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If you have job, want a job, or just want to network, you must have a profile up on LinkedIn. Unlike many of the other social media sites out there, LinkedIn is not for messing around, nor would I say for corporate positions, is it optional. Recruiters heavily rely on LinkedIn to find you, review your qualifications and skills, and review any recommendations. This is a tool that works for YOU. So imagine my surprise when several of my clients have yet to make the LinkedIn plunge.

How to Create Your LinkedIn Profile

Go to LinkedIn.com and sign-up for an account! Remember, this is a PROFESSIONAL networking site, so use the appropriate email address and information. I do not recommend using the Facebook log-in option, but then again, I’m a bit paranoid about keeping personal and business separate.

Completing your profile:

Name: Use the name that matches what you want to be called. I have come across several people who posted their maiden name, but are now married; a nickname, but not one they use professionally; or a name that does not match their email address. Be consistent with your name for goodness sakes.

Location: If you are looking for a job in a different location, enter the location where you would like to be. Otherwise, you will be counted out before you even apply. Make sure that your location is consistent with your resume!

Headline: This is your biggest and best opportunity to advertise who you are and what you do – concisely. The most effective way to use your headline is to tell people what you are skilled at doing, instead of using a title. For instance: “Marketing Executive in Medical Devices,” or “Employee Communications Guru at Fortune 500 Companies.” Make this something that helps recruiters understand at a glance, exactly what you excel in.

Entering basic job information: Be sure to enter your exact titles at each organization that you would include in your resume (notice I did not say for every single job that you’ve had). You want to include the most impactful and relevant job positions that you’ve had. And complete everything it asks for!!! Include your actual dates of employment, the industry and job function.

Job description information: LinkedIn allows you to enter a description for each position. While some lazy people just copy and paste the same information from their resume, I would advise adding some additional information instead. Enter more details about the position (similar to a job description), the company, and your key accomplishments. Make this easy to read and concise as possible. It is another way for recruiters to round out your experience from your resume and also see what you’ve done at a quick glance. This section will take the most time, but will also prove to be the most beneficial to your LinkedIn presence, so be sure to put in the time needed.

Skills and expertise: This is a relatively new section for LinkedIn, but it still adds tremendous value. You can choose or create, your own skills – this will further differentiate you from other candidates, indicating your expertise and experience. Recruiters can search via skills now, so be sure that you have the applicable ones entered for the job you are going after.

Recommendations: With a click of a button, you can ask your former colleagues and manager’s to provide you with recommendations about how you performed your job. Easy breezy – and absolutely ask for recommendations. Many times, recruiters will not look at profiles without at least four recommendations (I’m not sure where that number came from, but get cracking). You then have the ability to show or hide each recommendation, in case it doesn’t show you in the best light. Be forewarned: some people are a bit weary of publicly announcing how fantastic someone else is, so you may not get recommendations from everyone you asked them for. Not to worry – just be grateful for the ones you get and be sure to return the favor when asked!

Education: Enter all post-high school education here from accredited schools. Only if you do not have a college degree should you enter your high school information. Key tip: only enter the year of graduation if you are a new grad (less than five years of work experience). Otherwise, simply keep the dates off for this section. Enter your degree type (BA, BS, AA, etc.) and your major – don’t keep recruiters guessing here.

Everything until this point is required – but there are several other sections for you to complete should you choose to do so, with some caution for each “extra.”

Websites: Your current company’s website is typically automatically added. Be sure to confirm it’s correct, or delete it if you don’t want to be associated with it. It will also ask you for your personal website – only add sites that add value or show off your abilities, related to the job you are seeking. Do not attach sites that are inappropriate for potential employers to see.

Twitter: For all that’s holy, do NOT enter/attach your twitter account. Essentially, it will then feed everything you tweet to your LinkedIn newsfeed. There is really no reason to have them attached, and it will do way more harm than good.

Interests: This section will not help you get a job, but can shed some light on who you are as a person. I avoid it, but if you absolutely must fill it out, be sure to enter non-controversial things that are work-appropriate. And a little secret – no one really cares that you like to run or have three kids (unless you are looking to work at a running magazine or a parenting company).

Groups and associations: Enter only if you are active in a specific industry organization or association – do not include personal activities or groups. Remember, this is a professional networking site.

Honors and awards: Only include awards/honors obtained post-high school or when you entered the working world full-time.

Personal information: Completely optional and know that it is visible – so be careful with what you include.

Photo: I like seeing a photo with profiles, but it’s optional. If you do choose to upload a photo, make sure that it’s a head-shot of only YOU and is work-appropriate (aka – be clothed, please).