UPDATED June 23, 2015: You can create an effective LinkedIn profile by following many of the same principles that I would recommend for your resume. For example, focus on accomplishments, have a summary section, use keywords that resonate with your audience, etc. etc. (see this blog post and this one for other guidelines). Key differences in the way that resumes and profiles are shared, however, could have a big impact on how you choose to modify your resume for your profile. Below I’ve shared an excerpt from my book Advanced LinkedIn to highlight three of these differences.
1. Only one LinkedIn Profile, so you need to choose
Spreading your network across multiple profiles is impractical and confusing (unlike your resume, where you can and should have a different resume for each job target). Having only one profile means that you will have to decide whether to go more general, to encompass multiple target audiences, or to focus your profile on your primary target only.
Your decision will depend on your specific situation. I recommend writing your profile for your primary target, IF it won’t “cost” you too much. By focusing on one target, you avoid the risk that your profile will be too broad, not appealing to any one audience.
By cost, however, I mean missed opportunities or puzzled looks from your boss or colleagues who wonder why your profile says something very different from what you are currently doing! For example, I had a client who was a financial controller, but had substantial information technology experience as well. He wanted to move into an IT role, so we wrote his resume to focus on his IT experience and leadership, and de-emphasize his financial controller background. He was also looking to build an IT consulting business on the side.
But, because he was connected to his boss and a number of other work colleagues on LinkedIn, he could not write the profile the same way as his resume. His boss might have become suspicious when viewing his IT-focused profile, since my client was a financial controller! So we had to broaden the profile language beyond the language used in his resume, to encompass both his finance and IT experience.
Warning: In case you accidentally open up more than one profile/account (search under your name if you are unsure), close one down to avoid major confusion in building and updating your network (Note: You cannot transfer connections from one account to another). Consult LinkedIn “Help” to learn the steps involved in closing an account.
2. Your LinkedIn Profile has a broader viewing audience
Listing certain specific accomplishments that are on your resume may not be a good idea because of the profile’s broader viewing audience. You will need to be the judge of when it is or isn’t appropriate. One way around this that might work for you is to use percentages instead of raw numbers on your profile. For example, one client had “Increased revenue by $10 million to $48 million” on his resume. For his LinkedIn profile, he changed this to “Increased revenue by 26%.”
3. Having a LinkedIn Profile doesn’t mean you’re looking for a job
While your resume equals “job search,” the same is not true for your LinkedIn profile. So, if you are in fact looking for a job or consulting engagement, should you indicate that you are actively doing so on your profile? The short answer is no.
Now for the long answer. I have known situations where people have been contacted for opportunities with statements in their profile that artfully indicate their search, e.g. “Seeking next exciting challenge” or “Open to select new opportunities.” On the other hand, I have talked to recruiters and hiring managers who say that there still is a prejudice against people who are perceived as out of work and actively searching. In fact, recent research has backed this claim up—see this article in the Atlantic: http://bit.ly/192Zqs6 . So a statement indicating you are looking for a job can be divisive—some may be encouraged to contact you, others will be discouraged.
For these reasons, statements that make it clear you are looking for a job should be left out of a profile. And especially, don’t make these two (way too common) profile mistakes:
DON’T: Indicate your openness to opportunities in your 120 character Headline. On LinkedIn, this limited space is valuable real-estate, since it is what people see when they view people-search results. In addition, LinkedIn places a heavy weight on keywords placed in this area when prioritizing profiles to display in search results. Therefore, use this very limited space to pitch an employer with your expertise and brand differentiation– don’t waste it!
DON’T: Put the words “unemployed” or “looking for a job” on your profile. These “negative” phrases will turn off a potential employer.
Some clients ask me, “If I don’t say I’m searching for opportunities in my profile, how will a recruiter, hiring manager, or consulting prospect know that I’m available?” The answer is two-fold. First, hiring managers routinely reach out to employed people with opportunities, and include a phrase similar to “If you are not interested, please forward this message to others in your network who might be.”
In addition, for jobseekers, whether to include these statements goes to the heart of how you approach your search. I advocate an active approach to the job search, one where you are going out and getting what you want, not waiting to be found. If you take this approach, indicating that you are looking for a job on your profile becomes less important.
For these reasons, statements that make it clear you are looking for a job should be left out of a profile.
That said, there are better ways to indicate you are open to opportunities without stating it outright and risking turning people off. For example:
- The word “consulting” in your current job title or description indicates, by its very nature, that you are open to other opportunities. Some of you may be in a circumstance to use this word.
- You “may” be able to include in your current position the services you offer employers. For example, you could say something like: “Services include:…” and then list your services in bullet points. Be careful with this if you are not in business for yourself and are employed full time!