How to Create Effective and Professional Online Profiles

Online networking for a job search has opened the floodgates for professional online profiles — the kind you place on networking sites like LinkedIn and Facebook. You want an edge over countless competitors who are taking the leap to posting their profiles online.

Here are several ways to gain a competitive edge:

  • Establish your expertise: Focus the content on your professional expertise, benefits, and accomplishments. Be sure to include your current and past employment, education, and industry. Skip personal information, such as date of birth and marital status. Scatter relevant keywords throughout your profile for the search engines.

  • Captivate your audience: Create an opening summary that sells. Size up what’s important to employers in your sights by studying job ads, and then write a list of your matching experience, competencies, skills, and education; load them into your summary.

  • `Write outside the box: Avoid clichés and work hard to paint fresh word pictures that help readers understand your specialness. Use specifics. Be authentic. And within the bounds of business communication, write like you talk.

  • Rightsize, not supersize: Set your sights on making your profile neither too long nor too short. There’s no rule about exact profile length. Make every word sell you.

  • Write robust headlines: Another secret to successful profile writing is the power headline! It’s the headline that pulls you into the profile. Following is a good example:

    Experienced Executive helping accelerate technology to market

  • Don’t oversell your versatility: Some people make the mistake of cobbling together their qualifications and come off looking like jacks of all trades (but masters of none). Employers usually look for specialists, not generalists. (An exception is the mini-business where the workforce must wear more than one hat.)

  • Don’t overdo self-praise: Hold back on empty adjectives like superior, exclusive, outstanding, and so forth when you describe your skills or qualities. Without backing up your claims, no one believes them anyway. Factually explain how you made or saved money for the company. How you delivered on a goal. How you received top marks for performance.

    You’re more likely to be believed when you include comments on your work from others, such as coworkers, bosses, and customers.

  • Don’t regurgitate your resume: Include data in your profile that will help you get an interview. A cultural fit with the employer is key; add such information as your participation in amateur sports (competitiveness), five favorite books (thinking quality); and civic service organizations (community-orientation), for instance. Politics? No, unless you’re applying to a political party. Religious affiliation? No, unless you’re applying to a church or ministry.

  • Don’t be a victim to perilous posting: Don’t post anything you don’t want an employer to see. Treat a Facebook or LinkedIn page with the care you give a resume.

    Treat all personal identity information like a classified document to keep the identity thieves away. Don't put your home address, social security number, driver’s or professional license numbers, or family information in your profile. Restrict contact information to your phone number and e-mail, and, if you have one, a post office box address.

  • Don’t play hide and seek: In choosing where to park your profile, be visible and be selective. Start with one or two sites, adding others only when you see a clear and present payback for the considerable time you spend actively networking.

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