One of the best tools for managing your online reputation is your LinkedIn Profile and other activities on LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is usually at the very top of the first page of Google search results in a search for most names.
And, what is at the top of the first page of Google search results is very important because few people look below the top five results.
I wish I owned stock in LinkedIn or was paid by them to write these articles, because a well-done LinkedIn Profile is unavoidable for the vast majority of us.
LinkedIn is not optional for most professionals, of every age and in most every field.
For your job search and career, your name tops the list of important keywords.
A credible LinkedIn Profile starts with a "clean" version of your name, so you have a foundation that employers will find acceptable when they Google your name from a job application.
Assume that you will be Googled by an employer. Recent studies have shown that over 90% of employers are Googling job applicants. If they find something they don't like, they move on to the next candidate because, currently, they have many to choose from.
Read The Best Version of Your Name for Your Job Search to understand how to find and choose a version of your name to avoid mistaken online identity.
Practice "Defensive Googling" so that you know what is visible online in association with your name and can adjust if something bad happens associated with your name. This is a continuing issue.
An incomplete Profile may still show up near the top of Google search results, but it won't help your job search inside LinkedIn. A complete Profile has greatly increased visiblity in search results inside of LinkedIn, bringing you to the attention of more recruiters and employers.
An incomplete Profile may hurt your job search because they are typically skimpy, lacking important information and making you look out-of-date or clueless.
If your Profile already meets LinkedIn's complete Profile requirements, skip this section.
Once you have chosen the best version of your name to use for your job search (in number 1 above), focus on the keywords that describe you best.
Be sure to include the "right" keywords for you and your target job and employers in your LinkedIn Profile. Go through The Top 25 Keywords for Your Job Search to dig out the terms you might not be thinking of using -- terms that are important to employers, like languages you speak or awards you have won.
Indeed.com's JobTrends is a very useful tool for determining the most popular terms employers use in their job descriptions. Should you describe yourself as a "Certified PMP" or as "PMP Certified" in your LinkedIn Profile -- a search through Indeed's JobTrends will show you which is best and which will make you invisible.
[Related: How to Identify Exactly the Right Keywords for Your LinkedIn Profile explains how to use Indeed's JobTrends to find the best terms for you -- the terms employers have included in millions of job descriptions.]
Use the keywords that are appropriate for you in your Profile, as described in the next section.
You can have a pretty skimpy Profile that meets the "All-Star" requirements, so don't stop there! A skimpy Profile tells the world that you don't "get" how important LinkedIn is, and you don't understand how to leverage it, even for yourself. So, you probably are not very up-to-date with how business operates now.
When you describe those current and past positions in the Experience section of your LinkedIn Profile, don't stop with the job title, dates, and employer name.
Don't simply list dates, employer names, and job titles. Describe each job, particularly the aspects of the job that demonstrate your hard work and professional growth and accomplishments. Add useful information that will help an employer or recruiter understand what you really did, and LinkedIn offers you 2,000 spaces to use for that information for each job:
For example: "Senior Team Leader, reporting to the Director of Customer Operations, led a 5-member team ensuring the quality of service received by This Example Corp's 2,000,000 users. Responsible for managing the team to meet goals and quality standards, assisting with the execution of development plans and programs, identifying revenue opportunities, and reducing costs."
Continuing the example above, focus on your accomplishments, like this:
Yes, this involves bragging about yourself and your current and/or former employer. If you don't, few people will understand how well you did your job or how important your employer was (and how much you could have learned by working there).
Read Grab Employer Interest (and LinkedIn Traffic) with Your Success Stories for more tips.
LinkedIn offers a generous amount of space in the Summary section for you to paint a picture of your accomplishments, skills, and experience. When you have created strong descriptions of each job in the Experience section, as in the example above, pull relevant sections from all your jobs to create a strong Summary section.
Read 5 Secrets to a Knockout LinkedIn Profile for great tips on making the Summary section of your Profile impressive.
You aren't done with LinkedIn when you have a complete Profile with all of your keywords. LinkedIn offers countless ways to be visible to employers and recruiters, including:
LinkedIn offers many opportunities to showcase your knowledge and expertise. You will also be demonstrating your professionalism, your attitude toward others, and quite a bit of your personality. So play nice -- Mom was right, as usual.
LinkedIn is the core and a major support for your online reputation. Protect it, and treat it with respect!
LinkedIn is also not a social network where you want to limit access to your Profile -- it is the exact opposite -- LinkedIn visibility, as wide as possible, is what you want, in fact.
Read Easy LinkedIn Tweaks for more information about leveraging LinkedIn with minimal effort.
Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.