When LinkedIn opened up its publishing platform in February to our members, many people jumped on the opportunity right away.
They were eager to make use of a powerful new tool to help define their professional profiles and share their expertise with people in their field and beyond. Consider my colleague Mike Gamson, who dived right in with a series of pithy posts, and David W. Andrews, a butler who talked about the evolution of that domestic role.
Others of us have regarded this swimming pool with a bit more trepidation. We like to get used to the temperature one toe at a time.
The fear is only natural. Maybe we don’t view ourselves as great writers? Maybe we write for a living, so the bar for an excellent post is very high? Or maybe we just want to say something brilliant enough to augment our sparkling professional profiles?
Or maybe it’s that nagging suspicion about the mediocrity of our LinkedIn profiles. A fellow mom at my daughter’s school said she was embarrassed to connect to me on LinkedIn, because she didn’t think her profile was good enough for me to see.
She’s not the only one.
Some of our members have confided that they’ve put off publishing on LinkedIn because they don’t feel their profiles are up to snuff and they want to spiff up first. That’s like waiting to plan a great beach vacation until you’ve lost five pounds.
In the interest of helping my fellow poolside professionals dive right in, here are a few quick fixes that anyone can and should do to improve their professional profile in less than 10 minutes:
- Tip 1: Tweak your settings before making changes. This is more of a pre-tip: We know a lot of you might be shy about making changes to your profiles for fear of inadvertently alerting your network to your edits. Don’t worry; this is easy to prevent. Simply turn off your activity broadcasts under privacy controls. While you’re at it, run through all the settings for your profile, communications, groups, and accounts to make sure everything is set just the way you want it. For instance, I can’t keep up with all my emails as it is, so I make sure I do not receive emails from group members or leaders.
- Tip 2: Definitely use the summary section. This is one of the most overlooked opportunities to establish your professional voice and credibility. Think of it as what you’d say about your career trajectory at a dinner party to someone you’d like to impress, or what you’d hope your friend might say about you when recommending you to someone else. A good rule of thumb is to make it 40 words or more. If you are looking for career opportunities, be sure to include keywords featured in a description of a desirable job in your field, as it will make your profile more likely to turn up in a potential employer’s search.
- Tip 3: Share some personality. This is not the 1980s, when the paper stock you chose for your resume actually mattered. In addition to the role descriptions and slots for outside activities (boards, interests, and volunteering and causes), you can convey a lot more about who you are as a person and who you might be as an employee. To quickly give your profile some pizzazz, visually enhance your professional story by adding slide decks, videos, and other projects to demonstrate the impact of your work, your company’s mission, or your team’s capabilities.
- Tip 4: Proofread, proofread, proofread. Though the tone can be informal and conversational, the spelling, grammar, and punctuation shouldn’t be sloppy. You should offer a well-written profile that reflects a well-put together professional«even more so if you’re in the communications field. Ask for help if you need a second set of eyes.
- Tip 5: Get a great profile picture. Our data shows that a strong headshot—full color and well lighted—is one of the best and fastest ways to improve your profile. It’s a lot like when you’re looking for a house to buy: If there’s no photo, you assume something’s wrong with the property. People like to put a face with a name. Make yours terrific.
With these few steps, you’ll be well on your way to a more enriching LinkedIn experience. You may even find yourself ready to start sharing news and your perspectives with your professional contacts. Let me know how the deep end feels.
A version of this article first appeared on LinkedIn.