Several floors above the ground in one of Singapore's skyscrapers, I sip wine overlooking the city lights. The brightly-lit and colorful room is filled with the sound of conversation. We're having dinnertime snacks, but I can still see the breakfast station across the way. There's a gluten-free section on the left and sodas up for grabs on the right. Closer to me, a couple people write on postcards (postage paid) meant for people for whom you are grateful. Every time is a time for gratitude. I've heard stories about offices like these, and LinkedIn's doesn't disappoint.
At the Girls in Tech Singapore Stand Out. Think Different. event, I sit in a scenario less common than it should be: a predominantly female audience sits, ready to learn about self-networking and self-branding. LinkedIn's relationship manager Mac Witmer is up to speak, followed by DBS director Melissa Wong, who will speak about design thinking. Mac's talk, though, is specifically about how to put your LinkedIn profile into tip-top shape. Here are the takeaways I got from her, straight from the heart of LinkedIn in Singapore.
1. A picture's worth...thousands of views
The holy trinity of LinkedIn first impressions? Your photo, your title, and your summary.
It makes sense. That's the first thing people see when they come to your page. It's what reaches out to those who see your name pop up in a sea of search results. And it's a great place to start if you're building your personal professional brand.
Not having a picture on your profile is kind of like going to a networking event with a bag over your head and still expecting people to talk to you and introduce yourselves.
Mac recounts a joke among LinkedIn staffers: “Not having a picture on your profile is kind of like going to a networking event with a bag over your head and still expecting people to talk to you and introduce yourselves."
LinkedIn profile photos are the most important - profiles with photos get 14 times the amount of views as ones without. A fun photo is alright, as long as it's appropriately professional. That means no wine glasses in the picture unless you're in the wine business, no dogs unless you work with animals, and no awkward group photo cutoffs.
“There is such a thing as a work selfie, where you can get up to a night light, a nice wall," Mac illustrates. “You can do that, but the type of picture you choose is equally important."
2. The title debate: where do you stand?
Once you add your current position to your LinkedIn page, it will become your default title for your profile. Mac recommends tweaking it to add a little bit more spice to your page. This is where you can rebrand your job title from something like “marketing director" to “happiness architect," or something else that piques the interest of someone combing through search results. Bonus points if it's optimized for search. For example, if you work for a healthtech startup, maybe list your job title along with the word “wellness" in there somewhere.
“That said, I say it's a point of debate, because sometimes clients and friends of mine say your credibility comes from the seniority of your title, so up to you," notes Mac.
If you do go that route, make sure that if what you do isn't immediately clear from your title, add a dash and a small description.
3. Up your elevator pitch game
“By and large, your summary is your elevator pitch," Mac tells the room.
To beat writer's block, start with the easiest thing for you to talk about - your passion.
It's also the area where LinkedIn profiles need the most work. It's the place where people can compellingly summarize themselves. If that just makes you draw a blank, you're in luck - Mac offers a three-part solution. To beat writer's block, start with the easiest thing for you to talk about - your passion. This can be anything from a task or area directly related to your job - coding, for example - or something else you can tie in later. Mac's example profile uses mountain climbing and ties that into achieving new heights and goals.
Tie your passion into a small paragraph about your professional journey and what you've learned along the way. If you pivoted or changed geographies, this can be a great place to discuss the motivation behind the progression in your career.
Finally, close with a few sentences about what you're doing today. You've not only provided a snapshot of yourself beyond your resume but also primed the viewer to look at the rest of your profile.
4. Tell the full story of your career
Think of your LinkedIn as a story you're telling - you don't just want to skip straight to the end without letting the reader know a little bit about how you got there.
“Detail your past work experience - not just your current role," explains Mac. “Put the history that you've had. Even if you've been with the same firm or organization for 20 years, you've probably had different roles."
You are branding yourself through the story of your career, after all.
As for how much is too much, it depends on the stage you've reached in your career and what you want to portray - you are branding yourself through the story of your career, after all. “It's your personal choice. I say put things up until the last six or so years, and as they become irrelevant, take them off," says Mac.
To enhance your positions, don't forget to add rich media like websites, online profiles, articles you've written for that position, and videos to your LinkedIn.
5. Don't just talk about work
Are you into environmental causes? Animal welfare? Raising money for cancer research? List your causes and volunteer experience. This can put you in the running for a position through LinkedIn's nonprofit backengine. Mac points out that it also contributes to painting you as a more well-rounded individual - another party of your story.
6. Consider coming out of creeper mode
“Creeper mode" is how Mac refers to the option of paying LinkedIn members to remain anonymous as they view others' profiles. It earns her some giggles from the attendees in the room.
“If you're in a client-facing role, or if you're looking to grow your business or hire talent, we actually recommend being in public-facing mode," she reveals. “It's modern-day caller ID. Let people know that you've called them and reached out."
Being in public-facing mode - albeit unknowingly - came in handy for Mac when she'd first moved to Singapore three years ago and landed a meeting with a key client - all because she'd viewed his profile in public-facing mode. She'd been too shy to actually reach out to him, but it ended up working in reverse - he reached out to her.
7. To add or not to add?
LinkedIn is supposed to be a place for you to grow and keep tabs on your professional network. As a general rule, that means not adding complete strangers. “I'm sure everyone has had the experience where - bing, somebody wants to connect with you, and you're like, 'Who the heck is this? I have never met them,'" Mac tells the room.If you need to connect with someone you've never met, send a message first.
But what if the complete stranger is a recruiter? You can try to infer this from their profile, but it should be their responsibility to send you a customized message telling you why they want to connect. In other words, if you need to connect with someone you've never met - or someone with whom you don't have regular contact - send a message first.Q&A at Stand Out. Think Different.
If you're looking for inspiration to grow your network - look for your university alumni group, your company, and possibly the People Also Viewed part of your LinkedIn for relevant add suggestions.
8. How to make LinkedIn's publishing platform your friend
Anyone with a LinkedIn can write content and post it on LinkedIn. Here's how Mac advises to make the platform work for you. First, follow relevant influencers. (DBS' Piyush Gupta is Singapore's #1 influencer, reveals Mac.) That'll help put relevant content on your feed (more on this later).
Second, keep yourself on people's feeds by sharing content. There are a few different levels to this. You can share content that looks interesting to you, kind of like you do on other social media platforms. The next level up from this is picking an area where you have knowledge or an area you'd like to become associated with - AI or ecommerce, for example - and share a good article on that area once a week. This will keep you on people's feeds and help associate yourself with that subject matter.
After a while, you can start writing articles on that subject and share them with your network.
LinkedIn names its conference rooms after its influencers, Mac reveals, gesturing toward the upper-floor conference room that belongs to Piyush. “Maybe one day you'll get a conference room named after you," she says.
9. Curate your feed
Mac tells the story of one of LinkedIn's Europe leads, who added a junior marketing manager at Google without knowing her or thinking much of it. Four to five years later, she became the head of marketing at Uber.
You never know the future value of a connection.
“You never know the future value of a connection," Mac says. So maybe even if you have a friend or a relative whose career is totally different from yours, you should still add them. No one can predict the future.
If you want to have someone around as a connection but don't want your feed cluttered with irrelevant content, you can be connected to someone but unfollow them, which means that you can keep your feed limited to what you want and need.
Looking for a job? Passively searching for a job? Whipping your LinkedIn into shape can definitely help. If you work in tech, you can stand out from that sea of faces by looking at companies who need people with your skills now. Sign up for 100offer, where your profile connects directly and specifically with tech companies hiring people with your skills.