When I first joined LinkedIn I was still at the university. I didn’t understand much about the platform but it felt worthy to have a professional profile. Not that I had much or any experience to adorn my profile with. But at the very least I figured having a profile gave me the opportunity to connect with professionals.

The issue was my career profile looked as good as having none, if it were not for the profile photo that gave away more than necessary. Yes, at the back of my mind I knew that this is where you uploaded an ID-like kind of passport but who’s brave to that extent? So I decided to do some research.

From my list of contacts no one had updated their profile to the level I wanted, and looking at my suggested connects, I felt even more confused even though I slightly understood their predicament. I mean, our headlines read students at so and so universities and some claimed to be founders. For those who weren’t, yet, was there no out of the box idea out there for us to borrow? I wondered. Two years went by as I kept editing and working my profile, and through experience, this is what I wish I knew sooner.

1. Profile photo

Resist having a selfie as your profile photo and while we are at it, no group photos for you profile picture of banner section. Neither should you leave the space blank. Or else you risk coming off as a spammer or a joker.

Opt for a clear engaging photo that shows you in your element. You don’t have to do a professional shoot for that to happen. As long as the shot is recent, your face is centered and you are wearing work appropriate clothing for your industry, then you are good to go.

Mind essential details like what’s in your background and where your photo should end. A neutral or solid colour would be a good choice for a background while your photo should end above your elbows.

If you decide to add a background banner photo, let it be something related to your work. It should reinforce the value and skills you have described on your career segment, and thus leveraging the space to display your professional identity. Don’t forget to make eye contact and smile. It is free and the most beautiful thing you could ever wear.

2. Career headline

In a world of digital marketing and branding, you want to have an optimized LinkedIn career headline. This will make it possible for you to appear on search results, whenever someone makes a LinkedIn search related to your industry. Hence, have a professional headline that is customized with specific keywords related to your industry.

For instance instead of having a headline that reads professional writer or blogger you could optimize it to professional writer focused on lifestyle content and digital branding. Emulate what thought leaders in your industry have done but add your specialty and personality.

If you are like me two years ago with no experience or background, let your headline not read, actively seeking for a job or looking for employment. Instead, tailor your headline to the position you are actively looking for and pack it with keywords related to the industry. Look at what positions your industry role models started with and borrow your inspiration from there. Make the given 120 word characters count.

3. Career summary

This is where an employer, a recruiter or a new client looks at when they want to learn more about you. Therefore, to ensure that you do not miss out on a great opportunity, have your career summary tailored to your industry by incorporating matching key words whilst ensuring that it is grammatical and easy to digest.

For this, write your profile in a conversational tone and maintain first person. Break down the summary into short paragraphs, that showcase your skills, accomplishments and experience.
Also, include an expertise or specialty section. It should highlight related expertise using keywords that you have come across in job postings in your industry. You are allowed 2000 word characters, but opt to keep it as simple and direct as possible. At the end of the summary, have a call to action that prompts the reader to get in touch with you.

4. Describing your experience

We have mentioned keywords tailoring a lot in this article and as you guessed it, this is another opportunity to use keywords, to optimize your LinkedIn profile for more profile views and effective return on investment.

Keywords related to your industry are the words you find in industry related job posting serving as a benchmark for an ideal candidate. Hence, as you update your LinkedIn profile use keywords related to the particular field to describe your experiences.

Do not forget to match your LinkedIn career experiences with your CV/resume.

5. Customize your URL

You have 5-30 word characters given to use in this section. However, you only need your first and last name. So instead of having a URL that’s long and full of unexplainable characters and numbers, click on edit your profile then replace gibberish with your first and last name.

6. Recommendations

Do not forget to request for recommendations from your industry peers or first connections. You could give your connections – that is people you’ve worked with – a recommendation, and ask them to return the favour. They will be glad to oblige. Plus this is also an opportunity to network.

7. Personalize your LinkedIn connections

This ranges from the people you request to connect with to the requests you accept as your connection. Let your LinkedIn profile have people in your industry and if you want to request a connection from a role model or someone established in your field, indicate why you would like to connect with them.

Lastly, proofread your profile to ensure that its grammatical and free of spelling mistakes.