The Most Important White Space On Your Entire LinkedIn Profile
“Your LinkedIn Summary is the most important white space on your entire LinkedIn Profile”. Is what I wrote in a 2013 post featuring three highly engaging, well written, real-life LinkedIn summaries that were exceptional in every sense of the word.
That post landed on the first page of google (for LinkedIn summary examples) within days of publishing and though I had no idea about SEO at the time, it turns out that almost everyone, millions of people in fact, were searching for exactly this kind of ‘lead by example’ advice back then and guess what? They’re still searching for it today.
I’ve not written specifically for students on LinkedIn before, so if you’re a student or graduate reading this, or someone responsible for guiding/advising students or grads – I hope you find this useful.
I spent a good chunk of last week browsing and analyzing students and recent grads on LinkedIn and paid close attention to what they were doing with their LinkedIn summary section. Broadly speaking, they fell into 3 categories:
(1) No summary
(2) One sentence summary
(3) Short (< 250 words) summary
Drawing A Blank
No summary? I was mystified. Why do some students choose to leave their summary section blank? Why fill out most of the other sections except for this one? It’s at the top of the LinkedIn profile, so you’d actually have to skip by it to complete other sections. Writer’s block? Too daunting? Ramen noodle distraction? I don’t get it.
I think every career counselor in every university/college across the land should make it a priority to ensure that each student in their care has a decent summary on their LinkedIn profile. Regardless of how far away they are from graduation.
Young adults on the cusp of their professional lives really ought to be thinking about marketing themselves sooner rather than later. The stakes are high. Carpe diem quam minimum credula postero – as my Latin teacher would say – Harvest the day, give trust to the future as little as possible. Harvest the LinkedIn summary, today. Don’t leave it until tomorrow.
One And Done?
The one sentence summaries I found really don’t do a lot for their authors. Here are some typical real-life examples:
After you write anything in your LinkedIn summary, you should ask “how does this help me?” At a minimum, folks reading your profile summary want to know what interests/drives you and what you’re looking to do next (in marketing speak this is called a CTA or ‘call to action’). Got achievements? Add them to your summary. Can you back those achievements up with facts and figures? Even better.
No Fluff. No SHOUTING. Save A Draft.
Do not waste any space on irrelevant text in your summary. And definitely don’t write fluff like “Hi, I’m Jason…” or ‘Welcome to my profile….” or “proud New Yorker….” or “avid world traveler….”, you are wasting valuable summary space. Just get to the good stuff, fast.
I’m not a fan of capitalized para titles in the summary (WHAT I DO. HOW I DO IT. HOW I CAN HELP YOU etc.) 3 reasons: Never a good idea to shout in your summary. I think most readers can read/understand your summary without these ugly signposts. A lot of people are using this approach and when you do the same, looks like you can’t think for yourself #sheeple.
Draft your summary in Word or Pages first, two reasons: (1) LinkedIn doesn’t have spell check and (2) it’s a buggy platform, so if something weird or inexplicable happens during/after you added it, that stunning summary you just spent hours of your life working on won’t be lost.
Your LinkedIn summary doesn’t have to be Jane Austen prose, one or two paragraphs will do. None of the following will win any writing awards – but all of those no and one sentence summaries have lowered the barrier considerably, so adding a punchy and highly informative self advertisement in your LinkedIn summary (About section) will put you well ahead of the mouth breathing pack.
Ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, I give you Mikaila, Samantha, Vineet, Jianxia (Jessie) and Jordan.
Write In First Person
Writing your summary in third person is a quaint form of deception which will raise eyebrows and make you seem fake on LinkedIn. So write it in first person please. If you can, don’t start every para with “I”, hard to do (see above). You could simply delete “I am” or “I have” and the sentence would still work.
Should you add keywords to your summary? Sure, why not? But here’s the deal, LinkedIn gives its users zero actionable feedback on keywords, so anyone urging you to “optimize” your LinkedIn summary/headline/profile for keywords, or telling you to make it “keyword rich” is whistling in the wind. Ask them for proof of keyword optimization success or why certain words are “rich”. Ask them how to beat all of the other users who are using the exact same keywords on LinkedIn. I guarantee that they won’t have any satisfactory answers for you.
