Using LinkedIn Effectively

See also: Top Tips on Freelancing

LinkedIn is, for many professionals, the essential professional networking tool. It is a really good way of keeping up to date with colleagues who you wouldn’t describe as friends exactly, but who you would like to stay in touch with professionally. However, it also has several other functions, including recruitment and reputation-building.

There are, therefore, two elements to using LinkedIn effectively. The first is having a really good LinkedIn profile—one that works for both recruitment and networking purposes. The second is using the platform in the right way to publish and share content, and build up your professional reputation. This page discusses both.

How LinkedIn is Used

LinkedIn is used in several different ways by different groups of people.

First, there is no question that potential employers and new contacts are likely to look at your LinkedIn profile before they meet you. LinkedIn is also a way for potential employers to find candidates for jobs, either by advertising jobs or by searching for skills. It is certainly a place where many job advertisements are posted, including for contracting and freelance roles.

It is, therefore, an important recruitment tool.

The second aspect to LinkedIn is that it enables you to build up a professional reputation through its groups, publishing platform, and other tools and forums.

You can publish long- and short-form articles and content, share other people’s content, and comment on other people’s comments. There are also new options developing for video and audio content, especially for those focusing primarily on content creation on the site. LinkedIn can therefore be used to showcase your professional interests and expertise both among your network and beyond. This means that LinkedIn can be used to build an audience for your thinking and expertise. It has become an important tool in many companies’ content marketing work, and also enables consultants and self-employed people to build a reputation and attract new customers and clients.


LinkedIn is a professional networking tool. It’s not Facebook.

You don’t have to update your status every five minutes.

You do, however, have to share content regularly if you want people to read your views. You also have to present yourself in a professional way, and that means providing a complete profile without spelling and grammatical mistakes.

Developing a Good LinkedIn Profile


It is a good idea to use a photograph on your LinkedIn profile.

If LinkedIn was primarily a recruitment tool, then nobody would include photographs. After all, nobody in the UK or US includes a photograph with their CV as it’s too easy to discriminate unconsciously on the basis of a picture.

However, well over half of LinkedIn profiles have a photograph. This is because LinkedIn is, in fact, not primarily a recruitment tool, but a way of reaching out to people. A photograph makes you seem much more human and real, and helps you to connect with others. It also helps your former colleagues to remember you.

Use a recent head-and-shoulders shot of you looking professional and smiling. Unless you are a cartoonist, don’t use an avatar or logo, because that won’t have the same impact, and may make you look less confident.

Bottom line: A photograph makes a connection and helps people to remember you. Include a recent professional-looking one.


This should be your personal ‘elevator pitch’: how you describe yourself in 120 characters or less. It should not necessarily be your job title, especially if you’re looking for a different job. It is also a good idea to avoid any jargon: keep the language clear and simple.

General advice is to focus on what you do, and who you help, rather than you per se.

In other words, explain how you help people to solve problems. For example, a writer might say: “I help my clients to express their ideas in writing, clearly and simply.” It is also a good idea to highlight what makes you unique, to help you stand out from the crowd. Finally, tailor your headline to your audience and their needs.

Bottom line: The headline is the first thing people see, so make sure that they get the right first impression.


The summary section is your chance to show yourself off, and sell yourself to your potential audience (whether recruiters or customers).

After the headline, the summary is the one part of your profile that everyone will read and it needs to say who you are, and what you can do.

You’ve got 2,000 characters, so there’s plenty of space to be creative.

Research suggests that people are drawn towards LinkedIn profiles that build common ground by highlighting shared world views, show empathy for their target audience, and demonstrate the person’s qualifications and relevance.

You may therefore want to consider creating a LinkedIn summary in the form of three separate  paragraphs, one for each of those issues.

  • The first paragraph needs to explain how you see the world, particularly the area in which you are an expert. There should be nothing controversial in this paragraph: anyone reading it should be nodding and agreeing.

  • The second paragraph should show that you understand your audience’s particular problems and/or challenges. Ideally, it should demonstrate your experience of these.

  • The third paragraph shows how you can help your audience to solve their problems. Ideally, you would include proof of this, such as industry awards or customer testimonials.

A Word About Language

Keep your summary cliché and jargon-free. Start with how you’d describe yourself to a chance-met acquaintance at a party. If you’d say ‘I’m an architect’, then your LinkedIn profile shouldn’t say ‘A construction industry new-build consultant with a passion for clean lines and modern design’.

