Early this week, a friend I grew up with emailed to tell me he has just quit his job. He could not stand it anymore. “My friend writes “embedded” computer programs for military drones, among other things. His email asked me to review his LinkedIn profiles and let him know if I saw any problems.
My high school ham radio club buddy is incredibly talented as an engineer, inventor, airplane pilot, and attorney. He writes well. As a result, I expected to find few issues with the profile, so I opened it just before bedtime, and expected to spend just a few minutes reading it.
I was wrong. My review revealed the same issues on his profile that I find on many other profiles. If a genius that built a computer in his bedroom during the 1970s could write a profile that could benefit from a redesign, it’s worth writing about.
There is nothing wrong with his profile. My friend has used it for years and gotten great jobs. My opinion is that his profile could work harder for him,
Here are some of the areas for improvement I discussed with him:
- A LinkedIn headline that does not leverage the network’s power,
- Negative wording in the “About” section,
- No accomplishments in the “About” section,
- Job title entries that can include an explanation to gain more attention in searches,
- Old and irrelevant work experience,
- Obsolete skills no longer valued in the workforce, and
- What education to improve.
These are issues I see in many LinkedIn profiles, not just those that have developed gadgets for the Space Shuttle.
Your headline can leverage the power of LinkedIn.
LinkedIn will assign us a default headline, but we do not need to accept it. For example, my friend’s headline was something like “Engineer at Acme Corporation.”
LinkedIn created the headline from his current job title and his current employer. The “hack” is that you can write a 120-character headline of your own.
I suggested my buddy devise a headline that takes advantage of the headline feature to create a keyword-rich brand statement. The headline I thought he should consider would be “Embedded Firmware Engineer | Aerospace Telecommunications Systems | Vehicle Electronics | I Make Your Hardware Fly.”
The headline is actually one of the last items I create when I write a write a client’s profile because I want to fully understand the content first.
Keep the tone positive.
The 2,000 character “About” section, formerly called the summary section, is one of the most important for narrative tone and content. I doubt many recruiters read further than this section because it can convey much they need to know.
The biggest issue I found here, and an issue all of us should avoid, is a negative tone. The section includes “do not call me if you want me to relocate.” My buddy has leverage to negotiate because he has a rare technical skillset so he can discuss this issue later in the process rather than setting a negative tone upfront.
There were more common issues in the About section, too. For example, the narrative did not take advantage of the 2,000 characters available to summarize accomplishments. For example, my friend recommended 29 enhancements to one of his company’s products within his first 8 days at the job. We do not read about this until later in the profile.
Job titles can be expanded.
LinkedIn allows 100 characters for each job title in an employer entry. You can use this feature to explain your role. For example, my buddy’s most recent job title was Software Engineer. The official title is important and should not be changed. We can give recruiters additional information, though, by entering “Software Engineer | UAV Ground and Airborne Firmware | UGV Systems.”
The job title field scores highly on the LinkedIn search tools that recruiters use, so take advantage of the space available to tell recruiters a little more about each role.
De-emphasize or remove old and unrelated work experience.
Many of us have experience that is unrelated to our current goal. Some of our accomplishments at our jobs in the 1980s are phenomenal, yet technology has changed.
For example, my friend was the primary experimenter on an experiment that flew on the Space Shuttle several times. The Shuttle experiment was a triumph, but technology has moved on, so the profile should emphasize more recent projects.
Very few of us have contributed directly to the success of iconic projects like the Space Shuttle. Nonetheless, it’s difficult to let go of career highlights from 40 years ago. We want to look younger in our marketing materials.
Today, many of us have had more than one career. For example, I was on the staff at the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), and my friend was an attorney. Neither of us works in these fields anymore. We’re both proud of our work, and love to talk about it. The work should not be on our profiles, though, because it does not advance our current goals.
Eliminate obsolete skills.
Obsolete skills and technologies are a related issue. My buddy and I share a passion for radiotelegraphy, but commercial radiotelegraphy went out of existence in 1999. It’s not a viable employment skill, so it’s not on my profile, and I suggested my friend remove it from his profile.
Most of us do not have such dramatic examples of obsolete technologies on our profiles. Frequently, I see references to MS-DOS software, IBM mainframe computers, or photocopiers that are no longer used. These references give away our age and waste space.
Education is a key to success on LinkedIn.
I had a lengthy discussion with my buddy about whether his law degree should remain on his LI profile. We have decided his law degree should stay on the profile for three reasons:
- Recruiters search for specific schools,
- LinkedIn provides access to alumni groups for many major schools, and
- HR departments may take the highest earned degree into account when setting salaries.
Many of us have degrees that are unrelated, or tangentially related to our careers. For example, my degrees are in business and economics, but I have worked largely in public policy and social service organizations.
There are rare cases where I have agreed that credentials need not be included on a resume or profile. For example, I had a client that spent her junior year of college at Oxford University, and was admitted to the US Supreme Court Bar. We did not include either on her resume or profile because the Oxford education implied to some readers that she was a Rhodes’ Scholar. The Supreme Court Bar admission is usually granted only to those that have argued before the high court. My client was not a Rhodes Scholar and did not practice before the Supreme Court. She landed a dream job in less than a month without “gilding the lily.”
My philosophy with regard to education is “if you’ve got it, flaunt it” in most cases.
Get help with your resume and profile. Everyone’s career is different. Your career may not include new inventions and Space Shuttle experiments, but it will include accomplishments that were important for your job, and that demonstrate your unique value. Contact us here to discuss how we can help you display your accomplishments on paper and online.