Specialties Are Redundant
From 2004 – 2010 every LinkedIn summary had a dedicated specialties section at the bottom of the summary statement. In 2011 LinkedIn introduced a new skills section which allowed (and encouraged) your connections to rate you for specific skills via endorsements. Specialties became redundant because of those endorse-able and easily searched skills, so listing anything resembling specialties (including strengths) in your summary these days is totally unnecessary.
LinkedIn Profile = Online Resume
If your LinkedIn profile is fully complete (with a good summary), it can act as your resume; a growing number of employers are allowing candidates to apply for roles by sending their LinkedIn profile in just a few clicks and there’s an option to send a cover letter too (which you should always do, btw). You may never have to agonize about what color or type of paper to use for your resume, or buy more printer ink, or buy (or lick) stamps, you lucky, lucky beeps of beeps
Be Proactive, Get Return Browsed
Like most things in life, you can only reap the potential rewards if you put the work in. LinkedIn is no different. A reason I cringe when I read LinkedIn trainers writing about keywords like they’re some kind of elixir is that it is a set and forget, passive strategy. After you’ve built that amazing profile and kickass summary, you need to hustle, you need to be persistently proactive – if you want to succeed or gain anything at all on LinkedIn.
One of my favorite LinkedIn networking techniques is the ‘return browse’. If you’re keen to get on someone’s radar and you want to know if they’re interested in engaging with you, browse their profile. If they browse you back, that’s an indication of 2 things: (1) they’re definitely aware of you and (2) they’ve opened the door to the next step – an InMail or a connection request.
What you write depends on the nature of the outreach, your connection request is limited to 300 characters. “Hey Jim. Thanks for visiting my profile. I’d love to connect with you directly and provide access to my LinkedIn contacts.” That’s 122 characters. The worst that could happen? They don’t respond. “Hey Jim. I’m a recent OSU grad. I’d love to work for your organization. Are you open to connecting and a brief conversation?” 124 characters. Everything to gain, nothing to lose.
Many students who bothered to search for and insert a custom banner image (replacing the default big blue box) went with a cityscape. Can you guess why I do not recommend this?
Using a cityscape says absolutely nothing about your professional brand.
I’ll demonstrate with a fictional speed networking conversation:
“𝐇𝐢, 𝐈’𝐦 𝐀𝐧𝐝𝐲”
“Hi Andy, I’m Steve”
“𝐏𝐥𝐞𝐚𝐬𝐞𝐝 𝐭𝐨 𝐦𝐞𝐞𝐭 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐒𝐭𝐞𝐯𝐞, 𝐰𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐝𝐨 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐝𝐨?”
“𝐎𝐤! 𝐒𝐞𝐞 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐚𝐫𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐝 𝐒𝐭𝐞𝐯𝐞 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐠𝐨𝐨𝐝 𝐥𝐮𝐜𝐤”
I get it, it’s so easy to find a shot of your home city and bonus – it has office buildings, so that conveys….business?
Find an image that has something to do with your chosen field or function. There are literally millions of images to choose from. Check out: StockSnap.io or Pexels or Unsplash (all offer high resolution images, for free).
And if you haven’t quite figured out what you want to do next, use an image that shows just how proud you are of your alma mater. It was a formative and once in a lifetime experience, maybe a fellow alumni will hire you?
Should you use the LinkedIn tool which offers to write a summary for you? No! Because it will look very much like a summary written by a bot, in other words, crap. You’d be better off writing it in emojis.
When I was attending University LinkedIn didn’t exist, I didn’t have a responsive web page that could be read by thousands of people a year, for free! So, you’re operating in a different world but are you making the most of your spot in the LinkedIn gallery?
I’ve worked with many smart and busy professionals all over the world, providing them with personalized and insightful LinkedIn coaching. I can write your summary/headline for you and improve your entire profile. I can coach you on how to get the most out of LinkedIn. I don’t usually offer discounts – but if you’re a student or recent grad, use the code “ramen noodle” when reaching out to me and I’ll reduce my LinkedIn consulting fees by 20%.
Other Useful Stuff…
Struggling to write that LinkedIn summary? Are you in need of inspiration? Check out these 4 stunningly good (real life) summary examples:
I call them ‘hacks’ but more accurately, they’re great techniques – to fully leverage the LinkedIn platform:
Let’s discuss what you need and how I can help: firstname.lastname@example.org
My LinkedIn Profile (consulting menu and fees): https://www.linkedin.com/in/linkedinsights