With the emergence of the Internet, globalization, and social media, we now live in a digital age in which we regularly have to prove our unique professional value to employers, clients, and other professionals in a competitive and evolving marketplace. To create a more professional edge, millennials are turning to platforms, such as LinkedIn to develop their professional brands. You not only need a good reputation within your company or current department, but also have to focus on the perceptions of prospective employers and the broader global marketplace. Creating a personal brand online can help you do just that!
Even if you do not plan on changing jobs, potential clients, conference planners, award committees and other professionals may be evaluating your online presence. Make sure they discover the best representation of you, personally and professionally.
Creating a LinkedIn Profile
LinkedIn has become one of the most important professional network platforms in the world. It has grown remarkably in the last 5 years, with over 200 million members globally and over 44 million in the U.S. alone. Therefore, when creating a LinkedIn profile, it is crucial to create a unique and distinguishable digital footprint so that your profile is memorable for viewers.
Your name, title and a list of past employers alone will not make an impression. In fact, many LinkedIn users do not complete their profiles, and consequently do not fully benefit from the site. Thus, the more complete your profile is, the more frequently it will appear in searches.
For students and recent graduates who feel that they have too few experiences to create a comprehensive profile with, LinkedIn offers free job listings for individuals with less than 6 months of working experience.
Your Personal Brand via LinkedIn
Creating a simple profile requires inputting your basic credentials, but establishing a distinct and unforgettable profile requires work.
First, think about your audience and how you would like them to view you. Consider your character, work ethic, worldview, and your professional and personal accomplishments. Examine how your colleagues would describe your strengths, what issues you are the go-to-person for in your organization, and what you know more about than most people.
This is your personal brand.
Once you’ve identified what makes you ‘you’, it’s time to showcase your personal brand to recruiters, clients, and any other potentials who may be interested in you. The easiest way to do so is through your LinkedIn profile.
Here are a few suggestions to help make your LinkedIn profile successfully represent your personal brand:
● Be the real you. It is important to use your real name and contact information to reflect authenticity and honesty through your personal brand. All of your job titles, dates of employment, and specific accomplishments need to be consistent and up-to-date. You do not want to send mixed messages about who you are, your employment history, and what you want in your career.
● Create a unique profile headline and summary. Your LinkedIn headline is your brand’s tagline. It is the first, and possibly only, description of you that many people will see. Your profile summary allows you to speak to your audience to reveal your professional story in a way that is catchy and succinct. Don’t take language from other LinkedIn users; instead go back to the words and phrases your friends and colleagues would use to describe you.
● Build a complete profile. Each of the sections on LinkedIn allows you to effectively showcase your personality and talents, but it’s up to you to fully complete them. In the “Experience” section, be sure to clearly label years of work, use action verbs, and cite specific tasks and projects. In the “Education” section, be sure to list relevant coursework, language abilities, and honors and awards. Emphasize specific projects you’ve led or publications you’ve written in the “Projects and Publications” sections. Showcase your interests through “Groups and Causes”. Lastly, use a professional photo of yourself to add a face to the name. LinkedIn gives you more space and personality than a one-page resume, so make it work for you.
● Expand your network. Building your LinkedIn network shapes your personal brand. Connect on LinkedIn with family, friends, classmates, and former colleagues as well as industry leaders and other professionals. Don’t be shy to use the “Introduction” feature, which allows your connections to introduce you to their connections. Try to use keywords and phrases that increase your likelihood of being found by search engines. Share your expertise with other professionals in LinkedIn groups to further showcase where your interests and skills lie.
About the author: Rebecca Lindegren is the digital strategist for American University’s international relations graduate program. She is also the editor for The Word Is Bond, a blog sharing hip hop news. Outside of work, she is passionate about skiing, cycling, and sustainable development. Follow her on twitter!