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How to Write the Summary for Your LinkedIn Profile

Your LinkedIn profile Summary section, which appears in the top third of your profile, should give any reader a quick idea of who you are, what you've accomplished, and most importantly, what you're looking for on LinkedIn.

Some people think of their summary as their “elevator pitch,” or their 30-second introduction of themselves that they tell to any new contact. Other people think of their summary as simply their resume summary, which gives a high-level overview of their experience and job goals. Each summary is as individual as the person writing it.

You should always keep in mind what your professional or career goals are, and what kind of image, or brand, you are trying to portray in support of those goals.

LinkedIn divides the Summary section into two distinct parts:

  • Your professional experience and goals: This is typically a one-paragraph summary of your current and past accomplishments and future goals.

  • Your specialties in your industry of expertise: This is a list of your specific skills and talents. It is separate from your professional experience in that this section allows you to list specific job skills as opposed to the daily responsibilities or accomplishments from your job that you would list in the professional experience and goals paragraph.

Other core elements of your LinkedIn profile are stored in the Basic Information section. Be sure to polish these elements so they reflect well on you:

  • Your name: Believe it or not, defining your name properly can positively or negatively affect your LinkedIn activity. Because people are searching for you to connect to you, it's important that LinkedIn knows any sort of variations, nicknames, maiden names, or former names that you may have held, so be sure you correctly fill in your First, Last, and Former/Maiden name fields.

    Also, LinkedIn allows you to choose a display name of your first name and last initial, in case you want to keep your name private from the larger LinkedIn community outside of your connections.

    You can also include your middle name in the First Name field, which is highly recommended if you have a common name (for example, John Smith) so people can find the “right you” when searching.

  • Your professional headline: Think of this as your job title. It is displayed below your name on LinkedIn, in search results, in connections lists, and on your profile. Therefore, you want a headline that grabs people's attention. Some people put their job titles; other people add some colorful adjectives and include two or three different professions.

    Don't overload your headline with too many titles, keywords, or unrelated job skills. Although the headline does not have to be a complete sentence, it should read well and make sense. You're not scoring points with a Google search here — that's what your entire profile is for.

  • Your primary location and industry of experience: As location becomes a more important element when networking online, LinkedIn wants to know your main location so it can help identify connections close to you. Then, LinkedIn provides a list of industries you can choose from to indicate your main industry affiliation.

Before you update your summary on LinkedIn, write it out, using a program like Microsoft Word so that you can easily copy and paste it. This allows you to organize your thoughts, decide the right order of your statements, and pick and choose the most important statements to put in your summary.

Of course, the goals of your summary should be the same as your goals for using LinkedIn. After all, your summary is the starting point for most people when they read your profile. As you write your summary, keep these points in mind:

  • Be concise. Remember, this is a summary, not a 300-page memoir of your life. Most summaries are one paragraph long, with a separate paragraph to list your skills and/or specialties. Give the highlights of what you've done and are planning to do. Save the detailed information for when you add your individual employment positions to your profile.

  • Pick three to five of your most important accomplishments. Your profile can have lots of detail regarding your jobs, skill sets, education, and honors, but your summary needs to reflect the three to five items throughout your career that you most want people to know. Think of it this way: If someone were introducing you to another person, what would you want this new person to know about you?

    Depending on your goals for LinkedIn, the accomplishments you put in your summary might not be your biggest accomplishments overall. For example, if you're trying to use LinkedIn to get a new job, your summary should include accomplishments that matter most to an employer in your desired field.

  • Organize your summary in a who, what, goals format. Typically, the first sentence of your summary should be a statement of who you are currently, meaning your current profession or status; for example, “Software project manager with extensive experience in Fortune 500 firms.” The next few sentences should focus on what you've done so far in your career, and the end of your summary should focus on your goals.

  • Use the right keywords in your summary. Keywords are especially important if you're looking for a new job or hoping to pick up consulting work. Although you should use a few keywords in your professional experience paragraph, you should really use all the appropriate keywords for skills you've acquired when you write the Specialties section of your summary. Potential employers scan that section looking for the right qualifications.

  • Be honest with your specialties, but don't be shy. Your Specialties section is your opportunity to list any skill or trade you feel you've learned and demonstrated with some ability. You should list any skill or specialty that you believe puts you above the level of a novice or pure beginner.

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