12 Steps to Optimizing Your LinkedIn Profile


Creating a professional LinkedIn profile is a great way to attract potential employers and make connections to people who can help your career. Your profile is essentially an online resume that highlights your skills, accomplishments, employment history and education. According to Career Builder, 70% of employers today are reviewing candidates’ online presence and many are recruiting online, so having a professional profile is an excellent a way to stand out from the crowd.

Before you take that first step in creating your profile, have an audience in mind. Your audience could be the hiring manager of a specific type of position or at a specific company. Everything you write, create or upload to your profile will be geared toward attracting their attention.

Additionally, you may find it helpful to review several current job opportunities to find field-specific keywords and language that speak to your desired audience. It’s also a great idea to view the profiles of leaders in your field to learn best practices.

Step One: Photo

Your LinkedIn profile features two images: your profile picture and your cover photo. For your profile picture, a professional photo is key. But professional doesn’t have to mean it was taken by a professional photographer. A high quality cell phone shot or other digital camera should suffice. Remember to keep the background and your attire professional, such as a headshot against a colored wall, and make sure the lighting is sufficient. We don’t recommend using a casual shot or selfie from an event. Be purposeful about how you’ll appear to employers!

The cover photo is optional and adds structure and visual interest to your LinkedIn profile. It gives you the opportunity to visually reinforce the other components of your LinkedIn profile, make a positive first impression, and showcase “you.” Consider images that align with your career or desired field, conceptual graphics that represent the impact you want to make, or even a geographical landscape. If you do not currently have an image, visit the Creative Commons to search for free and legal graphics.

Step Two: Headline

Take the time to make your 120-character headline stand out! By default, LinkedIn populates your headline with your job title from your current employer. This isn’t always ideal if you are looking to move into another type of position or career field. Consider using field-specific keywords, skills and experience instead of a generic job title.

Example: IT Project Manager, Content Strategist, Help Desk Guru

Step Three: Summary

Use the summary section to list your most impressive accomplishments or skills. This is where you’ll want to sell yourself to potential employers and encourage them to keep reading. Be a story teller and tell a killer story about you!

You can write a paragraph from the “I” perspective or simply use a bulleted list of your most impressive 5-6 accomplishments or skills.

Example Action Words: Coordinated, Managed, Communicated, Educated, Advised, Taught, Edited.

Step Four: Experience

The experience section is where you’ll list jobs held as well as accomplishments and skills for each position using action words. You don’t need to include a lengthy list of every job duty or responsibility you’ve had in the past, the idea here is to pick and choose specific examples of what you’ve accomplished that will point your profile in the direction you want to go.

If you’re looking for a promotion, you’ll want to highlight skills, accomplishments or certifications that are applicable to the next step in your career.

If you’re looking to change careers, you’ll want to highlight transferable skills and accomplishments or volunteer, education or other experience that makes you ready for that next step into a different career field.

If you’re just starting out, consider universal skills such as leadership, teamwork, organization and coordination from past positions.

As you would with your resume, keep your list of past employment manageable by including no more than 10 years of employment history.

Step Five: Volunteer

If you’ve had a volunteer experience that highlights your leadership, helping/guiding, organizational or other skills that support your career goal, include this information in your profile as well as a brief overview (bullets are fine) of what you’ve accomplished as a volunteer.

Step Six: Education

List all degrees you’ve obtained, including current degree programs with an expected graduation date. If you have little professional experience, you may consider expanding your education section by adding a description where you can list pertinent coursework. There are additional profile fields related to education that you may want to consider:

  • Certifications
  • Licenses
  • Courses

Step Seven: Skills and Endorsements

Create a list of skills (tech, soft skills, and otherwise) that you’ve obtained throughout your career and add them to your profile. Your connections on LinkedIn can endorse or agree that you have the skills you’ve listed. Highly endorsed skills will move to the top of your list where they’ll gain more prominence.

Examples: Teaching, Graphic Design, Leadership, Microsoft Outlook, Project Management, Presentations, Newsletters, CAD, or other specific software or skills from your desired career field.

Step Eight: Recommendations

Professional recommendations from those that know you are an extremely valuable addition to your LinkedIn profile. You can request a recommendation from someone through LinkedIn as well as accept and display any recommendations you happen to receive. Recommendations from past employers or co-workers are easy for potential employers to see and can make a great first impression. Be strategic about who you ask and which recommendations you choose to display.

Step Nine: Media

Each field of your LinkedIn profile can contain media, links, documents, photographs, or presentations. Upload or add examples of your work that truly highlight your accomplishments and skills. Remember, quality over quantity! You’ll show employers that you’re not only media savvy but that you’ve got the experience they want. If you’ve worked on large scale project committees or earned an award or honor, there are separate profile fields specifically designed to showcase this work—be sure to review these fields, too, and populate them accordingly.

Step Ten: Job Preferences

If you are actively looking for a new position, be sure to edit your job preferences. As a LinkedIn user, you can specify what kind of job titles, job types, and opportunities appeal to you such as: full-time, part-time, contract, internship, temporary work, remote work, and volunteer. In addition, be sure to turn on “Job Alerts” to be notified when companies post jobs that match your skills and preferences.

Step Eleven: Groups

Consider following field-specific groups within LinkedIn. Follow posted content closely and feel free to engage in conversation or leave comments. This is a great way to show your passion and expertise in the field!

Step Twelve: Connecting on LinkedIn

The best way to use LinkedIn is to connect with as many past and present co-workers and community members as possible. The more connections you have, the more likely it is that you’ll be connected to those who can help you get hired.


  • 1st Connections  – people that are directly connected to you within LinkedIn. This means you’ve requested to connect to them or they’ve requested to connect to you.
  • 2nd Connections – people who are not directly connected to you, but are connected to someone you’re connected with.
  • 3rd Connections – people who are not connected to you but are connected to one of your 2nd connections.

When researching careers and potential employers on LinkedIn, you’ll want to find and follow employers and businesses of interest in your field. You may find that you’re connected to an employee at one of your desired employers. You can use that 2nd or 3rd connection opportunity to ask for an introduction. This would also be a great way to coordinate an informational interview to learn more about the field.

With an excellent online presence that promotes you as a desirable professional, you’ll soon be encouraging employers to recruit or invite you for an interview. With help from LinkedIn your next position awaits!

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