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November 22, 2013
How to Optimize Professional Profiles Online and Why You Can’t Put It Off Any Longer
For many students and professionals looking for jobs, optimizing a professional profile on top networking sites has been that dreaded thing that you know you have to do, but you also know you can push back (over and over again). Unfortunately for you, I’m here to tell you that optimizing your account can’t be put on the back burner any longer.

Students, some as young as freshman, are already creating profiles to help build up those connections and recommendations, and some don’t even have a job yet. But they’re certainly preparing. Long story short, it’s never too early to start staying competitive in professional online networking by optimizing one or more profiles.

A Quick Overview: The Benefits of Optimizing Your Profile
Probably the biggest reason you want your profile ready to go is the fact that employers are using networking sites to find candidates or will search a candidate online after an interview or initial find (even if they didn’t find you online originally). A few other benefits include:
  • Networking is easy if your profile is optimized. Some sites will show you recommendations of people you might know. Once you connect with other professionals, your mutual connections will be able to find you more easily and you can stick out from the crowd. If you know person A and person B sees that, then person B is going to trust you and therefore be more interested in contacting you for future opportunities.
  • Finding jobs and applying for jobs is simple. The top professional sites do an excellent job alerting you to jobs in your field and area that might interest you, and you can oftentimes just apply right there with your profile as opposed to sending in a formal resume.
  • You stay connected with the latest news in your industry. If your profile is optimized, you should see great information on your feed that helps make sure you don’t miss a beat. On a site like Talent Zoo, subscribing to the newsletters will keep you in the loop with articles like this one, as well as job search tips, job listings, and industry news.
  • You can share your work, which you aren’t always able to do when you’re sending in a traditional resume. LinkedIn, for example, shows off tons of information about you — links to your projects, charitable work, organizations, recommendations, etc. — which helps show employers the full picture (if it’s optimized, of course). On a site like Talent Zoo, you can provide links to your online portfolio, LinkedIn profile, and projects or articles that are online within the resume itself.
So what about if you’re a student? As discussed above, some students are starting to fill out profiles before they even have a job. It might seem silly since professional networking sites are all about making connections with people you’ve worked with in the past, but it’s still a great place to start and a great time to become familiar with the site.

Throughout your time in school, you’re sure to hold a position or two that you would want to put on your resume, and you’re sure to meet people you want to stay connected with (professors, coaches, peers, etc.). Putting all of this on a profile is still going to be beneficial and keep you ahead of the game.

Tips and Tricks to Optimizing Your Profile
Before you can optimize your profile you have to have a profile (imagine that). For starters, you can learn how to get started setting up your profile for LinkedIn here. In most cases, people will simply upload their resume and then let the site do all of the work. While this is a great start, there are manual actions you need to take if you want a profile optimized.

Below are a few tips to optimizing your account:

1. Attach links and upload files. You have the option to attach a link and/or upload a file under each position you’ve listed. For example, because I’m a writer, I have linked to my company’s blog for all of the company’s I’ve worked for in the past. This gives employers an easy way to find my writing and get a feel for my company/past company. Under my summary section, I also uploaded my resume as a PDF in case someone wants to see my information in that form. 

2. Join groups. There are tons of different groups you can join. This will not only help you connect with others in your industry, but it shows employers that you’re involved in the community. You can also rearrange these groups so the most impressive are shown on your profile (and not after someone clicks “more”).

3. Ask for recommendations. Profiles with recommendations look good to employers; so don’t be afraid to ask for them from people you’ve worked with in the past. It’s easy to do and you could offer to return the favor.

4. Fill out all information. It might sound like a no-brainer, but there are many sections you have to manually fill out that people tend to ignore. This includes publications, languages, test scores, courses, patents, volunteering and causes, and certifications.

5. Follow Influencers. There is a section of LinkedIn that will show what influencers you’re following. Influencers are essentially just the big names in your industry, so show employers you know who they are and are keeping up with the information they share.

6. Share articles. You can share articles and different links that will show up in someone’s news feed as well as on your profile. These will constantly change, but it’s a good idea to always have something recent and relevant on your profile.

Aside from just optimizing your account, knowing how to really use the top professional networking sites will help you get the most from your experience. For example, you can see who has viewed your profile over the last few days (you can get the full list for a cost), and then use that information to connect with someone you know was interested. You can read this article to learn more about using LinkedIn to your advantage.

Do you have any tips for optimizing your professional profiles? Are you an employer who likes to see an optimized profile? Let us know your story and your thoughts in the comments below. 

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Amanda DiSilvestro is a graduate of Illinois State University. Although she graduated with an English Education degree, she found herself working as a full-time blogger at Highervisibility, nationally recognized as one of the best SEO companies in the country. Connect with HigherVisibility on Google+ and Twitter to learn more!
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