What Most Miss on LinkedIn

“Global Connector.” If I had to choose one title for what I do, that’s it.  

And just as a Master Chef needs a set of knives, this Global Connector needs a key tool to do her job. For me, that tool is LinkedIn. Next month, we celebrate 15 years of working together.

The anniversary got me thinking about how LinkedIn and I first met, all that we’ve done, and what I most appreciate about LinkedIn that most people miss.

LinkedIn launched in May 2003; I’ve been a member since February 10, 2004. I was among the first 250,000 users (now over 500 million). Back then, LinkedIn was an efficient rolodex and not all that interesting. I’m not sure we even categorized it as social media. Because the cool kids were connecting on MySpace (remember them?) and Facebook. Facebook actually launched after LinkedIn (February 2004); Twitter didn’t launch until March 2006.

But I loved LinkedIn. As a marketer of innovative investment strategies, I found the people with early LinkedIn profiles tended to be early adopters and more forward-thinking.

As more people added profiles, LinkedIn became a practical and essential business tool. It connects me to another person’s company, professional history, education, and network. It connects them to mine. As LinkedIn evolved, so did we. Today, we share pertinent content. Engage. Form groups. LinkedIn is now the very definition of social media.

Linkedin has been with me through three employers and one career change. I’ve used it to better understand my clients and find new ones. I’ve posted jobs and found jobs; employees and clients have found me. I’ve published 38 articles and probably thousands of posts. I congratulate people, connect them, learn from one-minute videos, and share insightful content. I have LinkedIn open in my browser pretty much all the time.

Now, while the engagement I just described fits my Global Connector title, maybe you’re thinking it is simply not you. I get it. But that’s OK.

Because here’s what I most appreciate about Linkedin. And it’s what most people miss.

LinkedIn is your FREE individual branding page. Your Story. History. Values. Connections. Engagement. You showing up in the way YOU CHOOSE to show up.

Whether you focus on it or not, we all have a personal brand. It’s our reputation. It shows up in how we dress, talk, write, do for fun, present ourselves. And it shows up online. Google yourself. What is the first thing that appears? It’s likely the link to your public LinkedIn profile.

But it’s not just about you.

I think of an insightful LinkedIn profile as a service to people that might ultimately engage with me. Maybe the person will be interviewing with me. Perhaps I’m on a short-list for a board position. Or maybe my friend wants to e-introduce me to someone. In lieu of him writing out a whole description in his email, he can one-line it and share my LinkedIn profile.

We all want to know people, not job titles and company names. That’s why we interview job candidates. Beyond their resume, we want them to show us how they achieved past success. To know their story. What they are passionate about. Their work and communication style. If they’ll be a good fit.

A good LinkedIn profile can do a lot of that. If you can sense from my profile that we’re not a fit, that saves us both time. On the other hand, I’ve had clients say they felt like they knew me before we even spoke just by my profile.

Looking across my 2,100+ contacts (I only choose to connect with people I somehow know), I find some amazing profiles and have borrowed great ideas. But most are circa 2004– photo, job title, company name, employment timeline and educational degrees.

Which is why I had to write this post. I know your stories. I know what makes you tick and unique.  And because I’m passionate about helping people define and own their stories towards maximizing their impact, I want more of the world to see yours.  

My advice is to focus on three things. They’re the first three things someone views on your LinkedIn profile. They also are the most impactful way to showcase YOU.

  1. LinkedIn Headline

Headlines are a maximum 120 characters. Most people write a job title and the name of their company. But that doesn’t relay what you do, why you enjoy it, or leave me wanting to learn more.  It’s a waste of valuable real estate as your title and company are listed at the top of Experience.

An alternative? Write a descriptor of your job, the value you bring, and why you enjoy it. For example:

Another alternative? List various titles, roles, and even invite the reader to learn more. For example, my current headline is: “Global Connector. Success Coach. Advisor. Investor. Traveler. Writer. Join a Global Leadership Trip. Find Your WHY.”

