How to Update Your LinkedIn after Totally Neglecting It

I applied to a job last week without updating my LinkedIn Profile. Actually I kind of forgot it was even a thing (oops).

I’ve never used it to network or as part of my job search in the past, so I only had very basic information up and it hadn’t even been updated to include my most recent work history. It didn’t occur to me that a potential employer, even if not provided with the link, could easily find this page through a Google or LinkedIn search and get a negative idea about me and the seriousness of my application.

After getting rejected from that job, I decided it’s possible they may have googled me, seen my LinkedIn, and come to inaccurate conclusions about me and my experience. I realized I needed to update my LinkedIn profile and clean it up ASAP.

I opened up the LinkedIn page and froze. There was so much I needed to do and I didn’t know where to start! In true Project Coordinator/Manager form, I assessed the situation, did some Google search research and came up with a multi-step plan:

  1. Updating my work history to be accurate and complete.
  2. Updating my Job Responsibilities to be rich and descriptive
  3. Creating a headline
  4. Writing a summary

This blog post won’t address the (sometimes dreaded) issue of headshots, because it’s such a potential minefield it really needs its own post!

Updating the Work History

This one was straightforward because I had all of the information in there except my most recent job, which was easy to remember. It’s nice that kids today have LinkedIn to immediately capture start and end dates of jobs because remembering the exact day you started a job 10 years after you left said job is such a pain I don’t even want to talk about it. I guess my advice to myself and anyone else is to either update a master resume Word file or your LinkedIn with each job you get so you are not left scrambling for the information.

One advantage of using a Word file is that you can include information LinkedIn doesn’t ask for and yet other applications will, such as supervisor name, exact DATE of hire (not just month), starting and ending salary, phone number and address of your workplace. It seems like applications are asking for this information less than they used to (I mean, Google is free, people) but it doesn’t hurt that much to just collect it while you have it top of mind.

Updating Job Responsibilities and Accomplishments

This one is always hard for me because I’ve always been in jobs that required a lot of different skills, responsibilities and daily tasks. Having so many essential functions means not only am I bound to forget something, but I have no idea where to start or what to leave out when space is so limited.

Luckily LinkedIn gives you tons of space so you can go wild and write out everything. I think lots of text is okay as long as you break it up into easily viewable and scannable chunks, such as through paragraph breaks, bullets, etc. If you just have one wall of text, no one is going to read it.

A couple of tips for where to grab phrases and information for this section

The original job posting for your job
    • This one is a no-brainer if you can remember to save it. It has all the key responsibilities the employer was looking for and the words they used to describe the job.
    • If you don’t have it, you might be able to find the listing they used to find your replacement or another coworker. If you’re still employed, they often have the job descriptions stored either on a company intranet or in the HR department’s files (if you have access)
Your yearly review paperwork
  • If you got a yearly review, your employer likely provided you with page that described your job and what constituted satisfactory performance.
  • You can use the words and phrases your employer used for what functions your job took and this is a great place to look for positive feedback and accomplishments you might have forgotten about
Job Posts for jobs you want now
    • Get on craigslist or LinkedIn or wherever you go to find job posts and search the kind of job you might be interested now. Look at what experience they want and if you have done it include that! Don’t lie and say you did something you didn’t do, but this is great for thinking of things that were so mundane and day-to-day that you might not even realize they are something employers prize.
Peep other people’s LinkedIns
    • Hey this ain’t a crime! Look at people who have been in similar roles and see what they wrote. Can’t hurt to compare notes.

IF you’re anything like me, you work hard at work, accomplish things, win awards even, but then can’t remember any of these things even a couple months later. What I wish I would have done was to create a Win File – any time someone thanked me for something (beyond just a “Great thanks” you know), I got a good review, a handwritten thanks from my boss for going above and beyond, I should have put those things in there. I also should have placed creations in there, like a small write up of the time I wrote a macro which saved hours of time per project and hence thousands of dollars. I’m usually the kind of person who loves to do good work just because I feel like that’s my job versus to improve my resume, so its not natural for me to jot down and save things that might be impressive to future employers. I need to get over that and set up a system for saving things and chances are so do you!

