The 2 Most Important Profile Parts
The first thing people see when browsing their list of returned search results on LinkedIn is your photo & headline. These two profile pieces make up your first impression to the outside world, so they're worth spending time on. While fairly easy to set-up, the photo and headline can just as easily be overlooked so take some time to carefully craft both. This message you are communicating is your professional brand and will determine how you are perceived by hiring managers and recruiters through your career.
Your Headline Strategy
Most people tend to think of the LinkedIn headline as the perfect place for a job title but this is not entirely correct. Since job titles vary from one company / industry to the next, they tend to tell the reader very little in terms of what you actually do, making for a potentially confusing brand. As I mentioned, your goal with the headline is to communicate immediately what you do and what you're all about so avoid sticking just to titles if you do not want to leave your reader confused. You should also incorporate a description with your title that paints a picture for the reader of exactly what you do.
The Basics: Characters, Sentences, Phrases & That Sleek Separator Line
LinkedIn allows 120 characters for the headline and places specific importance on the keywords in your headline in terms of how you'll be returned in search results. Therefore you'll want to max out the character limit so that you are taking full advantage of your strategic keywords. Do not worry about forcing complete sentences if they do not fit. It's perfectly fine to use short phrases or words using the separator line "|" to create a more high-impact easy-to-scan headline. (The separator line is located below the delete key on your keyboard using Shift + backslash).
What to Write
Think of the headline as a condensed version of your elevator pitch. In less characters than a tweet you want to communicate: who you are, what you do, results you've produced & credibility or proof. This may seem near impossible but it's actually quite simple if you're focused on who you're trying to attract to your profile. One way to do this is by putting yourself in the hiring manager's shoes. If you were trying to hire the best person for the job, what would they do and what results / credentials would stand out as being impressive at first glance? For example if you're hiring to be hired as a social media marketer in the non-profit space, your hiring manager is looking for strong social media results and thinking of their limited budget. Your headline might look something like this:
"Social Media & Digital Marketer driving successful campaigns on a tight budget. 500% increase in ROI in the past 6 months."
If you're hiring to be notified as an executive assistant, your target hiring manager is reasonably looking for someone who can multi-task, maintain order in a busy office and understands what it means to support an executive. You might consider a headline like this:
"Executive Assistant | Right Hand to CEO & VPs | Flawless Office Organization & Administrative Duties | Complex Scheduling"
Notice how these titles immediately communicate value? I'll break these headlines down further to explain each part.
Who You Are
"Social Media & Digital Marketer" speaks to who this person is as a professional. The easiest way to communicate this is your job title or a leader industry / profession title. For example if your title is "Social Media Marketer," adding "Digital" into the mix will help to ensure that you are picked up in the right category searches. Research other common titles for what you do and try incorporating so so that you are catering to a wider variety of search terms. For example: Executive Assistant | Coordinator Administrative Assistant
What You Do
While some titles may be more than obvious in telling someone what you do, you still want to share specifics to guide the reader in the direction of your professional value. For example, "Social Media Marketer" does not offer insight into the day to day value this person brings to the organization, but "driving successful campaigns on a tight budget," gives me a very clear picture of what this person is working on . Think about your tasks as well as big picture vision for your role and what makes you valuable to your manager (or future manager).
Results You've Produced
Leading with your results is always the best move when it comes to your professional marketing materials (resume, cover letter). The best way to communicate results is through numbers or metrics. In the Social Media Marketer example, "driving successful campaigns" is backed up by the fact that this Marketer increased ROI by 500% over several months. Results are important because they tell the reader that you not only can do the job but you are actually quite good at what you do. (There's a big difference between doing something and doing something well). If you're not sure about your results or have not produced any yet, try to incorporate language that speaks to your skill around various tasks. The Executive Assistant example is what you want to aim for in this case.
Proof of Credibility
If you're looking for ways to stand out and speak to proof of your credibility around a certain skill or industry, be sure to include certificates, specialized degrees (ie MBA, CPA) and recognizable rewards or accolades. For example if you're a blogger who's been featured on a major website or publication, work that into your headline. Your first impression and level of credibility is vastly different when you go from "Blogger" to "Blogger featured on Mashable."
Keep it Fresh
Professional branding is one of those career management activities that can take relatively little time but does require ongoing maintenance in order to keep your brand current, relevant and aligned to your end goal. It's important that your branding not be left to go stale. Do not be afraid to try out new headlines and continuously tweak as your career goals change. This way you will always be appearing in the right places and more likely to be considered for the right opportunities.