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Guide to Personal Branding with LinkedIn

By Meg Guiseppi

Guide to LinkedIn for Personal BrandingWant to build your personal brand, accelerate your job search, and land a good-fit job faster?

Get busy on LinkedIn.

Recruiters and hiring decision makers at your target companies rely heavily on LinkedIn when they’re sourcing and assessing job candidates.

Why LinkedIn Is Important for Your Personal Brand

You already have a brand. Your personal brand is your personal DNA -- the combination of personal attributes, values, strengths, and passions that people know you for and that represent the value you offer.

Today, LinkedIn is the most important social network for making that brand clear:

  • If they don’t find you on LinkedIn, you may be virtually invisible to them.
  • If you have a minimal, mediocre presence on LinkedIn, they’re going to wonder whether you know how to navigate the new world of work, which includes being social media savvy.
  • If you have a strong and active presence on LinkedIn, and your personal brand is evident, you’ve probably upped your chances of being a candidate of interest.

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How to Make LinkedIn Work for Your Job Search

LinkedIn is a robust site offering many ways to get your personal brand and job search in sync.

1. Choose Your Target

Step one in job search is targeting and researching specific employers that are a good fit for you. Targeting and research are also critical for defining and communicating your personal brand.

You'll need to know who you'll be writing your personal marketing communications for and how to speak about the value you offer specific companies or organizations.

LinkedIn is a good place to start doing research on your target employers:

  • Identify companies for your target list by doing a LinkedIn search of keywords related to the kind of job you want and seeing which companies that leads you to.
  • Look at the LinkedIn company profiles for each company on your target list.
  • Then, take a look at the LinkedIn profiles of employees of each company. See if you know them or have something in common. Connect with them.
  • Employees you don’t know may also be ones to invite to connect with you.
  • Check LinkedIn Jobs to see if your target companies are looking for people like you. Make note of the qualifications needed and the terminology used to describe those qualifications (keywords).

Leverage all that LinkedIn has to offer – both passively and proactively – to promote the unique value you offer your target employers.

2. Build the Foundation of Your LinkedIn Personal Brand

To get a handle on how to best use LinkedIn for personal branding, download and read my free ebook, Smart Personal Branding with LinkedIn.

Then, build a robust LinkedIn profile that will lead people to you:

  • Create an SEO-friendly Professional Headline.
  • Add a professional photo. Profiles with photos get many more views.
  • Write a dazzling Summary section. Tell your personal brand story. Generate chemistry!
  • Focus on including the right keywords for your personal brand.
  • Add the maximum 50 skills in the Skills & Endorsements section.
  • Beyond the Summary, Experience and Education sections, fully populate every other applicable profile section, including the little-used sections – Languages, Volunteering Experience, Organizations, Honors & Awards, Courses, Patents, Publications, Projects, Certifications.

A robust, fully-fleshed out Profile containing content that supports your personal brand, with each applicable section completed, will build your personal brand visibility and boost traffic to your LinkedIn Profile.

Why is plenty of LinkedIn Profile content so important?

You need to be highly visible and findable on LinkedIn. Recruiters and employers search LinkedIn to identify and assess candidates using relevant keywords and phrases. These keywords usually represent your "hard" skills or areas of expertise.

More content = More relevant keywords = Better personal SEO (Search Engine Optimization) or visibility

Most people know enough to put at least some information in the Summary, Experience and Education sections. But take a look at all the other sections available to you, and use each one you can. Many people don’t know about, or neglect these sections:

[For more, read The 25 Best Keywords for You in Your Job Search and Grab Recruiter Attention with LinkedIn Projects.]

To make it easier to add the right amount of content, first create it in a Word document, then do a count and spell check, before copying and pasting into your Profile:

Each Profile section has a maximum number of characters and spaces. Do your best to use all the allowed space for content. At this writing, here are the maximum character counts for the most-used sections:

  • Professional headline = 120
  • Name field, last name = 40 (allows you to add suffixes, certifications, former names, maiden names, nicknames)
  • Summary = 2,000
  • Company names = 100
  • Job titles = 100
  • Job descriptions = 2,000

For more information about achieving the right mix of personal branding and relevant keywords, see my post To Succeed Today, Balance Personal Branding With Personal SEO.

