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Build Your Professional Brand

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by Helen Fu Thomas, Principal

I was first introduced to LinkedIn in 2005.  Soon after a reduction in force at my company, one of my laid-off subordinates asked for my endorsement.  In order to do her this well-deserved favor, I had to sign-up and create my account on LinkedIn; then I pretty much forgot about it.  I had a one-track mind in my career, and I felt that LinkedIn was just a “distractAion”.  If I wasn’t looking for a job, why did I need it?  And then my perception changed as I realized it’s a great professional network where creditable information and mutual respect can be shared.

What I liked about LinkedIn as a useful tool was its starting profile template with an output looking like a well-designed document.  Once I discovered that, I did an experiment and pulled together a presentable PDF to use as curriculum vitae(CV) with endorsements from people with whom I had worked.  It was fun getting in touch with people with whom I had not spoken for a while, and learning their perspectives.  It brought tears and laughs.

Like everything else, there is a difference between just doing it and doing it well.  Creating a high-quality profile on LinkedIn takes time and efforts.

Here is my advice:

  1. Don’t rush to complete your profile without thinking through the content.  Less is more.  Take your time to plan and do research on your connections.
  2. Draft before you publish your profile.  This is not a resume you share in private.  It is public and may end up anywhere in the future. It speaks a lot about you as a professional.
  3. Keep it up to date and add substance over time.
  4. Once you are on LinkedIn, spend fair amount of time to build connections and make it your professional resources.
  5. Have a great professional photo of you taken.  Once again, take it seriously.
  6. In the Background section, don’t just list companies and education achievements, tell a story. Your readers will be humans, and you want to make a connection with them.

These suggestions represent the minimum fundamentals of a good profile.  The value of LinkedIn, as opposed to Facebook, Twitter and other popular social networks, is its authenticity as a professional network.  On LinkedIn, you are much more accountable in the public eyes as a professional.  Some people tell me that they don’t even use their real identities on Facebook.  I guess they have fantasies about leading more interesting lives, or maybe they are paranoid.  However, that is unlikely to happen on LinkedIn as it would be against the purpose of building a career.  The proposition of a professional network sets the limits and unifies the executives, recruiters and employees to maintain the value of this platform.  And that is why, even in China where there is no access to Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn is sound.  The top legislation in China just passed a law to require true identities for internet users on all accounts of websites, blogs and micro blogs (Weibo).  Shared accountability is what makes LinkedIn the standard of global professional networks.   Soon it will lead to an open HR infrastructure.

Now that I have become a regular user, I am paying more attention to LinkedIn as a branding platform for individuals and companies.  Today, I saw the 10 most-liked posts in Q4 2012, provided by LinkedIn to the Business Insider (screen shots below).  Eight of them are Fortune 500 companies and all are outstanding brands globally.  As it’s said in the article “LinkedIn is only in the early stages of branded content creation, so big companies should look at these posts as a guide for what works best”.

I advise you to build your own professional brand on LinkedIn as well, even if you are not currently thinking about a new career move.


Here are the top 10 posts:

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