Keep your shirt on: Dos and don’ts for that long-overdue update to your LinkedIn profile

First Hand: Leslie Hughes, LinkedIn profile writer, offers advice on how best to showcase your accomplishments Leslie Hughes, LinkedIn Specialist and Profile Writer, has some tips on what works on LinkedIn profile. Photo by Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg If you haven’t updated your LinkedIn since 2015 — seriously, I mean me, I just looked it up —…
Keep your shirt on: Dos and don’ts for that long-overdue update to your LinkedIn profile

First Hand: Leslie Hughes, LinkedIn profile writer, offers advice on how best to showcase your accomplishments

Leslie Hughes, LinkedIn Specialist and Profile Writer, has some tips on what works on LinkedIn profile. Photo by Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

If you haven’t updated your LinkedIn since 2015 — seriously, I mean me, I just looked it up — know that professionals like Leslie Hughes, LinkedIn specialist and profile writer, now exist to perfect your online CV with the same careful curation you’d use for eHarmony. But what’s really involved in a LinkedIn glow up? First Hand reached out and asked her.

FP Work: I can’t even believe how long it’s been since I updated my profile. Years and years.

Leslie Hughes: You are not alone and that’s why I love doing what I’m doing! Which, if I were to explain it simply at a party, which I never do, I’d say I help empower professionals and brands optimize their stories via social media channels. Really I make you look better on LinkedIn, because lots of people are just like you, that’s totally normal.

Leslie Hughes, LinkedIn specialist and profile writer. Photo by Courtesy Leslie Hughes

FP Work: I guess I set it up once and then never looked back. Is that bad?

LH: Well, it’s very common. A few years ago, LinkedIn was mostly for people who were actively looking for jobs. They joined, got a job, and then their profile was left just sitting there. Now the site’s changed into more of a networking thing, especially during the pandemic when we couldn’t network in person, but lots of people still aren’t quite sure how to use it best.

I’ve seen some bad profiles (photos). Even shirtless ones

Leslie Hughes, LinkedIn Specialist and Profile Writer

FP Work: Yeah, it’s awkward. Like, can I make a joke or not? Should I? I don’t know.

LH: Absolutely you can, most of the time. LinkedIn isn’t really fun like Facebook or Instagram is, and some people automatically have more fear of using it or, worse, of using it wrong. Because it’s a professional network, people are more wary and there’s hesitation of making a mistake in a professional capacity. LinkedIn keeps trying to make their site more interactive and fun, but the psychology of LinkedIn is just a bit different.

FP Work: I tend to think of LinkedIn as an oversharing would-be employee, but what about the boss?

LH: They tend to have the opposite problem, actually. I write a lot of profiles for senior executives who are recognizing they are forward-facing ambassadors and they need to open up to connect with their peers, staff or investors. My job then is to help them make an accessible profile, and the easiest way to do this is to break it down into easy bite-sized applicable items. The very first one is the headshot, which is what people see first and where they make their first impression.

FP Work: I feel like you might as well be talking about Tinder right now.

LH: One hundred per cent, because that’s how first impressions work wherever you are. An ideal profile photo is a professional headshot, if you can afford to invest in one, where you’re dressed for a business meeting, you’re looking into the camera and you’re smiling. The background should be clutter-free. I don’t want to shame anyone, but I’ve seen some bad profiles. Even shirtless ones.

FP Work: What’s next after the photo?

LH: That’s your headline, where you have 220 characters to tell me who you are. Ideally, include your current role, any big places you’ve worked or fancy roles you’ve held in the past, and a little tagline that tells me what you’re about. If you’re not sure what to say, think about telling your target audience who and how you help people.

FP Work: Mine doesn’t have any of that, I’m sorry to say.

LH: Have you ever thought about why? I can tell you it is so, so common for people, and specifically women, to really hold back here on their accomplishments. I hear, even from the most seasoned CEOs in the country, that they’re afraid of someone thinking, ‘Who the hell do they think they are?’ We all need to push right past that feeling. The whole point is to tell me who you think you are.

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FP Work: That’s the reason they’re reading the profile, no?

LH: Yes, it is. LinkedIn is literally about showcasing your accomplishments. This pushes lots of people out of their comfort zone. It’s not the last, I could go on forever, but the next thing to think about is the “About” section, which used to be called “Summary,” which should tell you something. Here, I want to hear what I call “resumé with personality.” If I’ve read this far, I know what you do and where you work, but here’s where I want to know what you’re about. Some people will say keep this short and sweet, others will say use every character, but my opinion is to be authentic. I’m chatty too, that’s OK.

FP Work: Any last advice for a LinkedIn profile that knocks employers socks off?

LH: Ironically, far more important than what you do is your why: What gets you excited in the morning about what you do? Why did you choose this field? They say people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. The best profiles try to capture and convey that passion.

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