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How to Use LinkedIn to Promote Your Personal Brand

These tips for improving your LinkedIn profile will make you a stronger job candidate

By Carol Ross | August 16, 2013
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Carol Ross is a Bell Labs engineer turned career coach, entrepreneur, speaker, and writer. She has created career development programs to help talented midcareer professionals be more successful in a competitive, increasingly digital marketplace. Contact Carol on LinkedIn or by email.

Whether you know it or not, when it comes to your career, you have a brand. Your resumé deals in facts, but your brand goes deeper. It’s what personal branding guru William Arruda describes as your “unique promise of value,” and it’s your calling card in a competitive job market.
 
In today’s digital age, one of the best places to showcase your brand is on LinkedIn. But as a career coach who has helped hundreds of people tell their stories online, I’ve found that many job seekers don’t articulate their brand clearly on the world’s largest professional network. That means they’re losing out on potential opportunities, since recruiters regularly sift through LinkedIn’s 150 million-plus members to find candidates. 

(MORE: 6 Ways to Crack the 'Hidden' Job Market)
 
Here’s how you can do a better job promoting your personal brand through LinkedIn:
 
Post a Photo With Your Profile
 
Ever hear the phrase, “People do business with people they know, like, and trust”? Having a LinkedIn photo in your profile is essential, especially one where your personality shines through. It will go a long way to establishing likeability and trust. Use a skillful photographer who can capture you at your best.
 
And be sure that your LinkedIn photo shows your face clearly, so that if I passed you on the street the next day, I’d recognize you. I’m amazed at how many profiles have photos that are blurry or show their subjects 10 feet away.
 
Put the Summary Section to Optimum Use
 
I’ve seen hundreds of LinkedIn profiles and have noticed that if the Summary section is filled in at all (often it’s blank), it merely reiterates information in the rest of the profile.

(MORE: How to Ask for a LinkedIn Introduction and Get One)
 
Use the Summary section to tell your brand story. By this I mean your personal brand conveyed through an authentic description of who you are and how your past fits into your present. It’s your opportunity to speak to the reader (hint: prospective employer) in a human voice, revealing what makes you unique.

Your brand story should contain three things: a compelling statement of your distinctive value, a backstory that explains how you got to be so good at what you do, and an aspirational statement about the impact you want your work to have.
 
When you write a statement of your distinctive value, think of it as your elevator pitch. Keep it concise: Aim for a few sentences and no more than one paragraph. Read the start of the Summary section for freelance writer Jacquie O’Brien for an excellent example.
 
The backstory shows the arc of your career; it connects the dots of your work experiences. Don’t be shy about revealing failures that helped shaped who you are today. Take a look at the backstory of George Deriso, a professor and a serial entrepreneur, which shows how a love of gadgets, working with people and business has been at the roots of his career. 

(MORE: 10 Ways the Job Search Has Changed)

To write an aspirational statement, don’t worry about the job or title you currently hold. Jay Want, a physician turned chief executive turned health care consultant, has a LinkedIn profile with a simple but powerful aspiration statement: to make health care “more effective, efficient, and humane.”
 
Make Your Specialties Section Special
 
This section is at the end of the Summary. Too often, LinkedIn members litter it with clichés (“strategic thinking”) or list work skills they’re competent at but don’t enjoy. Instead, use the Specialties section of your LinkedIn profile to describe activities in your sweet spot — those you aspire to do better than anyone else in the world. See this example from Jennifer Mohler, a Los Angeles dentist at a community clinic (yes, this dentist’s name really is Dr. Mohler).

Align Your Experience Section With Your Summary Section

The Experience section of your LinkedIn profile is the data that backs up the story you tell in the Summary section. So be sure the two sections are aligned. If you talk about an experience at a company as part of your brand story, be sure that company shows up in your Experience section.

Be Choosy About Your Recommendations

When you're looking to put recommendations from others about your work in your LinkedIn profile, think quality over quantity. One recommendation that reveals a new aspect of what you can contribute is better than 10 recommendations that repeat what's already been said in other parts of your profile. Remember: Your reader's attention is limited, so think about how your recommendations can complement your profile, rather than duplicate it.

 
Guidelines to Help Develop Your Brand Story
 
Here are four keys to developing your brand story in the sections of your LinkedIn profile mentioned above: 
  • Be introspective. Identify your passions, talents, competencies, values, beliefs and wisdom. In short, know thyself. That's fundamental to describing who you are, at your core.
  • Gather feedback. It helps to get an outside perspective. Ask your clients, colleagues or managers: “What is distinctive about the way I approach my work and the results that I produce?” Incorporate that information into your profile.
  • Identify a theme. Figure out the thread that ties together your disparate jobs, projects and passions then put that into your profile as well. Susan Arnold, a Denver startup executive, conveys her brand story with the simple phrase: “Dream It, Implement It, Achieve It.” 
  • Describe formative moments in your life. Often, these moments play a part in the development of your theme. They could include an achievement in high school, a painful lesson you once learned or a failed business venture. Ask yourself, “How have these moments contributed to who I am today?” The LinkedIn profile of TV and film producer Victoria Cummings shows how a powerful experience early in her career sparked what for her became an important theme: not taking no for an answer.
A Final Check
 
Once you’ve sharpened your LinkedIn profile, read it out loud to a few people you trust, and ask for their honest reactions.
 
One last tip: Your brand story is not static. It evolves as you do. So you'll want to continually update your LinkedIn profile, ensuring that your brand is always fresh and enticing to prospective employers.