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Are You Committing Career Suicide on LinkedIn?

Is your LinkedIn profile killing your career? It might be, if it doesn’t help you stand out. With over 150 million users, it’s very easy to have a LinkedIn profile that mimics many of the same words and ideas as others.  Results? You look and sound boring.

If you use LinkedIn for career connections and job search, listen up: the key is to differentiate.Here are five tips to guide you in creating a profile that will advance your personal brand, not sink it.

First. Grab Them With a Headline If your opening line is, ”GM of Sales” or “Account Executive,” you sound pretty dull. You’re not differentiating in the most critical part of your profile: the first thing the reader sees. Your job title and company are NOT good headlines; unfortunately, that ‘s pretty much the default for so many LinkedIn users. Place your title farther down on your page; not first thing. Grab eyeballs. How? Follow the guidelines journalists use for news headlines: be short, get creative, use catchy language and draw the reader in. For example, “Hiring People Who Aspire to Cure Cancer,” is a real grabber. You WANT to read on.

2nd. Kill Common Titles. There are many many directors, consultants, engineers, sales professionals, and lawyers. Why would you want to list a title everyone else has? Telling the world you’re a director might give you a big ego boost, but it’s not boosting your career. Find an unusual way to say who you are. “Architect of Drop Dead Designs” is a catchier headline than “Senior Graphics Designer.” For example, my headline says I’m a Butterfly Killer.”  Butterflies, you know, that feeling in your gut before you have to speak in public. As a presentation coach, I’ll get rid of that fluttering in your stomach. It’s a very unusual way to say I’m in executive coaching. Spend some time and get thoughtful…ask friends and colleagues for some suggestions. A unique title will make you memorable and readers will WANT to read on.

3rd. DO Think About SEO. No keywords means bottom of the barrel search results. Search engines will pick up your LinkedIn headline, so the right key word is critical for both LinkedIn search AND general search. How to choose the right keywords? Think like a recruiter!  Hire yourself! What keywords might a headhunter put in a LinkedIn people search to find you?  Don’t just keyword your profile. Judiciously pepper keywords throughout your entire page. Remember, the right keyword will help you rise to the top of search or help sink you down.

4th. Get Descriptive. Clichéd job descriptors are like common titles: they don’t help you differentiate.  Are you results-driven? Who isn’t! Are you creative? So are 90% of professionals. Are you detail-oriented? Who cares! Problem-solver? So is everyone who is successful in business. If you are writing the same descriptors as everyone else, how can you stand out? LinkedIn compiles a list every year of the most overused words. Yet, still users pile them on.  While you’re killing off clichéd descriptors, you might as well murder clichéd phrases while you’re at it. “Thinking out of the box” and “Ninja” will not endear you to recruiters.

5. Get Active With Your Voice. One of the best ways to avoid career suicide is to write in a very conversational and human voice. Let recruiters see a personality, not a robot. How would you talk to your friends and colleagues? That’s the conversational tone you should adopt when writing about yourself on LinkedIn. The worst thing you can do is lift tired old passive phrases from an outdated resume:Duties include bookkeeping, accounts receivable, and budgeting.”  ARG! Would YOU hire yourself?

Your LinkedIn profile is your elevator pitch, your personal brand and your professional DNA rolled into 120 characters. It can make or break your online career chances. Take the time to craft a compelling profile that will attract recruiters and advance, not sabotage your career.

Join The Conversation

  • Mar 26 Posted 4 years ago Susan Breidenbach

    Thanks for this article.  I teach LinkedIn classes to unemployed professionals, and am always looking for ways to improve the course material.  I just want to point out one problem here:  If the search engines don't find your profile, no humans are ever going to see it and be impressed by imaginative titles.  No one is typing "butterfly killer" into a search engine unless they are looking for an exterminator.  Also, keep in mind that the search engines give more points to the words/phrases in headlines than they do to those in the regular body text.  And they also give more points to words/phrases up high versus down lower in the profile.  The headlines and top space are very precious real estate if you are trying to rank high in search results.  So you have to dance carefully between what the search engines care about and what catches human eyes.  As a writer/wordcrafter who loves to write imaginative headlines, I really hate this reality.  But it is reality.

  • IncomeTrue's picture
    Nov 18 Posted 4 years ago IncomeTrue

    The Linkedin skill feature has come out since this post about improving your profile was first written. I'd like to share this if I may to accompany this helpful article:

    Personal Branding and Profiling Your People Skills:

    The most important and the most highly paid form of intelligence in America is social intelligence, the ability to get along well with other people. Social intelligence is also known as human engineering or your people skills:
    Profile Examples: 
    Imagineer, problem solver, open minded, sense of urgency, unshakable optimist, meaningful specifics, resourcefulness, open networker, takes initiative, strategic insights, critical thinker, team synergy, effective questioning…and the list keeps going.
    “Some painters transform the sun into a yellow spot; others transform a yellow spot into the sun.” ~Pablo Picasso
    "Even in lines such as technical engineering about 15% of ones financial success is due to technical knowledge and about 85% is due to one’s skill in human engineering.” ~ Dale Carnegie, Carnegie Institute, How To Win Friends and Influence people.
    Most skills belong to skill sets. You have the ability to list up to 50 skills on your Linkedin profile.
    The “85%” or so of your people skills should be listed to highlight your personal character and how you go about orchestrating your technical skills.
    "True effectiveness is a function of two things: what is produced (the golden eggs) and the producing asset (the goose)." ~Stephen Covey

    Kind regards,

    Ed Brophy, Open Endorser's Community

  • LeftofLeftField's picture
    Oct 5 Posted 4 years ago LeftofLeftField

    I think using my maiden name, Uma Bumhirtz, has helped my LinkedIn profile stand out. Not many people are aware that I'm Polish and once wrote a book 'The Joys of Anal Sex' 

  • Kent Ong's picture
    Jul 23 Posted 5 years ago Kent Ong

    Grab Them With a Headline is super important!!!! Because that's the first thing people see after login to our profile. 

    Keywords are important as well in order to rank high on Linkedin search.

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