Along with the Photo and Headline, the Profile Summary is the third of the three most important parts of the Profile. Because it holds a lot of power it also causes a lot of stress. It’s a blank canvas of 2,000 characters and there are many different approaches you can take to communicate with your reader. That freedom, however, also means that there isn’t a clearly defined process for creating a great Summary.
Add to this the fact that many professionals are uncomfortable writing about themselves, and you have a situation where very little time is spent on the Summary This is unfortunate, because it’s an opportunity to have your message broadcast to everyone, everywhere, all the time. It’s like having an elevator speech that’s on 24 hours a day. Consider that your Profile visitor could be the ideal contact; your Summary is your chance to speak directly to them. What you share online should mirror what you would say in the offline world if you met that person at a conference or cocktail reception.
If you’re not a writer, this can seem daunting, but a step by step approach will help make this a relatively painless process. The goal is to find a balance between giving people adequate information while not overwhelming them. They didn’t come to LinkedIn because they were looking for a full autobiography, but they do want to find out more about you.
The 3 Profile Summaries You DON’T Want!
Walking that line is the difference between a Summary that just exists and one that actually drives business. When looking at how to create a great summary, it helps to start by looking at what NOT to do on your summary. There are three BIG mistakes that people make all the time. You’re going to see a lot of these examples as you go around the LinkedIn site. My goal is to make sure you’re not one of these people.
1. You’ll find professionals that skip the summary completely – it’s blank. They are losing out on a powerful way of influencing their visitor and it says one of a few things about the person, and none of them are good. It says: I don’t know what to say about myself because I’m not clear about my business role, I’m not confident enough to write about myself, I’m too overwhelmed by other things to think about LinkedIn, or I’m not current with trends in business (i.e. social media) so I don’t want to spend time with LinkedIn.
No matter the reason these Profiles are missing out on a huge opportunity and they are creating a negative impression on their visitors.
2. I also see a lot of the resume imports. These are the people that have just cut/pasted from the Objective section on their resume. It’s often filled with phrases like detail-oriented, results-focused, and team player. No one speaks “resume” in the real world and you shouldn’t on your LinkedIn profile. Not only are you communicating poorly, but if someone looks at your profile they might think you’re looking for a new gig… and not committed to doing good work where you currently are.
3. The opposite of the blank summary is the one where someone just throws up every piece of information about their professional career. It’s usually overwhelming, chaotic, and long. These are not good adjectives to describe your online presence. People take one quick look at a long summary and tune out. They aren’t at your LinkedIn profile for your life story, so be concise. People don’t read online, they scan. Make the important information easily accessible.
The first step to avoiding these mistakes is to keep your overall strategy in mind. By considering your target audience, the message you want to send them, and the business goals you are currently focused on, you will have a clear direction. Using those ideas to organize your thoughts, you’ll come up with a concise, tight message that will accurately communicate your brand message to your visitors.
Keep it Simple – 3 Steps to an Effective Summary
A simple, clear structure is the secret of a great Summary. Let’s walk through a simple template that will help you organize this information in a way that will be engaging to your visitors and make them want to do business with you. There are three short paragraphs; you’ll want each section to only be between 2-3 sentences. We’re going to keep this short, sweet, and simple.
1. First things first: You have to tell people what you do on a day-to-day basis. Don’t use internal jargon or fall back on your job title. For example, your reader might not know what an Account Executive or Director does at your organization. You have to tell them what you do and who you help, you can’t just assume.
This could be as basic as saying, “I’m a real-estate agent that specializes in working with first time homebuyers” or “As the Director of Marketing at Company XYZ, I’m working on new ways to let our customers know about how we can help.” It’s a short version of your elevator speech. If you were at a neighborhood BBQ and someone asked you what you did, what would you say? That’s how you start your Summary.
2. Next, tell the reader what makes you better. You have to differentiate yourself. Usually, this is going to include an “I” statement and a “we” statement. There’s probably a reason why you are good at what you do and why people like to work with you. It might be your experience, competence, skill-sets, passion…whatever it is, share it. Then you want to connect with your larger organization; talk about what your company brings to the table. Your company has spent thousands of dollars, maybe more, figuring out how to market themselves – it makes sense to grab a sentence or two from them.
It could be as simple as saying, “I have 20 years of experience in the field, so I know how to solve our customers challenges easily and effortless.” You could share your passion: “I love when I’m able to help our employees shine.” And think of the one or two sentences that you would use in describing the best parts of your company. That’s what you would add here.
3. Finally, you want to share something about yourself. People want to connect with other people online, not companies or brands. Be a human. It’s being Profersonal™ and recognizing that your personal and professional spheres are intertwined online. So find something you feel comfortable sharing about yourself. It’s not an online dating profile, so you don’t have to say you like long walks on the beach, fine-dining, and that you’re a Virgo. Rather, share one nonprofessional activity and one detail about it.
For example, don’t say that you “like to spend time with your kids” because that only lets people know that you are a normal human being. However, if said that you liked to spend time with your kids and you coach their Little League team, that’s more informative. If you like to bake, tell your reader about your most popular creation. If you are a live music fan, share your favorite concert experience. If you are a golfer, let people know what your course you are dreaming of playing on. You are looking to give a little hook that creates a natural “starting point” for a conversation.
Bonus – You should also add multimedia files to your Summary! Whether they are company videos, professional powerpoint decks (use SlideShare), or .pdf brochures, expand upon what you are writing by including visual information!
Don’t Wait – Someone is Reading Your Profile Right Now!
Now you might not be a big writer, and that’s OK. You can still do this easily and quickly. Take a piece of paper and divide it into three sections. For each of the steps, write down 3 or 4 ideas. Just do a quick information dump. Then, in each section, write one sentence that tries to encapsulate everything – you’ll find that you usually will need an extra sentence or two to fully explain what you mean and “boom!”… you have a summary. If you aren’t super confident or you want some feedback, show it to a colleague or friend that you trust.
So sit down today and write out your summary. Experimenting is good! It doesn’t have to be perfect the first time around. Just like you are always evolving in your career – so too will you continue to refine your Summary.