t shape your story or share it to your best advantage. You’re leaving it up to uninspired readers by the thousands to try to decipher who you are in the professional world, and why anyone should care.
What to do: As a first step, look back at every job you’ve ever had and organization you’ve worked for, and understand what you loved, hated, felt grateful to have learned, and also what you never want to do agin. Think too about who you were when you were 18 to 25 years old, and what lit you up from the inside back then.
Then pull out the powerful, positive themes that make you you and start connecting the dots. Make sure that those vital themes of you and your life are reflected clearly and powerfully through each and every job description. Highlight the activities, projects and outcomes that you loved to focus on and what you want to do more of, and de-emphasize what you disliked doing.
Remember, whatever you mention in your LinkedIn profile, know that it will attract more of the same. So if you want to attract work that you love, talk all about that specific work (even if it’s only 10% or 20% of what you’ve done in total). And leave the work that you hate behind forever.
By the way, if you don’t have a headshot and cover photo uploaded, make sure you do that this week. Don’t agonize – just make sure your headshot is professional, smiling, face forward, and reflects you as you are in a way that’s inviting.
And to help you dimensionalize what your true talents and most thrilling achievements have been, check out my TEDx talk Time to Brave Up and do the exercise on “the 20 facts of you” that I discuss.
#2: Your headline and summary feature “tasks” not critical outcomes generated
We’ve all heard this advice, but we need to heed it: Don’t talk about the tasks you’ve accomplished; instead, talk about the positive, powerful outcomes you’ve generated that only you could bring about in the way you did. And don’t make your headline your job title, ever.
For your headline – know that you’re much more than your current job or role. You’re an expansive individual with a wide range of experiences and contributions that make you truly unique and valuable. Write your headline as a powerhouse descriptor of what you do when you work – who you are when we look at the entire arch of your career. (For a helpful formula you can use to craft a standout headline, click here.)
In coaching professionals, I see that women find it particularly hard to answer questions about their talents and abilities, or offer a well-honed description of what they’re great at. In fact, this challenge is the first power gap of the 7 damaging power gaps I’ve identified and explored in my latest book The Most Powerful You, that significantly hold us back from thriving in our work – and this is Power Gap #1: Not Recognizing Your Special Talents, Abilities and Accomplishments.
Here’s more about that gap:
Take some time this week to answer these questions:
“What outcomes have you generated in your work over the past 10 years that make you most proud (and perhaps only you could have done, in the exact way you did it)?”
• “What “needles” have you moved, and progress have you supported in your organization and your teams that made a real positive difference?”
• “How did you know you made a positive difference – what were the specific signs and measures of that impact?”
• “What is the emotional experience others have when they work with you? How do you make people feel when they collaborate with you?”
• “What stands you apart from everyone else in the world who’s doing the type of work you’re doing?”
• “What projects or initiatives did you contribute to that mattered deeply to you, and why?”
• “If you could express in ONE word what you want more of in your life and work, right now what would that word be?”
You need to dig deep and understand the answers to these questions before you can write a compelling story about who you are in the working world, and why someone else should hire you as part of their team or connect with you to learn more (and support you). (For key questions that are vitally important to answer clearly before your make any professional moves right now, download my free Career Path Self-Assessment survey and answer the questions.)
What to do: Take the time to sit with yourself quietly for 15 minutes a day for a week, and journal about your work history and your professional trajectory. What has made you most proud, and what has made you hang your head in disappointment (and maybe even shame). Get to know yourself intimately and answer the questions above. Then start writing your story that reveals how truly amazing you are (because you are amazing – everyone is).
Also, remember to incorporate critical keywords in your headline and throughout your profile that highlight the skills, roles and functions that you are passionate about and want more of. Even if you have very little actual experience in those areas, make sure to mention them as areas/directions you are passionate about and focus on today. These words will help you rise to the top when searches are conducted on these terms.
#3: No one else is talking about you in a positive way
I’m a big proponent of learning how to speak about yourself in an empowered way. I call that “Brave Speak” and that helps us communicate from strength, not fear. In fact, if you don’t learn to do it, you’ll fall behind your colleagues who can present themselves confidently and authoritatively. And you’ll fail to become who you could be in the world.
But in life and work, in order to create amazing success, reward and happiness, you can’t be the only one talking about yourself. And we simply can’t achieve our biggest dreams and visions if we’re alone and in a vaccum.
You need loyal and passionate advocates, ambassadors, and supporters who, in their own potent words, will share with the world just how great you are, and how important and helpful it is for others to collaborate with you as well.
Quick skill endorsements on LinkedIn are terrific, and earning hundreds of them are helpful. But more beneficial are written testimonials that rave about you, your style, your efforts and your outcomes. It can feel uncomfortable to ask for these (again, I’ve seen that women — particularly boomer women — deeply struggle with asking others for testimonials), but you have to push yourself to do it. If these supporters are truly in your corner, they’ll be thrilled to offer a written endorsement that shares their high opinion of who you are and what you’ve done in the professional world.
What to do: This week, identify 20 colleagues from your past and current life with whom you have a great relationship. Reach out on LinkedIn, and ask for a testimonial about your work, and also, give them one.
To get you started, here’s some sample language to draw on (tailor this to your own personal style and approach and make sure it’s truthful and authentic):
________________ Dear ___:
Hello! It’s been such a long time! I hope this finds you well. I’ve so enjoyed watching your success at ___(current company, etc.), and learning about all your latest developments. So inspiring!
___ (Name, ) at this time, I’m focusing on building my LinkedIn profile to a higher level, and I wondered if I might be able to ask you a small favor? I so enjoyed working with you last year, and I was hoping you might be open to writing a recommendation on LinkedIn sharing a few positive words about the work we did together, and how you experienced me and our collaboration, and any positive outcomes from it?
I’m looking to expand my work and contributions in the specific content areas of _______, _____, ______ so any comments about those areas in particular would be so very helpful.
I’m grateful for your help! And I’m happy to do the same for you. In fact, I just wrote a testimonial for you and submitted it for your approval. I hope you like it!
Thank you again for your help, and let’s catch up soon.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Taking the time to power up your professional story and connections on LinkedIn means much more than just improving your digital footprint. It’s a sign that you’re ready to do more and be more in the professional world, and that you’ll do your part to take the reins and connect with others to help make that happen.
And it also shows you’re ready to help others rise as you rise, and support them in the work they love as well.
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For hands-on guidance to strengthen your LinkedIn profile and networking activities, join me in my new “Power UP Your LinkedIn Profile for Success” consulting program. I’d be happy to help!
And for added professional support, join Kathy in one of her Career & Leadership private coaching programs, or her Amazing Career Project 16-week online career growth course, and her new The Most Powerful You 8-module self-paced video training to help you close your power gaps, rise and thrive in meaningful work you love.
Check out too Kathy’s latest book The Most Powerful You: 7 Bravery-Boosting Paths to Career Bliss to help you address and close your power gaps and reach your highest, most fulfilling potential.