In the age of personal brand marketing, it’s just not OK to let your LinkedIn profile sit collecting Internet dust until you’re ready to look for your next job.
If your profile isn’t current, or if it communicates indifference, not only are you likely missing career-transforming opportunities, but you could also be giving people the wrong impression. Most important for marketers, a stale profile means you’re losing out on the chance to build thought leadership clout and keep your company’s brand top of mind.
Here are seven reasons your LinkedIn profile might be coming across as a social media mess.
1. Your headshot was taken at a BBQ.
Your LinkedIn photo should make potential employers or business partners feel comfortable with you immediately. Would you show up for a business meeting, beer in hand? Would you wear a strapless party dress? Not likely. Your photo should express “relaxed and at ease,” yes, but make it an energetic, in-your-element, confidence-exuding ease.
The only thing worse than an unprofessional photo is no photo at all. A profile page with a picture is seven times more likely to be viewed than a page without one. So put on your favorite (work) outfit, grab a friend you trust, think of a great moment from your last vacation, and get some good shots of yourself. It’ll be worth it.
2. Your profile is missing the basics.
Uploading your resume to LinkedIn is just a start—but it’s a critical start. If you haven’t included recent job history and education, your profile says loud and clear: “I’m not really serious about this LinkedIn thing yet.”
Try this: Do a quick Internet search of three colleagues. Do their LinkedIn profiles show up near the top of the list? What happens when you search for yourself? Are you happy with the results? LinkedIn profiles tend to be indexed highly on all the major search engines, which means that your profile is much more than an online resume—it’s your professional identity.
3. Your last update was a tribute to Steve Jobs.
An active page is an effective page. To gain traction with co-workers, peers, and future employers, you have to share on a regular basis. Status updates show up on the home page feeds of everyone in your network, so updating frequently is an easy way to keep your name (and your brand) in their field of vision. Share information that’s helpful, educational, inspiring, and sometimes entertaining. Keep your updates generally upbeat and relevant to your field of expertise, and post regularly.
4. You have no recommendations.
When you find a mobile app that looks great, but no one has recommended it yet, do you download it, or do you move on to something with 36 five-star reviews?
You probably feel better paying $1.99 for something at least a few people like, right? Same goes for recommendations on LinkedIn. When people vouch for you on your profile, it might not make or break a potential employer’s decision to contact you, but it’ll raise her comfort level.
LinkedIn has made the recommendation process beautifully painless. Yes, you should still speak to anyone you’re requesting a recommendation from, or at least write a personal note. But emphasize that you respect that person’s time. Recommendations are meant to be concise. Each should take only about 10 minutes to write. Request a recommendation within a couple of weeks after completing successful projects, and they’ll accumulate in no time.
5. You aren’t engaging.
Business is social. Hiding out in a cubicle for eight hours a day without speaking to the people around you has never been a good career choice, and it’s not a good move to behave that way online, either.
LinkedIn has made it supremely simple to connect socially with people inside and outside your immediate circle. “Liking,” commenting, and sharing are all great ways to network, get on the radar of influential folks in your space, and stay in touch with colleagues near and far.
Plus, with LinkedIn’s mobile app, you can access the latest news and topics that are hot with your network and the companies you follow, share instantly, as well as direct message your connections, including prospects and clients—from anywhere.
6. You don’t belong to any groups.
LinkedIn Groups act as social networking hot spots that many members can’t imagine doing without. So, if you haven’t yet joined a group, give it a spin. It’s a great way to get noticed, share and collect ideas for marketing and content efforts, and build thought leadership.
Just as with your local PTA or Chamber of Commerce, the LinkedIn groups you join and participate in can act as badges of honor. I mean, who doesn’t want to show up as a top contributor of a popular, influential group? Be proud of the organizations you represent or belong to, and check in with them often.
7. You’re not showing off your treasure.
This one may be new to you, so listen up. You can now showcase a rich media portfolio on your LinkedIn profile: Slideshare decks, infographics, videos, e-books, and more. We call it “building your treasury,” because this is where it’s OK to show off all the gems you’ve designed and produced throughout your professional life.
Whether you’re a chef, makeup artist, marketer, or journalist, you can now house all your important work in the place that makes the most sense: your LinkedIn profile. Here are some great examples.
If you’re hiding a hot career behind a messy LinkedIn profile, it’s time to make some changes and take control. Take these lessons to heart, and you’ll build a personal brand that is worthy of your past endeavors, and that can help you land the next sizzling opportunity to come your way.
This article first appeared on Ragan.com in Dec. 2013.