As time passes and your job changes, be sure to update your LinkedIn Profile to reflect your new accomplishments and to keep your terminology (keywords) up-to-date and relevant to your career. Update your Profile on a quarterly basis, at a minimum. Then, carefully include contact information on your Profile so that people can contact you while you retain your privacy.

3. Keep Your Personal Brand Visible and Relevant on LinkedIn

Log into your account frequently to promote your personal brand, demonstrate your subject matter expertise, and express your thought leadership.

Build and engage your LinkedIn network:

  • Build your connections to at least 500, to boost your LinkedIn search ranking.
  • Develop a strategy and emails to connect with people you don’t know, who will be important to network with.
  • Connect with executive recruiters in your field and hiring decision makers at your target companies.
  • Use LinkedIn’s “Find Alumni” feature to find and connect with school alumni.
  • Connect with former co-workers by typing a former employer's name (like "IBM" or "McDonald's") in a People search and selecting the "Past Companies" search filter.
  • Include a link to your LinkedIn profile on your resume, in your email signature, and website (if you have one).

Take it further. Log into LinkedIn regularly to proactively build your personal brand, express your opinions, influence people, and stay top-of-mind with your network and other people on LinkedIn:

  • Prioritize Skills & Endorsements regularly, as people give you endorsements and your list shifts. Endorse others as you see them demonstrate their expertise in the skills.
  • Share branded updates at least once a week.
  • Refresh the content in your profile regularly to align with your current job search/career focus, and to upgrade with current relevant keywords.
  • Join and participate regularly in LinkedIn Groups.
  • Write articles for LinkedIn’s blog, a long-form publishing platform, this allows you to reap many of the benefits of blogging . . . without the hassles of maintaining one of your own.
  • Write LinkedIn recommendations for colleagues, co-workers, team members, etc. and ask for recommendations for yourself.
  • Reach out to your network regularly to see how they’re doing, offer support and pass along something of interest to them.

Avoid off-brand or unprofessional content. Keep your brand clean and clear..

Make LinkedIn Work for Your Career

If you’re still employed and job-hunting undercover, as so many job-seekers are, LinkedIn is still for you.

Write the content in your profile so that it supports your good-fit qualities for your target companies while supporting your current company, without saying outright that you are looking for a job.

LinkedIn is also an accepted overall career management tool when you are not job hunting. New members of your network as well as potential clients or customers, suppliers, even people who might consider dating you will check out your LinkedIn Profile and activities.

Many employers want their employees to be active on LinkedIn, promoting the products and services and the "employer brand" as a good place to work.

When you’re employed and not looking for a new job, stay busy on LinkedIn:

  • Keep yourself top-of-mind with your business network.
  • Expand your business network with new faces.
  • Build your profile content around the value both you and your company offer.
  • Support your current company with your LinkedIn activities – updates, Groups, publishing articles on Pulse, etc.

Whether you are job hunting or not, proactively promote yourself as an employee of your current company, while promoting your personal brand, subject matter expertise, and thought leadership.


About the author...

Meg Guiseppi, Job-Hunt's Personal Branding Expert and 20+ year careers industry veteran, has earned 10 certifications, including Reach Certified Personal Branding Strategist, Reach Social Branding Analyst – LinkedIn Profile Strategist, and Certified Executive Resume Master. Meg is the author of "23 Ways You Sabotage Your Executive Job Search and How Your Brand Will Help You Land." Connect with Meg at ExecutiveCareerBrand.com for c-suite personal branding and executive job search help and on Twitter (@MegGuiseppi). And, you may also download Meg's free ebook - Job-Hunt Guide to Smart Personal Branding with LinkedIn.