In December 2011, Robbie Abed, 32, quit his job as director of information technology at Accretive Solutions, a Chicago consulting firm. “I always had this passion to start my own company and do my own thing,” he says. Part of doing his own thing was writing a blog about careers, playing on his own experiences in the workplace. He wrote about quitting his job, about personal branding, about salary negotiations. But his posts didn’t get much traction until LinkedIn LNKD -0.1%, the professional social networking site with 360 million members, introduced a blogging feature in late 2014. Suddenly he was attracting 300,000 and 400,000 views on a single post. One piece, “How to Win at Office Politics Every. Damn. Time.” hit more than a half million views.
That exposure helped Abed pivot from working in IT to landing a job in marketing for Y Media Labs, a mobile app development company. In the year he was blogging on LinkedIn while consulting and developing his own apps, he says his posts attracted 10 different companies who wanted to hire him. Y Media Labs, run by an old college classmate from Purdue who had read his LinkedIn posts, seemed like the best fit. The two had also interned together at Dell but they had fallen out of close touch. Abed loves the new job. “I was able to transition without starting over,” he says.
I confess I’m a foot dragger when it comes to adopting technology upgrades (I hung onto my broken-down BlackBerry for as long I could before getting a much superior iPhone), so I’m guilty of having ignored some great new features on LinkedIn. Catherine Fisher, the company’s senior director of corporate communications and “career expert,” walked me through five ways to boost my profile.
No. 1 on the list: blog. Fortunately, it’s my job to post on the excellent Forbes publishing platform, which has great search engine optimization. But for most people, a LinkedIn blog is a great way to enhance their reputation and an easy way to tell connections what they’re up to. Self-help posts like Abed’s usually do well. Or write about your area of expertise. If you’re a financial analyst, describe your take on the market. A tax accountant can impart advice about new provisions in the tax code and artists and videographers can post images and videos.
Fisher herself used the platform to write about how she copes with being an introvert. That piece helped her bond with an introvert colleague and understand that when he shuts himself in a conference room for long stretches he’s gathering his thoughts rather than shirking his responsibilities. “He’s not being anti-social,” she says. “This is how he works better.”
Fisher’s No. 2: Update your profile using new features. Another recent offering on LinkedIn is the ability to add media like documents and photos directly to your career summary and experience section. George Corbin, whose title is Senior Vice President, Digital, at Marriott International, has included nine visual elements under his job description, including a picture of an Apple Watch app that could pay for a hotel stay, from an article in USA Today where Corbin is quoted, and a graph showing the growth of room inventory on mobile phones.
No. 3: Include a great head shot. This is old advice that Fisher says people still ignore. Many LinkedIn profiles include no head shot at all. One photo Fisher especially admires: Natalie Dell O’Brien, marketing strategy and operations manager at eHealth.com. O’Brien is also a former Olympic medalist in rowing and Fisher notes that she could have been tempted to include a shot of herself in a bathing suit. Instead she is wearing a blazer in an eye-catching, vibrant royal blue over a navy v-neck sweater, smiling directly into the camera. “She exudes confidence,” says Fisher.
No. 4: Write a vibrant profile, using photos, videos and pictures.Example: Lyndsay Petruny, a TV host and reporter who works for the Chicago Bears football team. Like Facebook, LinkedIn now lets users post background graphics at the top of their profile pages and Petruny has a colorful shot of the Chicago skyline at night. Her profile picture shows her standing on a playing field in a fuchsia jacket holding a microphone, with fuchsia Bears banners in the background. She’s posted numerous videos and photos including her demo reel and a shot of her at the Emmy’s, where she was nominated for two awards. “All of those visuals make you want to learn more about her,” says Fisher.
No. 5: Write a great headline. This is also part of the old LinkedIn, but something Fisher says too many people overlook. It’s the phrase that goes directly under your name. Mine simply says, Senior Editor, Forbes. Fisher says that such a headline is fine if, like me, you have a straightforward title. But Fisher herself felt that her title, Senior Director Corporate Communications, didn’t adequately express what she does, so she wrote this headline, “Helping People Build Their Professional Brand on LinkedIn,” since she also serves as LinkedIn’s “career expert,” dispensing the kind of advice she gave me for this post.
Another Fisher colleague, Blair Decembrele, works as the senior manager for corporate communications at LinkedIn and has the headline, “Empowering business leaders + professionals to build brands on LinkedIn.” For me these headlines grate a bit because they seem like marketing-speak, but Fisher says they are the best way to promote yourself. I imagine in her field she’s right.
LinkedIn keeps growing and in many instances sending a LinkedIn profile to a hiring manager can substitute for a résumé. “Résumés are old school,” says Abed. “They’re like fax machines.”