LinkedIn 101: Tips on crafting a professional online profile

I recently attended a workshop on how to create a “scintillating” online profile, held by the Portland State University Center for Executive and Professional Education. The focus of the workshop was on crafting a professional online profile, namely for LinkedIn, and while the workshop mostly just covered the basics that anyone familiar with LinkedIn should already be familiar with, there were some useful tips that anyone can apply in order to enhance their profile and grab the attention of would be recruiters.

Tip No. 1 –  Your professional headline

LinkedIn Heading Screenshot

This headline needs improvement…

The first thing that people see (other than your name) when they look at your LinkedIn profile is your professional heading. Many people simply  list their position or title, but to make yourself really stand out, try including a descriptive introduction that goes beyond your title. As you can see from my headline to the right, I only have myself listed as a graduate student, with the field that I am studying. Not very interesting, right? One way that I could improve it would be to simply add my area of specialization, such as ” International Management Professional focusing on Supply Chain and Logistics”. Better? Maybe. More descriptive? Definitely. There are of course many ways of creating a more dynamic introduction, so play around a little and see what works best for you.

Tip No. 2 –  Profile Photo

What do you want to communicate to others with your profile photo? Clean-cut professional? World explorer? Social butterfly? The photo that you use in your profile says as much (and sometimes more) than what you write about yourself. If you’re mainly used to using other social networks like Facebook, then you may be used to using more casual photos. Obviously, this is fine if most of your contacts are friends and family, but if you are at all interested building your professional network (and presumably this is your purpose in being on LinkedIn), then you should try and get a photo that shows your most professional, enthusiastic, respectable self. This doesn’t necessarily have to be taken by a professional photographer. My photo was taken by a friend who just had a decent camera, and we found a nice background on a sunny day when we were already dressed up, and snapped each other’s photos just so we could have some nice shots on hand.

Tip No. 3 – Etiquette for connecting with others on LinkedIn

LinkedIn Connect Screenshot

Connecting with a classmate

The great thing about online networks is that it is easy to find and connect with just about anybody. Just because it is easy doesn’t mean that you should connect with anybody and everybody, and there are still right ways and wrong ways to connect when you do. When you try to add someone as a connection you are presented with a list of choices for specifying your relationship to them. There is also a field below that where you can (and should) write a short message to the person you want to connect to. LinkedIn provides a generic message in the field for you, but you should always replace this with your own. Make it concise, but make it personal too, especially if you only met the person once at a meeting or networking event, and are hoping that they still remember who you are.

As for answering the question about how you know the person, the first rule of thumb should be to avoid selecting the “Friend” option, except in cases where the person really, truly is someone you consider a friend. Certain options require you to specify a school or a workplace that you know the person from, while other options, such as the “Other” option asks you to put in an email address for the person. Choose the one that fits best, and hopefully if it is a person that you just recently met, you were able to get a business card with an email address that you can fill in for that pesky “Other” category.

There are plenty of other points that could be discussed on how to build an effective LinkedIn profile, such as how to make effective use of keywords within your profile and make yourself more visible to potential recruiters. For most of us though, the first step is simply getting enough content up to have a well-rounded profile, and then remember to make occasional refinements later. Regardless of where you are from or where you plan to look for work, building and maintaining a professional network is more important than ever these days. So get out there and network in the real world, and then help maintain those connections with your profile in the online world.

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Joshua Thorpe is a full-time student in the Master of International Management program.  After graduating from the University of Oregon with a degree in Japanese, he taught English in Tokyo for 3 years, before moving to China and teaching at a university in the city of Zhengzhou.  Inspired by his experiences in Japan and China, he was drawn to the MIM program because of its regional focus on Asia, as well as for Portland State University’s reputation as a leader in the field of sustainable business. He is studying Chinese in the MIM program, but tries to keep up his Japanese whenever he can.


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