Q & A With Liz Ryan: What Makes A Great LinkedIn Profile?

Not sure what to include in your LinkedIn profile, and what to leave out – or how to make your LinkedIn profile stand out?

Here are the elements that make a great LinkedIn profile, from an interview with Human Workplace CEO and Founder Liz Ryan.

What  is the most important element in a LinkedIn profile?

It’s a tie between your profile photo and the first two sentences of your Summary. They are both important. You have just an instant to convey “This is me,” both visually and in your written description of yourself.

Your LinkedIn ‘headline’ is the third important element in your LinkedIn profile.

Of course, no one will see your LinkedIn profile unless they can find you in the vast LinkedIn member database. You need connections in order to be found!

Every time you work on your LinkedIn profile (and any other time you get the chance), invite someone you know to join your LinkedIn network!

How should a LinkedIn user construct a strong ‘headline’ for their LinkedIn profile?

You have 120 characters including spaces to use in constructing your LinkedIn ‘headline.’ In your headline, tell us what you do professionally and inject a bit of your personality if you like.

The default setting for your LinkedIn ‘headline’ is to duplicate your current job title, but you can choose a different ‘headline’ for your LinkedIn profile, and I encourage you to do it if you like. You and your job title are not the same thing.

Here are three examples of strong LinkedIn ‘headlines:’

Legal Secretary with Contracts Experience Seeking Next Challenge

Print/Web Graphic Designer and Illustrator

Children’s Author

Your ‘headline’ will be stronger when you resist the urge to praise yourself (using terms like ‘savvy,’ ‘senior-level’ or ‘creative’) and simply tell us what you do, instead.

What makes a good LinkedIn profile Summary?

A compelling LinkedIn Summary tells the reader who you are and what you spend your time doing in just a few seconds.

It doesn’t use boring jargon like “Results-oriented professional with a bottom-line orientation.” Any empty suit could call themselves a “results-oriented professional.” Use a human voice to describe yourself, instead of done-to-death zombie language.

Tell us your story. How did you arrive at this place in your path? What do you care about? Make your professional background real for the reader. Not everyone will appreciate your human-voiced LinkedIn Summary, but then again not everyone deserves you!

How can I make my LinkedIn profile stand out?

Choose a profile photo that shows some personality, not a formal, stilted photo that makes you look less vibrant than you are. Choose colors that you feel great in and take a photo that shows your face clearly.

You can use a photo of yourself taken outside of work, but make sure we can see what you look like and that there are no other people in the photo. We don’t have to see you at work in your profile photo – but we want to be able to imagine you in your professional life!

When you’re happy with your LinkedIn photo, make sure that your ‘headline’ tells the reader what you want them to know, and that your Summary amplifies the self-description you used in your ‘headline.’

Read through your Summary and ask a friend to read it, too. Now add your career history in reverse chronological order, starting with your current or most recent job.

There are so many available categories and elements for a LinkedIn profile now that you could work on your profile for weeks or months.

Don’t worry about using every available feature and field in your profile. Just tell us your human story — and don’t be afraid to show your personality! That’s what will stick with the reader.

Once I create my LinkedIn profile, how often should I review it?

Try to review your LinkedIn profile once a quarter.

Every time you update your LinkedIn profile, you can upload images, presentations, video and other cool enhancements to make your profile more interesting to visitors.

You can tweak your Summary and your descriptions of past jobs.  You can expand your profile with new Dragon-Slaying Stories and triumphs.

How important are the Skills listed on my LinkedIn profile?

LinkedIn makes it possible for you to list Skills (drafting, graphic designer, coding, etc.) and allows your friends to endorse you for your Skills by clicking buttons.

You can round out your profile by listing the things you love to do and are good at and letting your friends click on all your Skills to verify that you possess them.

More substantive than the LinkedIn Skills listing are Recommendations that you can write for your friends and colleagues and vice versa. Why not drop a glowing Recommendation on one of your favorite former co-workers right now?

I have a lot of past jobs. When someone glances at my LinkedIn profile it looks like I couldn’t keep a job for more than two years, but most of those transitions had nothing to do with me. How can I keep my LinkedIn profile from making me look like a job-hopper?

You can use a sentence or two in each of your past job descriptions on your LinkedIn career history to explain why you left each post (example: “I left Angry Chocolates during the company’s acquisition by Nestle.”)

Alternatively, you can lump together several short-term jobs that you held consecutively under the title “Bay Area Project Manager Assignments” or a similar “umbrella” heading. In that case you will combine the dates of the similar, consecutive assignments under the “umbrella” heading.

I have several letters of reference from former managers of mine who have either passed on or they are so infirm that I can’t use them as references any more. How can I make those letters of reference part of my LinkedIn profile, since I can’t ask these folks to recommend me on LinkedIn?

You can scan them and upload them to your LinkedIn profile, but most visitors to your profile page are likely to be more interested in your recent references than in references from long-ago supervisors. Keep cultivating new reference-givers on every project you take on, including temp jobs, volunteer assignments and ‘survival’ jobs!

I am a creative writer, but only outside of work. Some of my co-workers know that I write and others don’t. Should I use the LinkedIn blogging platform for creative writing or would that muddy my professional brand (I’m a Finance Manager)?

I’d do it, if only to exercise your creative juices in the presence of a large population of avid readers.

You could make creative writing on LinkedIn the next big thing! Don’t write anything violent or inappropriate, of course, and don’t write a serial novel with characters who have the same names as your co-workers and your boss and you’ll be fine.  You might find a huge audience on LinkedIn.

As for the merging of your two brands — the creative writer outside of work and the Finance Manager inside — the world is headed in that direction in any case. The wall between work and life is crumbling.

It could only be good for us, our employers and our communities if we felt comfortable bringing more of ourselves to work.

You are one person.

You are a creative Finance person and a financially-savvy creative writer. That is something to rejoice in!

Not everyone will get you. There are seven billion people in the world. You don’t need all of them in your fan club. Your job is to find the people who resonate at your frequency!





2 replies
  1. James Shelley
    James Shelley says:

    My All Star rated LinkedIn profile was getting me nowhere. Then I read Liz Ryan’s blog. I changed the profile intro to reflect an door-opening story I always told at job interviews and pared with work history way down. Now I have three interviews, including one job offer. LIz rocks.


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