12 Changes that will make you a LinkedIn All-Star (pt. 1)

I’m still surprised at the general reaction I get when I ask people if they have or use LinkedIn. So many people answer along the lines of “I have one, but I don’t use it,” or my favorites:

– “It’s not fun.”

– “I thought it was for old people” (what?!)

You’ll have to excuse the lack of Snapchat filters, but these aren’t valid reasons to miss out on leveraging a powerful platform. The good news is that because so many people are not engaging on LinkedIn, it is way easier to stand out in your industry with minimal effort! I’m not going to tell you to share content daily (though that helps), but I am going to walk you through a profile makeover to match that swanky, curated wardrobe. But first…

Change your privacy settings.

Before we dive into transforming your profile, you may want to change the setting that broadcasts your every breath to your connections. Head to “Settings & Privacy,” then under the Privacy tab look for “Sharing profile edits” and switch that to No. While you may not be actively searching for a new job, a sudden spike in activity can seem suspicious. Now let’s get to it!

The Basic Components of a LinkedIn Profile

Start with a profile photo.

A profile photo is key. You don’t have to get a professional headshot, but the photo should be:

  • Clear
  • Bright (well-lit)
  • Uncluttered

The best photos are taken in natural light, and can be indoor or outdoor. Keep in mind that even the background represents you, so be selective with your framing. A blank wall is an easy standby, but feel free to throw in some artwork or a nice exterior surface with some texture.

Profile Photo Do’s:

  • Do look at the camera, looking to the side might be perceived as untrustworthiness.
  • Do wear something you’d wear to work (or the job you want.) This isn’t the venue to show your college pride with a sweatshirt.
  • Do smile, and make it genuine. If you need your bestie behind the camera waving a rubber ducky around, make it happen. A tight-lipped smirk won’t work here, because you (hopefully) want to look approachable, not clever or sneaky.

Profile Photo Don’ts:

  • Do not leave it blank, that’s automatic grounds for being overlooked. Consider your own habits when scrolling through any network – are you more or less likely to follow/engage with a profile that has no photo?
  • Do not use a selfie, not even that “perfect” one you love. Forward facing shots stand out in the bad way. Even though these cameras have come a long way, the quality is still grainy by comparison.
  • Do not use a couple/group photo, even if it’s “apparent” which one you are. The point of LinkedIn is for managers to learn as much as possible about you with minimal effort. Plus, photos with multiple people tend to be taken further away, so you’re giving up valuable pixels that could be taken up by your lovely face.
  • Don’t use a cropped group photo – the person next to you is usually close enough that I can still see a sliver of their face. Also, by cropping a photo, you’re zooming in and reducing image quality.

Check out this great post & short interview on Ramit Sethi’s blog for more photo tips, but I think you get the point – let’s move on!

Customize your URL.

Yes, you can customize your URL on LinkedIn, and it’s super easy! Again, this is a situation where other people’s inactivity works to your advantage – if claiming your name is usually an issue, you may have a better chance here. Having a custom link spares people the trouble of searching for you, because they land right on your page – and you’re in control of what they see before connecting with you. That gives you a solid opportunity to put your best self forward and intrigue would-be colleagues to connect with and learn more about you. It also comes in handy if you don’t have a personal website or landing page to share with people – your LinkedIn profile can become your living portfolio.

Here’s how:

Sign in and click on your profile either in the left bar or in the top navigation bar, labeled “Me.”


Select “Edit public profile” in the right bar:


Then, click the pencil next to the URL to edit:


More notes on custom URLs:

  • You can change it up to five times in a six month period (in case you want to add a descriptor, ex: janedoewriter)
  • There’s a 30-character maximum.
  • Any URL you use and later change will be unavailable to other users for six months after the change.
  • I wasn’t able to find how to set this up on the mobile app, but it’s worth it to get on a desktop. If you treat yourself like a number, others will, too.

Craft an informative headline.

This is a great chance to practice your elevator pitch! The 120-character limit is just enough space to share something more enticing than “Current Position at Company.” While it’s not the venue for your life story (that’s the next step), use your headline to showcase a recent accomplishment or a skill that applies to the job you want. Some examples:

  • independent graphic designer specializing in personal branding
  • freelance writer featured in [publication/publications]
  • interior designer crafting beautiful home spaces for busy people
  • Managing Director, [type of projects] [locations*] (*especially if international!)

If you’re stumped, you can start with these formulas until you land on something you love:

[title] [discipline 1] [discipline 2 optional] [company] [location]

(Project Manager, Design & Construction, Company Name, NYC)

[certification/license status] [relevant skill/description]

RA (registered architect), historic preservation, restorations, and retrofitting

You can choose to approach the headline as a sentence or a list. We’re crafting a profile designed to attract your dream job, so aim to include terms you would search for when you’re looking for jobs. If you’re still stumped, send me an email 🙂

Use the Summary.

You get 2,000 characters here, which is about the length of a short essay. However, this is still the internet, and attention spans are limited. Update your summary as often as possible to feature an ongoing body of work and accomplishments. (I’m due for a rewrite myself!) Expand on your interests, include your strengths, and showcase your experiences in a concise and engaging manner. Here are some great examples straight from the LinkedIn blog!

Do not tell me your job or life is boring. Your perspective and energy will read through your writing; If you’re disinterested in yourself and your profession, you can guess how others will feel. If you are actually bored and hoping to switch jobs, write about your relevant hobbies. Share what you’re doing on your time off to pursue your other interests.

To edit both your headline & summary, click the pencil icon in the top right of your profile page:

Linkedin Edit Headline.JPG

Update your current position (often.)

If you’ve been at your job even a few months, chances are you’ve learned something new, or hit a milestone in a project. Share that! People don’t just want to know where you work and how long you’ve been there, they want to know what you’re doing. You don’t have to show an extensive list here, but you can keep building as your responsibilities grow. Then, when you move on to your next position, this one will already be filled out and you’ll have less work to do!

Review past positions.

Look back at how you’ve described previous jobs. Did you cover all of your accomplishments and lessons learned? If you’ve listed only duties (or worse, nothing at all), you’re missing another opportunity to shine. Don’t make these an exact copy of what’s on your resume. People search online to learn more, so use these fields as a place to add the things you wish you’d said at interviews over the years. (Tip: to add bullet points on LinkedIn, hold the Alt key and press: 0149, or copy & paste this code: )

That was a lot, let’s recap.

  • LinkedIn isn’t meant to be “fun,” but that doesn’t mean your profile should be boring.
  • You need a clear photo (that isn’t a selfie or at a party) and a smile.
  • Don’t treat yourself like a number – customize your URL.
  • Broadcast your talent and intentions with the headline.
  • Write a summary that tells more than your work history.
  • Update your current position’s description as your role develops.
  • Beef up your past experiences with any missing information (awards, accomplishments, and lessons learned.)

There’s more, but let’s get to work!

In part 2, we’ll dive into more powerful features: Skills, Recommendations, Accomplishments, and Media. For now, take a screenshot of your profile (for before & after reference), follow these steps, and do a happy dance. Leave a comment and let me know:

  • Do you have and use a  LinkedIn profile?
  • When’s the last time you updated it?
  • What advice would you give to a LinkedIn newbie?

P.S. Don’t forget to add me – LinkedIn.com/in/ElyDuran