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Once upon a time, professionals like you would call or write to your peers and colleagues and ask them for their thoughts, feedback, and expertise. Fast-forward to today's digital world and you can effortlessly search for more comprehensive information that is readily available at your fingertips from your laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

If someone were to be seeking insight about you as a professional in 2014 they would likely Google your name. Try it and see what happens. If you have a LinkedIn profile it will show up as one of the first three search results. What will the person searching see? Your Personal Digital Portfolio and your Online Professional Brand.

You've heard the saying a million times, "You don't get a second chance at a first impression". With this knowledge, shouldn't you present yourself in the most positive light possible? With an Optimized LinkedIn profile you can. Here's how:

1. Your Photo

This is not the place for a cropped picture of you from a wedding or meeting. Unless you are a veterinarian your dog shouldn't be in the picture. Instead have a professional photographer take a shoulders-up photo of you against a solid background (we prefer white). Wear the same style clothing you would at a first meeting. One last thing...Smile and look engaging!

2. Your Headline



LinkedIn defaults this section to your most recent position title. Actually this should be your 'headline'. As the number one most searchable part of your profile, this small section needs to be created strategically. Use all 120 characters available to describe yourself, using words as if someone were to be searching for you and/or your capabilities via LinkedIn's Advanced Search.

3. Contact Info

First, customize your profile URL and add it to your business cards, email signature, promotional material, and wherever you have your business website listed.
Also, remember to add all contact info in this section including your email, phone number, location, Skype and Twitter addresses and your websites, which can be custom labeled. Make it easy for a potential business opportunity to reach you.

4. Summary

Written in the first person, this is where you communicate your personal business story. Exhibit the passion you have for your work. The reader should feel compelled to learn more about you. Next, prequalify prospects by describing your ideal clients. To use a website term, make your profile "sticky" so that the reader will want to stay and continue to look through your profile. Always include a 'call to action' in every free form writing section on your Profile, which will remind the reader why they need to contact you.

5. Experience

List all relevant positions you've held and include a brief description of each. You may use 100 characters for your title line; therefore you should creatively add keywords and phrases to increase your chances of being found for business opportunities.

6. Add Media and Documents

LinkedIn says it best, "Don't Just Say It. Display It." Illustrate your achievements and display content, photos, videos, presentations, documents and audio by imbedding these items into your summary, experience and education sections. Instead of your profile reading as a resume, it will now be seen as your professional portfolio. Link and attach all items that will enhance your personal brand.

7. Add Relevant Sections

LinkedIn allows you to add sections designed to enhance your involvement inside and outside of work. Include Projects you're working on, Publications including blogs and newsletters, Volunteer Experience and Causes you support, Organizations in which you are a member, Honors and Awards you've received, Additional Info for contacting you and your Personal Interests. These sections help you become more relatable to your prospects and connections.

8. Skills

By populating your skills section, you are providing further insight into you as a valued resource. Your connections may feel compelled to endorse you for these skills further adding to your credibility.

9. Recommendations

Having your LinkedIn connections speak on your behalf is much more powerful than you speaking about yourself. A written recommendation is your Social Proof (the manner by which peoples' opinions are formed). Each recommendation may be aligned with the position you held while the person worked with you and they are imbedded into your profile. References available upon request are no longer necessary since they will appear within your profile for everyone to see.

A comprehensive LinkedIn Profile is your gateway to business opportunities.

Contributed by Ira Bass of Connect to Success


Larry Hart

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