3. What Do You Want from LinkedIn?

When setting up your LinkedIn account, it’s vital that you know what you’re trying to achieve. Without that

clarity, your profile will be unfocussed and ineffective.
This is linked to the previous tip, which covered reasons for using LinkedIn, but it’s highly important in its own right. Before you even create your LinkedIn account, you must know what you’re trying to achieve.

Perhaps you’re looking for a new job, or to promote your freelancing career.

Maybe you’re looking to network, or you’re positioning yourself for a promotion six months down the road.

Whatever it is, make a decision right now, and keep it firmly in mind throughout the profile creation process.

Whilst creating your profile, you’re going to be doing quite a bit of writing about yourself. The writing process will involve a lot of editing, of course, but nonetheless it is much easier to write high quality, focused entries if you know exactly what you want in advance.

Now I understand that many people will want to achieve several objectives with their LinkedIn account. That’s natural, and despite what I’ve just said, it’s also very possible. But when creating your profile, only think about your primary goal.

Are you positioning yourself to apply for new jobs as an accountant? Then perhaps consider excluding that marketing qualification you picked up last summer. Now is not the time to appear distracted.

Maybe you’re seeking freelance programming work. That’s great, but don’t get tempted to start talking about your side projects in fiction writing or painting and decorating.

Having extra strings to your bow is great… for you. But employers want specialists, and it’s incredibly easy to give off the impression that you’re less focused on your primary goal than you really are.

This can be frustrating for freelancers, like myself, because we tend to offer a range of services. I work almost exclusively as a writer, but on a range of subjects; most notably HR, technology and personal development. I have friends who work in two (or more) completely separate fields, for instance accountancy and property development, or programming and fiction writing.

This type of situation is not particularly unusual, and it usually (but not always) arises where someone has one or more freelance interests, often in addition to their primary employment.

It doesn’t feel fair to be penalised for not being a ‘specialist’, especially when we’re perfectly capable of producing high quality work in a range of fields.

The answer to this conundrum is to simply create two (or more) LinkedIn accounts, each one focusing on a single aspect of your professional life. In my case, that means having one account for my technology writing, and one for HR. My personal development writing is largely a leisure activity, so at the moment I have no plans for promoting on LinkedIn – If that were to change, I would setup a third account.

I will grant you that setting up multiple accounts is time consuming, and that it shouldn’t be necessary.

From first-hand experience, however, I can tell you that it does make a difference, and it is worth doing.

So suck it up, and get on with it.

4. LinkedIn Photo Tips… Yes or no?

Should you include a profile photo? There are lots of arguments either way, but thankfully the stats make this an easy decision.

Now before I start, I want to be completely honest and say that I have never seriously considered not including a photo on my LinkedIn profile.

In theory it’s possible that including a photo could hurt my chances of picking up clients or jobs – After all, I’m unusually young for someone in my area of work, and that’s without considering my somewhat alternative appearance.

My reasoning has always been that people like to deal with people, and by not including a photo I would be robbing potential clients of that ‘personal touch’.

In preparation for writing these tips, however, I’ve been canvassing the opinions of my professional contacts. Turns out that there are quite a few theories flying around…

Shouldn’t we treat LinkedIn like we treat our CVs? It’s been well accepted in recent years that for most career paths it’s a faux pas to include a headshot when submitting your application.

Won’t we be judged on our appearance? This could even work both ways round – If we appear too attractive or too plain, we might unfairly be deprived of opportunities.

Thankfully, there’s no need to worry about the arguments either way. We’ll simply go where the stats send us.

The fact of the matter is that your profile is 11 times more likely to be viewed if you include a professional photograph. And of course, more views means more chances to pickup contacts, clients and jobs.

11 times more likely.

That’s the difference between getting 20 views, and getting 220 views. Not a difficult decision.

You should keep it professional, ideally a head and shoulders shot of yourself dressed in standard work attire. There is some room for manoeuvre here, as dress codes vary enormously by industry, but if in doubt treat it like a job interview and go slightly more formal than what you’d normally wear to work.

But whatever you do, include a photo.

P.S. Ladies: No beauty shots please. I’m sure you look stunning, but unless you’re looking for modelling work it’s just not going to get you very far.

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