Your LinkedIn profile is your “silent salesperson”, and the profile summary is actually more like a personal sales letter than anything else. I’ve been helping businesses and professionals use LinkedIn successfully for quite some time now, and often when I look at a new client’s profile, I see some of the same elementary mistakes. I’d like to alert you to these so you can fix them and watch your connections, referrals, and sales that you make from LinkedIn soar!

Mistake #1: Unprofessional looking photo! Wow! This one’s on probably half the profiles I look at. Would you go to a job interview looking like you’re chilling on the beach with a beer in your hand? If not (and I hope the question is no), why are you doing that “virtually” with your unprofessional photo on LinkedIn. You’re on LinkedIn to network in some fashion or other, and that networking is business-oriented networking. How about looking like you’re a winner instead!

Mistake #2: Showing skills that should be taken for granted. There’s no need to talk about how you’re capable of getting to work on time, or how you can get assignments done on time. Everyone can use Word and PowerPoint. No biggie anymore! So, why mention it? That doesn’t make you stand out, it makes you look old—from an era when having a skill set on PowerPoint was indeed rare! Take out the skills that should be taken for granted and put in skills that set you apart from the crowd!

Mistake #3: Mixing up personal life and LinkedIn, career-oriented life. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and other social media sites, are the places for you to talk about your dog, your kids, your vacation, and other aspects of your non-working life. LinkedIn is where you talk about work! You talk about what you do for a living, your career, your skills, your achievements. Sure, the two overlap a little, but honestly, you need to keep the person stuff on the other platforms and the business stuff on LinkedIn where it belongs.

Your goal on LinkedIn is to network, right? You want people to find your profile, scan it, and hopefully reach out to you. Or, if you’ve already reached out to them, you want them to accept your connect request. If that’s not happening, LinkedIn isn’t working for you!

When I take on a new client for social media marketing services, one of the first things we do is audit their LinkedIn account. We check the quality of their head shot, their headline, their profile summary, and everything else, including the number and quality of their recommendations. In addition, we also check their privacy settings! Oddly, it’s here that I often find issues.

You can set your privacy settings to narrow or broaden who can see your posts and your profile, and everything in between. Although, I can see times when you would want to restrict who can learn about you (like if you were a rock star with a LinkedIn profile, although I’ve never run across that), most times the broader the better. After all, you want more, not fewer people in your network, right? You not only want to influence your current connections, but you want more connections. And, most of the time, you want your content to not only position you as an industry thought leader, but you want it to gather more followers for you.

You just can’t do that if you’re not maxing out on who can see your stuff!

Another thing we take a look at, and this is more of a real privacy issue, is what apps you’ve allowed to use LinkedIn. Some apps can access your personal data, others can’t. (Think the fiasco with Cambridge Analytica and Facebook.) My guess would be that you’d want to delete these apps. At least most of my clients do. Sometimes not, if the app is really useful. Although, they do appreciate knowing when and how their data is being shared.

Besides your picture, your headline is the first thing people actually see when they run across you on LinkedIn. It’s the first thing they’ll read on your profile, and even if they’re searching and find you, they’ll see your headline below your picture in the search and suggested connection results. Your headline is what entices the reader to read more. If you have a boring headline, you’ve really shot yourself in the foot. If, however, your headline emotionally connects with your target audience, well, you’ve already won half the battle. Here’s some things not to do, and some things to do with your LinkedIn headline.

First off, never use your job title as your headline! That’s not only boring, but there’s no emotional connection with your target audience. Something like “IT Professional” says virtually nothing about you. Not only that, but there are probably a few million people on LinkedIn worldwide who’s title says the same thing. So, not only will you not stand out in the search results, but you’re not branding yourself as different from those other few million!

Instead of a job title, try saying something on a more human level that captures the essence of who you are and what you do. Using our example, what are you actually doing as an IT professional? Maybe you work for a school system, and you’re in charge of maintaining the school’s network. So, you could say something like… “Connecting Children Safely to The Internet.” That may or may not capture the real essence, so please don’t just copy and paste that, but it’s moving in the right direction! You can explain how you’re connecting children safely to the Internet in your paragraph summary where you can elaborate on being an IT professional.

Dull and boring just isn’t going to cut it in today’s oversaturated Internet world. Same old same old isn’t going to get you that new job or attract the right clients to your business. You absolutely must stand out from the crowd. And you have to do this in a way that appeals to your market! In this article, I’d like to turn you on to a few things you can do to your profile to stand out from the crowd and make people take notice of you! Ready?

Headline

Let’s start with your headline. DO NOT just put your job title or your main skill. “IT Professional.” “Freelance Writer.” Both of these are generic and don’t do any selling! Think about how you could restructure those to appeal to your market, whether that’s potential employers or clients.

Photo

This one’s a little tricky. You want to have a good, maybe even professional photo, and you want it to stand out a little. For the photo, I’d go towards making sure you look friendly and likable. As long as, that is, you’re in a job where being friendly and likable is a good thing. If you’re an international security expert, then you might want to tone down on the smile.

Profile Summary

Here’s where most folks just fall flat on their face! You get two thousand characters for your profile summary. Use them! And, don’t be generic. Write in first person. That’s much more approachable then writing in third person. Make sure you include a little (not too much) personal history. How did you get where you are? Here’s where you can really distinguish yourself from the rest of the field!

Recommendations

Yes, you want them! You don’t have to have a ton. Three or four great ones will do. But these especially serve to position you as an expert in your field. Most serious visitors to your profile (the ones thinking about possibly hiring you for something) will check out your recommendations and really read them!

Skills

Your list of skills and your endorsements help define more about who you are and what you do. Just like with recommendations, you can bet that anyone serious takes a long look at them.

One of the services I offer is writing (or rewriting) people’s LinkedIn profiles. I’ve read hundreds, if not thousands, of profiles. Most of the ones I run across need some serious tweaking, if not actual replacement. I’m quite versed in what makes a great profile, and in this article, I want to share with you a few things for you to strive for!

Attractive!

You want your profile to be attractive! What do I mean by that? Well, you want a good head shot. Doesn’t have to be professional, but it does have to show you in a business setting, at least in business clothes. Also, you want your profile summary and your headline to both attract search engine searches and be very readable for your visitors. Keywords are the phrases we put in search engines to search for websites. You want to figure out what keywords someone on LinkedIn might be using to find you and make sure you use those in your headline and salted and peppered in your profile.

Honest!

It’s so tempting in today’s world of websites and social media to pretend we’re something we’re not. And, for a while you can get by with it. I don’t mean really pretending to be the CEO of IBM when you’re not. That’s fairly easy to spot. I mean pretending to be in a higher part of the hierarchy of your company, when you’re actually a fairly junior member. Less easy to spot, sure, but in time, someone’s going to out you! There are a half a billion people on LinkedIn. Some are less successful than you are, some are more successful. I’d recommend you just be honest about who you are and where you are. You’ll end up getting further that way.

Current!

Make sure your profile summary is current. Update it often! Also, if you’re in a technical field where language and platforms change frequently, change the words and labels you use in your summary. You want to look fresh and current. No one wants to work with a dinosaur!