5 Easy Ways to Improve Your LinkedIn Profile
Getting started on LinkedIn can be intimidating, especially for veterans that are preparing for their transition. Here are some quick tips to get you started:
1. Photo. It needs to be in business clothing associated with the industry/role for which you are looking. This photo is incredibly important because people make immediate first impressions off of it. Your professional photo should be just you without additional people, pets, or distracting items in the background. Have someone take it for you, because selfies always look like selfies.
2. Headline. Aside from your photo, this is the most important item on your profile. It is what shows on every search and can inspire a recruiter to click on your profile to learn more. Your headline should speak to your next career, not what you do now. I recommend you make your headline the position title (an actual position you’d find on a job posting) you desire, followed by a "|" to separate thoughts, then a couple words that really speak to your strengths. You can look at mine or others in your desired field for examples.
I don’t recommend using “transitioning,” “retiring,” “senior leader,” “senior executive” or similar words. These are not actual positions and don’t tell recruiters what job you want. There are no “Senior Leader” jobs out there for us after we transition. Some recruiters will advise you to put transitioning in your headline so that recruiters can “find you” more easily on searches. I don’t recommend this passive approach, because you won’t show up on active searches. Instead, tell them who you are in the profile and then connect with a ton of recruiters on your own.
3. Summary. Your summary is not a bio. It is used to explain to employers how your previous skills translate into the new position. The idea is that you will likely be qualified for the position for which you apply, so I recommend writing your summary to address your qualifications, traits, and experience in your next field. Be sure to sprinkle in key words used in that field to ensure you are hitting the algorithms correctly. You can use a few paragraphs to do this, and it is important to tell your story appropriately using “civilian” terminology. Take a look at other summaries from veterans in your desired industries to get an idea of what works. The idea is to catch the attention of the reader and clearly articulate why you have the knowledge, skills, and abilities to do the job.
4. Experience. You need to break down at least the last 10 years of jobs (if you have them). Then you can lump in the rest from your military service. Make sure that when you enter your military experience, the correct military branch logo appears - that is how you are recognized as a veteran by the algorithms.
One thing that makes us lucky as veterans is that our job titles don't directly translate into our next career. This gives you the flexibility to change the title to match a civilian equivalent; just make sure there is actually a civilian equivalent. Then you can write the accomplishments and responsibility to match the field in which you desire to work.
Recruiters conduct searches based on current and past titles. For example, if they are looking for a program manager, you will never populate in their search results, because it is nowhere on your profile. Keep that in mind.
5. Skills. Your skills are incredibly important for identifying candidates AND determining your fit for a position based on a glance at your profile. Keeping in mind only 1% of the population served, you should remove the military-specific skills from your profile that don’t apply to your desired job. Based on your next career choice, your skills should reflect every position requirement skill to ensure you are qualified.
One of the easiest ways to identify the right skills is by using your premium insights for jobs. Do a search on the "Jobs" tab for the position title you desire. Clicking on several of the open positions and premium insights will identify the top 10 skills for the people that have already applied for the job. I can almost guarantee that you have most of them – you just didn't think to add them. That is why I tell everyone to fill up all 50 to increase their odds at populating high on a search.
Following the above advice will set you up with a solid, professional profile. My next articles will teach you how to leverage that profile to build a professional network supportive of your transition to the corporate world.
Meet the Author: Michael Quinn
By Elizabeth Stetler
Long before he was a LinkedIn superstar (which should be his official title), I knew Sergeant Major Michael Quinn as my first sergeant. This was in 2006 – 2008, when I was a young E-5 stationed at Fort Meade, MD. I worked in a field office, and SGM Quinn was at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, which meant that I only saw him intermittently. Even then, I was always impressed by his leadership style; he was cool and collected, easy to engage, and successfully managed remote groups of intelligence soldiers and civilians spread across a few different East Coast states.
Since then, he has built an impressive network on LinkedIn, where he regularly posts advice for transitioning military service members for his 14,000+ followers. SGM Quinn publishes articles that get tens of thousands of views. A recent article about project management earned him over 400,000 views.
I interviewed SGM Quinn about his military career and how he came to find himself as a LinkedIn influencer. Here’s what he had to say:
ES: Tell me about your military career.
MQ: In July of 1993, I joined the Army as a 35L, or counterintelligence agent. I’ve spent about five years in the greater Washington D.C. area, but I have also served in Japan, Germany, Bosnia, Korea, Republic of the Philippines, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
My different leadership roles include tactical counterintelligence team leader, special agent in charge, case officer, first sergeant, J2 senior enlisted advisor for the White House Communications Agency, command sergeant major, and senior enlisted advisor.
