How to Quickly Update Your LinkedIn Profile

If you've put off updating your LinkedIn account for too long, don't despair. You can give it an easy but meaningful once-over just by focusing on these five key sections of your profile.
How to Quickly Update Your LinkedIn Profile
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This story originally appeared on PC Mag

At the beginning of the year, I asked people if they had any digital organization projects they've been putting off. Even the most productive people have something on their lists. A few people told me they really should update their LinkedIn profile. It's a task they know they should do, but who has the time?

If you're in a hurry to give your LinkedIn profile the once-over, there are five areas where you should focus your attention:

  1. Headline
  2. Photo
  3. Skills & Experience
  4. Location
  5. "Open to Recruiters" status

Updating these areas will give you the most bang for your buck, in terms of time. Below is a little more information explaining why these have high value and how you can make the most of them.

1. Write a headline that sells you

Your LinkedIn headline is the short statement that appears below your name. That headline is to a recruiter's search what an online headline is to SEO. The headline needs to say what you do or what you want to do. And it should hit those points using keywords.

Let's say you currently work as an editorial assistant at Jolly Magazine, but you have prior experience as an editor and writer. You want your career to move toward more writing and editing. Your headline should use the words "writer" and "editor."

Related: The 7 Deadly LinkedIn Sins

If, however, you want to push your career into covering local news, then you need to reflect that. "Writer and editor" might still fit, but you'll need to include "news" and "journalism" in there, too. You might end up with something like this:

Writer and Editor | Passionate about local news journalism

That headline has the right keywords, indicates where the person wants to take their career, and doesn't stretch the truth.

People who haven't updated their LinkedIn profiles in a while might have their current job title followed by a comma and then their employer or department name. That's fine, but it might leave out some of the keywords you want to use. What are the chances a recruiter is searching for an "editorial assistant at Jolly" versus "local news editor?" The words in your headline need to match the job you want.

2. Update your photo

Do you need to pay for a professional headshot for LinkedIn? No, you really don't.

Unless you work in photography, modeling, or acting, the headshot is something of a formality. A great profile picture won't get you an interview, but a terrible picture (inappropriate, creepy) could be the reason a recruiter weeds you out.

To take a photo, enlist the help or a friend or family member. Put on an appropriate shirt because it might show up in the final picture, and try to smile. A scowl or a creepy smirk isn't going to go over well. Go outside into natural daylight. Stand in front of a neutral background that doesn't cast any obvious shadows. Have your friend frame your head so that you get a little bit of your shoulders in the photo too. You can always crop it. Take at least 15 pictures, right from the outset. If you have 15, one of them is bound to be decent.

Related: The Underrated Power of LinkedIn Content Creation

To be fair, I have mixed feelings about using photos on LinkedIn at all. Before the internet era, job seekers in the US were told to never put their picture on a resume (though it's long been customary in other countries), much less other personal information such as marital status or birthdate. Those are all potential points of discrimination. Today, it's hard to get around the fact that anyone can try to find your photo and other details about you online. At least with LinkedIn, you are in control of the image that appears.

3. Punch up your keywords

Keywords appear in a few places on your LinkedIn profile. The most important place they appear is in your headline. The second most important place is in Skills & Endorsements.

The Skills & Endorsements area is nothing more than a list of keywords. When recruiters are hunting for candidates on LinkedIn, they enter requirements that the employer gives them. The requirements are usually a list of skills. So, to increase your chances of getting a job that lines up with your skills, make sure you hit all the top words that reflect your experience here. When you open this area to update it, LinkedIn suggests skills to you.

Because your skills here are keyword matches, be sure to list even the most obvious ones. Machines are reading them more than humans. If you're a programmer who has held four jobs as a programmer, you should still add "programming" to your skill set. You should also add the languages you use for programming.

Speaking of languages, if you're comfortable speaking, reading, or writing in more than one language, you can add them to your skills, too.

4. Open up your geography

LinkedIn requires you to say that you are somewhere. At a minimum, you have to name a country. Beyond that, how much information you enter is up to you.

If you're looking for work, it helps to give a specific location. In the US, you have to enter a ZIP code to get a list of possibilities. Depending on where you are, you might see the name of  a city, town, or county. If you're within the limits of a greater city area, like the Washington D.C. Metro area or Miami/Fort Lauderdale, choosing it instead of the city will help you cast a wider net.

Related: The Biggest Mistake You're Making on LinkedIn and What You Should Do Instead

If you currently live in one location and are planning to relocate to another where you're job-hunting, consider updating your location before you actually move. It can take months between the time an organization or recruiter expresses interest in a candidate and when they get a job offer or agree on a start date. You might as well get a two- or three-week jump start.

As you'll see in the next tip, you can indicate you're interested in jobs in other locations, but not in this "where you live" section.

5. Indicate you're open to recruiters

Announcing yourself as a prospective job candidate doesn't go over well when you're currently employed elsewhere. So LinkedIn has a setting you can turn on tells only recruiters on its site that you're open to being contacted about new opportunities. When you turn on this setting, no one else can see it, only people who have recruiter accounts.

Go to your profile and look just below your headline. When you click to enable this feature, LinkedIn asks for more information, including potential job titles and locations where you're willing to work. Here, you can add more locations besides the city and region near your ZIP code.

It also asks you to indicate "job type," meaning full-time, part-time, or contract work. Pay close attention to that last section, as it also contains an option for remote work. If you're interested in working from home—sometimes also called telework or telecommuting—be sure to opt in here.

Related: Why LinkedIn Direct Messaging Is Your Best New Sales Tool

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