Is Your Profile Helping You Accomplish Your Career Goals?

Summer is wrapping and many people are taking time off.  We always recommend using at least an hour or two of your vacation to take stock of your professional profile.  Whether it is your resume, social media or for the purpose of today’s discussion your LinkedIn profile, it is a great time to make sure you are conveying the message you want.

While LinkedIn has many uses one of the most common is to show potential employers why you might be a fit for their open roles.  As a recruiter I see a significant number of people who have put only minimal effort into a profile.  This is great if they are hoping only to be found by former colleagues and friends.  If that is all you want to get out of LinkedIn then you are all set – but if you want it to be part of your career tool kit you need to consider a few things.

Avoid The List

Essentially name, rank and serial number.  This profile shows job titles, company names and dates of employment.  We find it indicates a person of mystery.  What has this person really done?  What technologies have they used?  If your profile looks like this you run the risk of being passed over by hiring managers and recruiters.

Recruiter Baiting

There are a few types of recruiter baiting.

First – the person who includes every technology they have ever been around as a list in their profile.  It is usually hard to tell how the technology was used and to what level the individual has expertise.  This seems to be a byproduct of the perceived need to include keywords in a resume to ensure that corporate hiring software sees what it needs to in order to pass an application along for human review.  While I can make the argument that the mega list does not belong in your resume – it also does not belong in the flow of a LinkedIn profile.

Second – job titles.  It is one thing to have been the VP of Software development at an enterprise financial company.  It is something entirely different to have been the VP of Software development at a four person startup.  Much like a Systems Engineer at Cisco is not the same as a Systems Engineer at Google.  Depending on what a company is looking for your job title is probably not enough for them to know if you might be a fit for their needs.

The answer/solution for both of the above scenarios is to include a short, well thought out description of the job responsibilities and technologies used in the role.  Alternatively you could describe key deliverables of the position and the technologies uses.  For example:

As program manager I managed a strategic two year initiative to migrate our enterprise from a custom application to SAP from kickoff to completion.  This included a full analysis of business process and requirements from our ERP user base, product selection, design, implementation, transition and close out.  I managed a core team of 23 including business analysts, developers, ERP administrators and support staff with an overall budget of $12M.

If you are a software or systems engineer – you can add the technologies used on the specific project to the description of your responsibilities.

Do not be a copy or a cut and paste of your resume.  It is important that LinkedIn be more conversational so you can be a bit more free form.  Think of this as a supplement to your resume – not a mirror image.

Keep it Well Organized

Sit down and map out what you want people to see about your career and then make sure your profile aligns with your map.  You should typically include a well stated overview, well written job experiences that illustrate work you actually delivered and the technologies used to deliver it, relevant education and professional training/certifications and several excellent recommendations inbound and outbound.

Illustrate a Progression

Most people would consider a new role if it moves them forward on their career path.  But does your profile illustrate that you have had a forward moving career – or does it show a series of jobs?  Use the text to illustrate growth in technical knowledge, leadership experience, responsibilities, etc.

Embrace Your Gaps

Many people we work with who have gaps on their profile are uncomfortable about them.  Whether from the dot com bubble or from the recent economic conditions in our experience a huge percentage of IT professionals have them.  It is worse to hide them or to create a role to fill the gap than it is to just put them out there.  If a company has problems with that then you probably don’t want to be working with them in the first place.

If you actually did several short consulting engagements during a gap by all means list them under a consulting job title.  Just be sure you can describe what the assignment was and how you delivered just as you did with previous full time roles.

What on earth is that picture?

We talk a lot about profile pictures here in the office.  This is probably because we see so many of them every day.  A year or two ago I think we leaned heavily toward keeping them “professional” but today I think we lean toward using a “good” picture that avoids making the image seem like an afterthought.  You would be surprised to see what can be used to make the decision between two very close candidates – and attention to detail (like what you choose for your picture) can fall in that category.

You can’t go wrong with a professionally taken profile picture.  Many networking groups offer these throughout the year at their events so it is relatively easy to get one.  In the world of IT it is not necessary to be wearing a suit and tie either for a professional shot.  Just wear what you wear to the office – that probably tells a lot about who you are and will help attract like companies.

IT folks tend to have creative pictures.  This is also fine as long as they are well taken and a reflection of who you are.  A blurry picture of you in the distance at the top of Mt. Katahdin is probably not going to cut it – but a clear close up of you on the way up the mountain that shows who you are will.  I’m not sure where the line is on creative pictures – though I feel like I am on the outside of the cat joke given the vast number of software engineers with them in their profile picture.

Beyond blurry or distance shots you should avoid the cropped shot.  Usually from a social event or wedding, often taken with a phone in somewhat low light.  Granted you put some effort in to crop out your college roommate – but the picture seems like an afterthought.

Once you start looking it is easy to see areas for improvement.  What are some simple steps you can take to implement those changes into your profile?

Eric Bakke

Eric joined TSP as the Managing Partner of the project management practice. Eric has over 15 years of hands-on project management experience with clients ranging from the SMB space to the Fortune 100. He has successfully managed projects and programs ranging from small server build outs to multi-million dollar implementations. Eric’s goal in creating the project management practice is to leverage his understanding of project management into a high quality relationship for both the client and the project manager.