BONUS: Things to save for your “Win File”:
  1. Emails of appreciation from anyone internal or external
  2. Handwritten thank yous from your boss or coworkers
  3. Snippets from the company newsletter or intranet when you get a shoutout or writeup for something.
  4. Any time you actually write something or make something for the company, like an article in the newsletter, a new training piece, a program, slides for the company quarterly presentation etc – save those!
  5. When you innovate or improve your own workflow, whether it be through writing a new macro, finding a cool program, implementing new checks and balances, or whatever it is, write it up and save that! If you can get some numbers about what kinds of improvement or impact it had, all the better. For example, attaining a 50% decrease in typographical errors fixed in addendums or 25% increase in hitting target performance goals, or whatever it may be. If you can come up with a way to calculate the value your impact had in dollars, even better!
  6. Awards (duh!) save these
  7. Your yearly performance reviews
  8. If you work on a project that turns out especially well, especially after an initial setback, write up a review on it including what the challenge was, how you solved it, and what you learned.
  9. Ask for written referrals early. I’m terrible at this and also pretty shy about doing it. I wish I had asked for referrals while I was still working with people or freshly after leaving. I feel really awkward being in a position now needing to ask, even knowing that my performance was excellent, I feel like such a bother asking for people for such things!

Writing a Headline

This one was really hard for me and I have changed it multiple times in the last month. I don’t really know the secret but I do know that this is the first, and often only, thing that someone will see on your profile (besides your photo). So it needs to be relevant.

I’ve struggled with this because I don’t have a set job that I’m going after, I’m interested in a range of things and am looking for a good company with good culture more so than the specific job. In my small world of project coordination/administrative support I think that this role is so nebulous that the skills and responsibilities could apply to a lot of different roles at the company, from reception to office manager to marketing assistant to human resources assistant to graphic designer to copywriter to content marketer to marketing coordinator…. In my experience and from what I’ve seen, especially on the lower end of the office scale, employers are looking for someone with a lot of skills who can take on a lot of different responsibility for little pay, but they also have it in their head that if they are calling a role a “marketing assistant,” then they are not open to looking at people who previously were “administrative support personnel” because it’s not an exact match in title, even if the responsibilities are exactly the same. So what should I put when I don’t HAVE a current role, nor a specific current dream role, just a nebulous idea of what I’d like to do next?

I tried focusing on one thing, which was marketing, because in my experience the marketing department gets to flex the most creative muscles and work on a wider variety of projects and tasks. Working on many things as opposed to the same one thing over and over would I think give me more job satisfaction. So I tried a few different headlines, like “Marketing Assistant” or “Content Marketer.” But as I applied to jobs I worried that my headline was not specific enough for some of those roles. So I’ve been changing it. I tried “Creative Professional” but I felt that wasn’t specific enough and maybe felt exclusionary or not understandable.

For now my headline reads “Project Coordinator, Freelance Writer, Content Marketer – Job Searching” which is a mouthful but it has the keywords I want in there, for the most part.

Writing a Summary

I’ll admit I was stuck on this for a long time. I had a short bio for a while, then nothing, then a blurb about being job hunting after having a baby (to explain my employment gap).

As of now I’ve settled on some copy pitching myself as a Jack of All Trades. Being a Jack of All Trades is usually considered kind of a bad thing, but someone can’t look at my resume without thinking it, so if I can’t hide it I might as well embrace it.

In Conclusion…

I know that’s a lot of information and pointers, and that’s exactly why I procrastinated on updating my LinkedIn Profile in the first place. But if you have a system and a checklist for updating your profile it will go faster and you can be sure you hit every category.

What do you think? Is a LinkedIn profile even important when it comes to getting hired now? Am I on the right track here? Let me know in the comments!