Most recently, I served as the G3 sergeant major for U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM).
ES: When and why did you become so active on LinkedIn?
MQ: In November of 2016, I decided I was going to retire. I created my resume and went to a job fair. A counselor there looked at my resume and said, “It looks great. But I don’t know what you want to do.”
The problem was that my resume was an amazing sergeant major resume. It had all these things we do as sergeants major, but don’t necessarily apply or translate to any one civilian job. And I found as I talked to the recruiters at the job fair and they all asked me what I wanted to do, I couldn’t answer.
After thinking about it, I realized that what I enjoy the most is helping other service members. I still had a while before getting out of the military, so I was not in a rush to find a job. It was just something I knew I needed to get started on before it was too late.
I began to write articles and publish them on LinkedIn as a way to help my fellow service members and also to become more visible in that space. I knew a big part of finding a new job is networking, and I thought I should grow my network.
ES: What kind of articles did you write?
MQ: My first articles were about leadership and other thought pieces. I got some good feedback for those. But the biggest impact was from an article I wrote about an experience I had when I was a finalist for the White House Fellows program. (The program, started in 1964 by President Lyndon Johnson, offers “exceptional young men and women firsthand experience working at the highest levels of the government.” Source)
At this event, there was a dinner and panel interviews with 20 prominent D.C. figureheads. I was surprised to learn that out of those 20, about 19 didn’t know what a sergeant major did. All they knew was that it was a cool-sounding title. I didn’t win the fellowship, but I did decide to write about the experience in an article called “What in the World is a Sergeant Major.” I posted it on LinkedIn and it got over 100,000 views! I knew I was onto something. I forwarded the article to Dan Savage, who is the head of the veteran’s program on LinkedIn. I was interested in his feedback and wanted to know how to leverage the success of my article into creating a stronger network. Connecting with Dan was a wise move; he became a mentor that tremendously influenced my transition.
ES: How did you get involved with helping other servicemembers on LinkedIn?
MQ: Dan Savage helped me understand how to leverage LinkedIn as a member of the military community: how to network, how to build a profile, how to brand myself, and how to create and publish content. Due to this training, I started noticing common weak points on my fellow service members LinkedIn profiles. They were making mistakes like wearing their uniform in their photos, their title or summary was ineffective - stuff like that. So I started offering advice to people here and there.
I started getting a lot of emails from service members of all ranks asking me to review their profile. I found that across the board, people were making the same mistakes – even generals, colonels, and sergeants major. I felt like I was typing the same email over and over in response to these requests.
I thought, why not just create a comprehensive document that I can send that will answer those questions. Then, if they need more help, I can help them refine. Once I made that, which is what I based my “5 Easy Ways” article on, it saved me a lot of time and still helped a lot of people.
ES: What other ways did you find to help fellow service members with LinkedIn?
MQ: After I got started with helping service members on LinkedIn, I realized I could do more, not just online but in person, too. I began to give presentations on maximizing LinkedIn wherever I could. For example, I gave a LinkedIn class to the brigade command sergeant major when I was visiting the 66th Military Intelligence Brigade in Germany. There were also a bunch of first sergeants and sergeants major in that class. They were a tough crowd, but afterwards told me it was one of the best classes they’d had.
It just expanded from there. I started teaching more classes and connecting with other high-ranking officers and noncommissioned officers to help them with their profiles. I was invited to the Pentagon to teach 2- and 3-star generals how to leverage LinkedIn and create better profiles. But I didn’t want to just help high-ranking military officials. I felt that there was more I could do for every transitioning service member. So I met with the G-1 sergeant major and the Soldier for Life sergeant major at INSCOM headquarters and gave them a presentation to show them how we need to incorporate LinkedIn training into the transition assistance programs.
Connecting industry professionals with Army leaders is bringing about significant changes for the Army transition assistance program over the next 12 months.
ES: What do you think is the takeaway for service members and LinkedIn?
MQ: We need a strong network outside of the military to find meaningful work, and your online presence is the key. Gaining employee referrals makes you 11 times more likely to get a specific job, so branding yourself, engaging people with content, and developing a strong network is becoming more and more important.
Editor’s note: Since this interview, Quinn has retired from military service. He is now the director of workplace management & veteran programs at ProSphere. He and his family reside in the greater Washington, D.C., area. Contact him here.
Elizabeth Stetler is editor of Search & Employ® and a veteran of the U.S. Army. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org