Here’s a great article on writing a stellar LinkedIn Headline, with examples for every taste.

  2. LinkedIn Background Photo

Most people have a LinkedIn profile photo. Several years ago, LinkedIn added the option for a background photo. It’s the first thing that catches your eye on a profile, so the perfect way to visually share something about yourself. Yet most of my connections default to LinkedIn’s standard blue background (pictured). Don’t default and miss this visual canvas.

Find a photo that reflects who you are, what you do, your brand or reputation, or something you care about. Make it colorful and visually appealing. Maybe it’s a personal photo, maybe it’s a stock photo. Perhaps it’s a cityscape of your hometown, a mountain scene reflecting your love of outdoor adventure, or a photo that somehow reflects your profession.

For example, I currently use a personal photo of girls I met while at a school in India. I love the pop of green color and the girls’ faces; the photo reflects my passion for global travel, connecting people, and girls education (profile).

You can combine photos, write a tagline over it, add a logo. This article offers all kinds of tips.

  3. LinkedIn Summary

OK, this one is harder. Yet the Summary is arguably the most important part of your LinkedIn profile.    The field below your Photos and Headline allows for up to 2000 characters (about 250 words).  Most people leave it blank; I find most who complete it describe what they do in their job (which is more relevant in the Experience section).

Your Experience should describe what you’ve DONE. Your Summary should show who YOU ARE.  Be authentic and write in the first person. Spell out your ambitions. Share what drives you in your career and life. Highlight unique skills and experiences. Tell a memorable, meaningful personal story. Describe your ideal work environment. Cite what you are most proud of.

Few people can sit down and whip out their Summary. I encourage you to do some exercises (my favorites: What Do I Value, CliftonStrengths, and FindYourWhy), talk it out loud with others, and start sketching out themes and stories before you start writing.  

Here are four ingredients to incorporate in a Summary:

  • How Do People See You?  For decades, people have remarked on my global travels. I found it interesting– I had a demanding investment career with limited vacation time. I wasn’t among the most traveled. But I traveled differently. Apparently it was what I was known for. Listen the next time a friend introduces you. What do they say? What do you want them to say? Think of who you want to read your Summary. What do you want them to know about you? What do you want them to feel or do when reading it?
  • What Do I Value?  Follow the directions to the What Do I Value exercise outlined in Reflections of Value. Your top ranked 3-5 values should shine through in your Summary. You might translate them to fit your career. For example, if a top value is Truth, corporate Transparency may be most important to you. Family might translate into how you’d describe an ideal work environment.
  • What Do You Do?  Your jobs and titles appear elsewhere on your LinkedIn profile. Instead, write a list of 3-5 things that you most enjoy doing, looking across your various roles in your professional and personal life. For example, “I help people understand the opportunities in emerging economies” or  “I advise forward-thinking wealth managers in better serving individual investors” or “I’m a puzzle solver.” Then match with a favorite story or two.
  • What Are You Most Proud Of?  You’ve likely quantified specific accomplishments elsewhere on your profile. Perhaps you have been ranked in the top 10% of salespeople for five consecutive years. Maybe you are the first member of your family to attend college. But why are you proud of that achievement? In his Summary, my husband says he chose a career in financial services because his family didn’t understand money. That statement tells you a lot about him.

As a Success Coach, I help people define and own their WHY. Because we’re all inspired by tangible goals, a LinkedIn Summary that fits like a tailored suit is always one of my client’s goals.

I know from personal experience how amazing it feels when you define, own, and proudly share your story for the first time. I love watching others do it. Because while writing a LinkedIn Summary can feel like a mundane chore, doing it changes you.  As Tim Denning shares in this article, it changes how you see yourself. It shows others that you know who you are.

And it’s incredibly generous. Helping others better understand who we are serves our mutual benefit.

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Jodi Morris Written by:

Venture Guide to High-Achieving Seekers. Success Coach. Venture Travel Curator. Impact Investor. Traveler. Writer. Global Connector. When we connect to others' stories it changes our own. Let's Venture!