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10 Common LinkedIn Mistakes

Sometimes, it's easier to learn what to do by covering exactly what not to do. Read on to explore some of the most common mistakes LinkedIn users make, so you can learn from them and avoid making them yourself.

Don't make spelling or grammatical errors in your profile

Even with the spelling and grammar checks built into our word processors, it can be easy to make an error when putting together your LinkedIn profile, especially in the Summary or Experience section. Proofread each section of your LinkedIn profile before you post it, and ask your friends to look it over as well. The worst way to make a first impression with recruiters or hiring managers is to have them find a simple mistake and doubt your job skills going forward.

Don't rely solely on the spell checker when it comes to finding spelling errors. Even if there's no spelling mistakes, you might have used a word that implies the wrong meaning.

Don't forget to add a good profile photo

While other social media sites are big on posting lots of photos, LinkedIn recommends posting only one photo: your profile photo. (Unless, of course, you're a photographer posting a portfolio of your pictures.) Remember this mantra: Facebook is for sharing your personal pictures; LinkedIn is for sharing your professional identity.

Why is it so important to include a professional-looking profile photo? First, people are much more likely to be interested in finding out more about you if you include a photo. In fact, according to LinkedIn spokeswoman Nicole Williams, "profiles with images are seven times more likely to be viewed than those without one." Recruiters are also more likely to skip over search results of a profile that does not include a photo.

Second, if you include a photo that's not professional or paints an unflattering picture of you, it could have a negative effect on your networking activity. When Carol Mendelsohn was looking to hire someone by creating a list of recommended hires to pass along to management, she found several LinkedIn users who posted unprofessional pictures of themselves as their profile photo, which discouraged her from selecting them to go further in the hiring process. "If this is the face they want to portray to the world, what kind of employee would they make?"

Last, you should post a recent head shot, so when you meet your contacts in person, they aren't surprised by a picture that doesn't match the real person they meet. Your LinkedIn photo is part of your identity, and giving someone false expectations doesn't set the stage for a quality connection. Your profile photo should convey the right message about you to your professional network.

Don't send connection requests to everyone

It's tempting to want to expand your LinkedIn network from the comfort of your keyboard, but blindly sending out connection requests to anyone with an interesting title and trying to build a large quantity of connections is one of the quickest ways to get your LinkedIn account suspended or even deleted.

That said, you don't have to restrict your efforts to just a few lifelong friends. If you're going to send a connection request to someone new, consider using an introduction through an existing connection first, or include a personal message explaining why you want to connect with this person. If too many people click "I don't know this person" or "This is spam" when you send them a connection request, LinkedIn will step in and take action.

Don't forget to make updates to your profile

One way to make a bad impression on people is to have a LinkedIn profile that hasn't been updated in years, or to put out zero status updates in a long period of time. While LinkedIn is not designed to be a constantly updating social network like Facebook or Twitter, your objectives, goals, and progress should change over time, and that affects your professional brand.

On a regular basis, take a look at your LinkedIn profile, and make sure everything is updated. Don't forget to add new positions to your Experience section once you feel comfortable doing so, and add relevant past positions if they're not already present. Add any honors, special recognitions that you've received, and any unique achievements in the appropriate section.

Be sure to use the Status Update function to let people know about your professional goals and accomplishments, or to share interesting or relevant information. You can also show activity by responding to or commenting on other people's status updates or participating in one or more LinkedIn Groups. You can also tie your LinkedIn and Twitter accounts together so your tweets show up on your LinkedIn profile as status updates.

Don't wait until you're unemployed to really use LinkedIn

There's a huge perception out there that LinkedIn is only useful when you're looking for a job. This is far from the truth, but because of this perception, some people are afraid to use LinkedIn to build their profile or network because they think doing so will tell their colleagues, "Uh, oh, this person is thinking of leaving."

The reality is it takes time to build a good profile and a quality network. The best time to do it is when you're employed, when you are working with existing connections and have time to send out connection requests and build a thorough profile, not when you're rushed or panicked to find a new job.