Present your personal ‘unique selling point’ in simple, easy-to-understand language:

I’m an architect, and I believe that buildings are meant to be lived in and used. I try to create beautiful buildings which are also practical, so that people want to live and work in them. Examples of my work include x and y, which earned me a commendation in industry award z—and more importantly, the ‘people’s prize’ for liveable buildings from source zz.

Aim to be personal, but not intimate. If you wouldn’t say it within five minutes of meeting someone at a conference, then don’t put it on your LinkedIn profile.

Make sure that you include keywords that people are searching for on Google so that, when someone searches for candidates for your ideal job, they are more likely to find you.

Bottom line: Everyone reads your summary so make sure you include all the information you want them to see, including keywords, but without clichés.

Experience and Education

Like your CV, your LinkedIn profile needs to include all your relevant employment and education.

However, you don’t need to include every last detail. Use keywords in both title and description so that potential employers will find you easily.

You don’t need to include all the holiday or Saturday jobs that you’ve ever had, but avoid huge gaps in your career history.

Your education is chiefly important when you start your career, but like employment, it can provide common ground. Once you’ve been working for a few years, it’s not absolutely essential to include a description of your degree and how it’s relevant to what you do, but do include at least the subject and the type of degree, and any professional qualifications.

There are practical implications: when you want to connect with people, LinkedIn will ask you how you know them. If you’re former colleagues, you’ll need to be able to say where, from a drop-down list of all the places you’ve ever worked. Miss one out, and you’ve wiped out a chunk of your network.

Bottom line: Include all the places you’ve worked or studied, even if you only have a summary of your jobs and qualifications.

Skills and Endorsements

The key here is whether you are using LinkedIn as a recruitment or networking tool.

If you’re trying to find a job, think about your ideal job and what skills it requires. If you have them, then include them in your profile. Try to use commonly-used terms in case anyone is searching for them, but be as specific as possible.

Don’t worry about endorsements. They are becoming increasingly irrelevant, because nobody is very careful about who they endorse for what. If you have been endorsed for some odd things that are not relevant to your job, you can manage your endorsements and control the order in which they are shown. You can also ask your contacts to endorse you for particular skills if you want to move them up the list.

Bottom line: Think of skills as search keywords for potential recruiters.


As a general rule, don’t include hobbies.

Hobbies and pastimes can either look desperate or boring. Let your friends on Facebook know that you love your family, but not your LinkedIn network.

Do include any professional interests, such as particular areas of expertise or where you’ve done a course, or voluntary work.

Bottom line: Keep it professional.

Making Connections

There are several ways to build your network on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn will automatically invite your contacts to connect with you, if you allow that. However, you may have quite a lot of friends among your contacts with whom you do not wish to connect professionally. It’s therefore probably better to tell LinkedIn not to connect with your contacts, but to do it manually instead.

Use the search function and, once you’ve made a few connections, LinkedIn will suggest other people that you may know, based on shared connections.

When connecting, always send a personal message and not just the standard ‘I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn’. Your friends won’t mind, but former colleagues will probably appreciate a more personal approach, even if all you add is ‘It’s been a long time since we met at [wherever]. I saw your profile and thought it would be good to connect’.

Connecting with people you don’t know

Some people suggest that you should never connect with anyone you don’t know on LinkedIn.

This is because LinkedIn is your professional network and you stand or fall by your contacts. You may be asked to endorse or recommend people by others in your network and, if you don’t know them, you can’t.

However, you can only contact people on LinkedIn if they are in your network, unless you have access to paid-for functions. It is therefore possible that potential recruiters may approach you via an invitation to connect. You could be missing out on an opportunity if you don’t connect.

A useful rule of thumb is only to connect with people you don’t know if they send you a personal message explaining why they want to connect—and you feel that you want to connect with them on that basis.

Bottom line: Connect with former and current colleagues, classmates, and friends with whom you’re happy to be associated professionally. Consider carefully before connecting with people you don’t know, but don’t absolutely rule it out.


Recommendations are interesting. Some employers swear that they’re essential, but plenty of people don’t have any.

If you’re seriously job-hunting, it’s probably a good idea to ask people who have worked with you and expressed confidence in your work if they would mind giving you a recommendation. However, the best recommendations are always going to be spontaneous.

Bottom line: Try to get one or two recommendations if you’re job-hunting, to show that others rate you too.

Contact details

If you want people to contact you, you have to give them the chance!

If you’re bothered about spam or privacy, then control your privacy settings and make sure that you can only be contacted via LinkedIn, or use a dedicated email address.

Bottom line: People can’t contact you if you don’t include this information.


