When it comes to job searching, networking can make or break your efforts. But there's no rule stating that networking must be done in person. In fact, thanks to LinkedIn, you can network your way to a new role by browsing profiles and connecting with the right people. But while LinkedIn is certainly a great resource, countless users make the mistake of not maximizing their profiles, thus potentially costing themselves a variety of opportunities. Here are some common profile blunders -- blunders you should avoid at all costs.
1. Using an unprofessional picture
The photograph associated with your LinkedIn profile doesn't have to be a professional head shot of you in a business suit. On the other hand, you in a swimsuit catching some rays is hardly appropriate, either. Ideally, your LinkedIn profile picture should feature you and you alone; there are other forums for you to show off your kids, dog, or better-looking spouse. Furthermore, while you don't need to be photographed in a suit and tie, you should aim to look reasonably polished in that photo. Finally, don't be afraid to smile. You should look like the sort of person who enjoys what he or she does, and frankly, a smiling photograph is more inviting.
2. Featuring uninspired recommendations
One of the nice things about LinkedIn is that it allows you to feature recommendations from your contacts on your profile. This can be an efficient means of communicating things about yourself without having to come off as boastful. That said, stay away from bland, cliche-filled recommendations, because they could actually end up hurting you. Case in point: Someone looking at your profile might read a boilerplate endorsement and assume that you had to beg the writer to do it.
What does an uninspired recommendation look like? It'll often go something like: "Kevin really thinks outside the box and pushes boundaries. He's a true go-getter and team player."
A better bet? "One of the great things about working with Kevin is getting access to the novel ideas his mind spits out. Kevin isn't afraid to try new things and play around with fresh solutions to age-old problems. And he's always willing to jump in and help others."
If you're Kevin, the latter recommendation is far more unique and flattering. And the fact that it doesn't sound auto-generated helps as well.
3. Writing a boring personal description
Your LinkedIn profile should allow your personality to shine through -- so don't sell it short. When describing yourself in your profile summary, avoid buzz words like "detail-oriented" and "motivated." Instead, give a bold, in-your-face description of who you are and what you bring to the table.
For example, if you're applying for a marketing copywriter role, you might start with something like: "Fearless wordsmith with a strategic mind looking to make his mark." It'll get more attention than "driven copywriter with solid experience seeking a new marketing role."
4. Not including samples of your best work
Another great feature of LinkedIn is that it allows you to feature your best work on your profile, if applicable. This means that if you're a writer, graphics person, or Web designer, you have a real opportunity to show off your talent rather than just talk about it. So if you just published a thought-provoking article, link to it. If your product designs were recently featured in an online catalog, link there as well.
If you're going to create and maintain a LinkedIn profile, it pays to approach it strategically. Avoid these mistakes, and with any luck, that profile will open all of the right doors for you.