Think of it this way: You save up money for a rainy day or an emergency situation. Build your LinkedIn profile now, establish your connections now, and stay active on LinkedIn now, so that when you really need LinkedIn, you'll be ready to go and can spend your time doing what's necessary and not scrambling to catch up. You'll find that there are lots of good reasons and times to "really use LinkedIn."

Don't forget to use the right keywords

With over 250 million members on LinkedIn, most recruiters, hiring managers, and users find people on LinkedIn predominantly through the Search function, which means they type in keywords to find someone. Those keywords need to be present on your LinkedIn profile for your name to come up in those results.

Make sure the right keywords — especially those that apply to your specific field or job position — appear in at least one area on your profile:

  • Your Summary section

  • Your Skills & Experience list

  • Your Current or Past Positions descriptions

  • Your Education section

If you're wondering whether you're using the right keywords, take a look at similar LinkedIn users' profiles, job listings in your field, or articles about trends in your industry.

Don't lie on your profile

Some people wonder if they can "fudge" certain details on their LinkedIn profile — whether it's a past position or degree they never had, a skill that they really don't have, or a reference they never met. With LinkedIn, everything is cataloged and connected. Recruiters or hiring managers use LinkedIn to contact potential references even if you don't provide them, to see if you worked at a company you list on your profile.

If you list a skill on your LinkedIn profile, you could be tested or questioned about it right away. If you use someone's name, LinkedIn users could be connected via the LinkedIn network, and could contact that person via LinkedIn immediately. It's much quicker to be caught in a lie with LinkedIn than on your resume, so think very carefully before you include something on your profile.

Don't ask too much of your new connections

An episode of the TV show Seinfeld dealt with a new acquaintance of Jerry Seinfeld's who asked Jerry to help him move, which Jerry felt was "too soon" in their relationship. You wouldn't ask strangers to help you move (for free, anyway) so don't ask your new LinkedIn connections for too much, either.

Some users are tempted to make a connection, and then immediately ask that new connection to introduce them to the person's entire network. Others may immediately ask a new connection to write them a recommendation, or to recruit that person to subscribe to a business newsletter. These actions are just quick ways to encourage people to remove themselves as your connections, and possibly report you to LinkedIn as abusing the system.

Don't forget to customize your LinkedIn profile url

You want to advertise your LinkedIn profile in your communications, and the best way to do that is with a customized URL that reflects your name or business name, not the default string of numbers that are assigned to your account when you join LinkedIn. People who use LinkedIn may wonder about your seriousness if you don't take the few minutes required to set up a more proper URL.

To customize your LinkedIn URL, just follow these steps:

  1. Hover your mouse over the Profile link in the top navigation bar and then click Edit Profile from the drop-down list that appears.

  2. Below your profile picture, you should see a URL that starts with www.linkedin.com/in/. Click the Edit link next to that URL.

  3. The Public Profile page should load. Scroll down until you see the Your Public Profile URL header along the right side of the screen.

  4. Click the Customize Your Public Profile URL link. This opens up a text box where you can enter your own custom URL. You have 5 to 30 characters to define your custom URL. Most people use a combination of their first and last names. You can enter letters and numbers only. You cannot use spaces, symbols, or any special characters.

  5. Click the blue Set Custom URL button to save your entry and change your LinkedIn profile URL. After this point, your old URL is no longer functional, so make sure you update any references that include your LinkedIn URL.

Don't forget that you are your brand

Everything about you on LinkedIn, from your profile to your network to your updates, is part of your overall brand identity. Be consistent in that brand, and make sure that everything you do on LinkedIn is consistent with the brand you want to promote. Is your profile consistent with your resume? Is your profile consistent with what your connections know about you? Are you using the same writing style throughout your profile? Are the skills you mention reflected in your current and past positions? Are you sharing status updates or information that is relevant to what you do or your interests?

This is especially crucial when you are looking for a job. You want two messages to be crystal-clear to people who look you up on LinkedIn: what you can provide, and how you can solve their problems. The more these messages overlap and appear consistent — throughout your profile, in your status updates and communications, and in other people's endorsements, recommendations, and mentions of you — the better your chances of landing that job.

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