LinkedIn for journalism job seekers: 5 steps to a stronger profile

Yumi Wilson is a journalism educator, personal brand expert, and former corporate communications manager for LinkedIn

With nearly 770 million users worldwide, LinkedIn is a growing network for professional development. Every week, 40 million people are using LinkedIn to search for jobs. And every minute, three people are hired through LinkedIn

This makes the platform a valuable resource for job-seeking journalists, as more than 95 percent of recruiters use LinkedIn regularly. 

“Most recruiters are looking for passive candidates,” said Yumi Wilson, journalism educator, personal brand expert, and former corporate communications manager for LinkedIn, at a Journalism Institute workshop last week. “What that means is they’re looking for people who are already happy at their current job. … They’re looking for people who are not looking for work.”

So how can journalists stand out, whether or not they’re actively seeking a new role?

“LinkedIn data shows you only have five to 10 seconds to impress a potential employer online,” Wilson said. “So that means whatever you put at the very top, or the thing that’s most visible, is going to matter the most.”  

Step one: Add a profile picture 

An ideal profile picture is shoulder level and above, and clearly shows your face. 

“You get 20 to 21 times more views and nine times more connections just by adding a photo,” Wilson said.

Step two: Upload a custom cover or wallpaper image

This extra visual, which appears at the top of your profile, allows for recruiters and others to quickly see who you are. 

“You can add things like inspiring quotes, your achievements, maybe you won an award,” Wilson said. “Ultimately what they’re seeing is that full package within five to 10 seconds that tells your story.”

Step three: Include a punchy, solutions-oriented headline 

The headline on LinkedIn is the sentence that appears directly under your name. 

“A lot of people think of a headline as your job title,” Wilson said. “The problem with that approach is the algorithm already knows that you are an assistant producer. Or that you are a student because you’ve input that information into other sections.” 

Therefore, parroting information from other sections into the top headline will not increase your profile’s visibility. 

Instead, try using a combination of keywords that represent who you are, what you do, and who you aspire to be. Then those keywords will go into the LinkedIn algorithm and improve your chances of being found.

“The cool thing about LinkedIn is that as you update your headline … you can immediately see whether it’s working or not,” Wilson said. “All you have to do is go to the job listings and see what shows up for you.” 

Step four: Draft a detailed summary to describe how you work and to share your goals

The summary section appears underneath your name, contact information, and headline. This is your opportunity to take control of your professional story — to create (or recreate) your narrative for potential employers. 

“You have a lot of space, use the real estate,” Wilson said. “Write about your aspirations. Write about things that wouldn’t show up in your job descriptions, especially if you’re looking for change.” 

Sprinkle in your career highlights by showing moments in which you solved a problem. You can also highlight any career pivots or professional goals. 

“Remember, even though LinkedIn is a professional network, it’s still a social platform,” said Wilson. “People want to get to know the real you.”

Step five: Don’t forget to add relevant skills and join groups to boost your profile visibility

The skills section resides underneath your work and education history. It is keyword-based and allows for other users to endorse you at a particular skill.

“Because so much of the story that you tell on LinkedIn is your own, there has to be a way for recruiters to know, well, is she really good at copy editing?” Wilson said. “The more endorsements you get for skills, it helps to rise in a search when a recruiter is looking for someone who’s really good at copy editing, knows AP style, and so on.”

To expand your network, try joining various LinkedIn groups, for example an alumni group from your university or one with a common special interest.

“I think the value of groups on any social media platform is that it’s a smaller group of people who are more interested in what you are doing,” Wilson said. “And that can be a great way of networking and showing what you have done.” 

The overall goal with your LinkedIn profile is to utilize each section differently to maximize your storytelling. Try to eliminate any redundancy in your descriptions and keep the content original and fresh. 

And remember the Golden Rule to show not tell.

“If you are going to use a metric, let that metric be that you have led dozens of people in a project that ultimately won the Pulitzer,” said Wilson. “Let the metrics be things that reveal your leadership without saying that word. Let the metrics be of accomplishments that we all have to stop and say: ‘Wow, that’s amazing.’”

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