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How to create an effective LinkedIn Profile

You reach out to people with your CV. But you attract people to you by projecting your personal brand and value with your LinkedIn profile.

Here are some key steps in creating an informative and powerful profile:

1. Let them see your face. Social media is just that: social. Images are at its heart, and you therefore want to include a great, close-up of your smiling face filling most of the frame. Your background should show a tasteful contrasting colour, and there should be no other object, person or pet who would compete with your face for attention. You don't necessarily need a formal shot, but you should appear as a professional.

2. Tell who you are. Somewhere along the line, you will come up as a third-degree connection in someone else's search results. LinkedIn stopped letting non-paying members see the name of third degrees, but you can easily remedy this. Begin your Background / Summary section with your name, on a line all of its own. Depending on your comfort level, you may want to also provide a personal address that you use exclusively for job-hunting, so that those who have a legitimate reason may contact you directly.

3. Own your experience. Include all your professional and educational roles, along with dates, in your experience section. You thereby can find and be easily found by anyone who overlapped with you at any of your previous employers or schools.

4. Convey your successes, not your responsibilities. Lots of people likely have or have had similar responsibilities to yours in one company or another. Listing your responsibilities just lumps you in with everyone else. You distinguish yourself by conveying what is unique to you.

With each position, explain how you confronted your responsibilities, what you did, how you did it, what obstacles you overcame and the results you achieved. 

5. Remember that social means personal. While you would never use "I" on a CV, and only sparingly in a cover letter, it is fine to speak in the first person on LinkedIn. And, by all means, avoid referring to yourself in the impersonal third person: "Mister," "Miss," "he" or "she."

6. Gain credibility with references. LinkedIn's "Endorsements" feature has yet to show substantial value for job hunters. By contrast, a solid well-written reference is precious. When people recommend you, their words appear in your profile, and are commonly searched by recruiting sourcers and hiring mangers.

It is well worth approaching former supervisors, co-workers, clients and customers who can relate something specific about your qualities, skills and value. Make it easy for them by structuring your request with reminders like this:

"Dear XXX, remembering that we worked together at ABC company on the project in 2003, I hope you would write a recommendation for me that would show my involvement and contributions doing XYZ. As you recall, our team was singled out for our achievements of … and I would love to have that highlighted as well. Thanks in advance!"

7. Gain credit by association. LinkedIn groups are prolific, and you can be a member of 50 of them at any one time. Each group has its own logo, and can appear in the "Groups" section of your profile. By joining prominent industry, professional and skill-set based groups you can subtly suggest: "this the professional that I am, even without a job."

While it is a great idea to join groups that focus on job search, to avoid appearing desperate you may not want to show more than a couple of these kinds of groups on your profile. Within each group, you can adjust whether or not to display that group's logo by going into the "Your Settings" choice on the "More…" menu.