level up your linkedin profile

How to level up your LinkedIn profile

My LinkedIn profile is terrible. Okay, maybe it’s not as bad as the profiles with just the person’s name and a gray icon where a profile photo should be, but still.

So when CreativeMornings announced a free online workshop with social media strategist Portia Obeng on how to create a LinkedIn profile that gets noticed, I immediately signed up.

Here’s one major takeaway from Portia’s workshop: the top section of your LinkedIn profile (your cover photo, profile photo, headline, and About section) matters.

If you don’t do a good job with yours, recruiters, potential clients, and people looking to make connections won’t find you, let alone check out your work.

In this post, I’ll share Portia’s tips for optimizing the top section of your LinkedIn profile, from creating a background that communicates something to crafting a headline that shows up in search results.

Create a custom banner

What’s your LinkedIn background photo? Mine is an image of colorful lights that doesn’t say much about me (except maybe my vision is blurry?) or the type of work I do (roam the streets at night?).

Here’s what Portia recommends instead: create a banner that represents who you are and what you do. Here’s how:

  1. Create a custom banner. No design skills required — you can choose from over 5,000 templates on Canva.
  2. Add words. For example: your tagline, the services you provide, your skills, and/or the URL of your website or portfolio.

Add a good profile photo

LinkedIn accounts with profile photos get 21 more views than accounts with no photos. They also get nine times more connection requests. (Stats are from LinkedIn.)

Although I have a profile photo, it’s a selfie with a sofa bed and a pillow in the background, i.e. my literal sleeping area, and it screams desperate and unemployed.

Here’s what Portia recommends instead: Use a good photo, i.e. NOT a selfie; one with good lighting and a neutral background.

Here are two ways to accomplish this:

  • Take your own portrait. Buy or borrow a phone tripod and a ring light. Check out YouTube and/or TikTok tutorials on how to take self-portraits.
  • Pay a professional to do it for you. 

Portia says profile photos don’t have to be boring—all that matters is that you look professional and approachable. 

One tip she gave for getting good photos for cheap was to check out Airbnb Photo Experiences. “You can get pretty great photos in unique parts of your city at a great price point,” she said.

For more useful LinkedIn photo tips, including what to wear and what to do with your face, check out this article from LinkedIn.

Create an optimized headline

When we got to the topic of headlines, the first question Portia asked us was, “Do you have your latest job as your headline?”

Of course I did/do. And while that’s not a bad thing, you need to be more strategic if you want to get noticed.

“The more keywords you have in your profile, the higher probability your profile has of showing up when somebody does a search for you on LinkedIn,” Portia said.

The character limit for the headline is 220 characters, which is more than enough to add keywords related to your work and skill set and maybe even a relevant emoji.

But how do you find keywords? Portia recommends reviewing job postings that interest you and paying attention to the words that appear most frequently. Those are the words you’ll want to use in your profile.

Create an informative About section

Here’s the one part of my profile where I put in a little more effort. (I’m a writer, after all!)

But while I do like the little story I tell about what I love to do, I put zero thoughts around keywords and didn’t really provide an overview of my professional life.

Portia says your About section needs to do two things:

  • Let people know who you are
  • Give an overview of professional life

The limit is 2,600 characters with spaces, which is enough to include:

1. What you do. List the services that you offer. What’s a fun fact about why you’re in your current line of work?

2. How you do it. What are some of the skills you use to do this work? Which software or platforms do I use? (This is a great place to add keywords.)

3. Why you’re good at it. List your accomplishments, the reasons why you love this work, or the moments you’re most proud of. Talk about the results you’ve delivered. 

4. A clear CTA at the end. What action do you want people to take after seeing your profile?

And that’s it. This is what you have to do to optimize the top part of your LinkedIn profile.

Level up your LinkedIn profile

Keeping your LinkedIn profile in tip-top shape is an investment in yourself, and one you’re worthy of.

In Portia’s words: “You deserve to work somewhere fantastic. You deserve to be paid for your skillset. You are more than worthy of a great job, a great salary, and showing at a place and feeling safe.”

So if you haven’t updated your LinkedIn profile since 2004, go ahead and give it some TLC. Start by tackling the tasks outlined in this post:

  • Add a background photo
  • Add a profile photo
  • Add keywords to your headline
  • Add keywords to your About section

Tip: Create Snippets for individual keywords on TextExpander so you can quickly insert them anywhere in your LinkedIn profile, or save a list of keywords as one Snippet to expand them all at once. 

To learn more about Portia’s work and book a coaching session, visit www.portiaobeng.com.

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