You can change your profile URL to personalise it

LinkedIn will provide you with a profile URL. It will have lots of numbers at the end.

You can change this, so that it shows your name instead URL). In your Profile, click on ‘See contact info’. This will open up a dialogue box in which you can edit your contact information, including profile URL, your email address and your Twitter handle.

Other LinkedIn Features

Several additional features of LinkedIn are useful for professional networking. These include groups and the publishing platform.


Groups are a good way for professionals with similar interest or expertise to connect, share information, and generally network.

You can search for LinkedIn Groups using the search tool on your home page. There are likely to be a number of groups for your subject area, so it is worth having a quick look at the information about each group to see if it looks like one for you before you apply to join it. You can only apply to a certain number of groups at a time, so take your time to think about which ones you actually want to join. LinkedIn will also recommend groups based on your profile.

Groups are a good way to gently start to contribute to discussions and raise your professional profile a bit, but without having to publish full-length articles.

Bottom line: Joining groups in your subject area, and contributing to discussions, will help build your professional reputation.

Publishing Platform

LinkedIn’s publishing platform allows both members and influencers to share content publicly.

Any articles that you publish become part of your profile, and can be seen on the Articles section of your profile. Your articles are shared with your network in newsfeeds, and sometimes via notifications. If you set your profile settings right, any LinkedIn member can see your articles, and can choose to follow you from within one of your articles. They will then see your content in future. If your profile is set to ‘public’, your articles will be visible via search engines.

The benefit of this platform is that publishing is free and, with the right settings, anyone can see your articles. You can therefore build a reputation as an expert in your chosen area without having any publishing costs, or the cost of maintaining a blog. The added advantage is that you don’t have to share your articles further, because LinkedIn does that for you. You can, of course, always share via other social media platforms if you wish.

Bottom line: Publishing articles via LinkedIn can help to boost your professional reputation without any infrastructure costs to you.

LinkedIn Creator mode

LinkedIn Creator mode is a free feature of LinkedIn that you can turn on via your profile settings. It provides access to new tools and features that may help you to expand your audience. The purpose of most of these new tools is to make your articles and activity easier to find.

These tools include:

  • Being able to select up to five hashtags that summarise your content, and are included on your profile. Theoretically, these make your content easier to find.

  • Your activities will appear first on your profile, again making your content easier to find. You can also add a link to a personal website to your ‘intro card’ (headline or summary) on LinkedIn.

  • You can add images and video to your content, which is not available to ‘ordinary’ site users.

  • You can create a ‘carousel’ of images or documents. For example, you might share a slideshow or a series of pictures to tell a story.

  • You can publish a newsletter to your followers via LinkedIn.

  • You can apply to host a LinkedIn Live event (see box), although there are some restrictions on this (e.g. number of followers, and geographical location).

What is LinkedIn Live?

LinkedIn Live allows eligible pages and individuals (some LinkedIn Creators) to broadcast live video content to a LinkedIn page, profile or event. You need to use a broadcasting tool, either a custom stream, or a third-party broadcasting tool like Vimeo, Zoom or WebEx. It is effectively a way to run a webinar or panel discussion and broadcast it live to LinkedIn. This may be a helpful way of sharing it with your usual audience, or tap into your social media following. The video will also be recorded and available to view via the LinkedIn page or profile after the event.

Bottom line: LinkedIn Creator mode turns LinkedIn from being primarily a networking platform to being mainly a publishing platform. It is therefore ideal if you want to expand your publishing reach, and get lots of followers, and if you will use all the tools. However, if you are still primarily interested in expanding your network, then it is probably best NOT to activate this mode, as it may affect how people can contact you.

LinkedIn Learning

LinkedIn Learning is a subscription-only offer of training content that is algorithm-tailored to match your skills and interests.

It offers a wide range of courses and content, and you can pick and choose to suit your interests. The courses are also different lengths and styles, so there is something for everyone. Some also provide a certificate of completion, which may be valuable if you need to be able to demonstrate your ability in a particular skill.

Learning Pathways allow you to follow all-in-one in-depth courses on particular issues. These are great if you are new to a subject and don’t know where to start.

Bottom line: LinkedIn Learning offers a month’s free trial, so it’s worth a try to see if you would get value from the feature in the longer term.

The Next Step

Developing your LinkedIn profile is just the first step in marketing yourself. You now need to use it: get out there and ask your contacts for introductions, and join groups with people you want to get to know. You should also use the platform to publish content in your subject area.

All these are important ways to build your professional reputation—and that is what will ensure that you can develop an interesting and rewarding career.

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Further Reading from Skills You Need

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