Before I was part of the Startmate Autumn21 Women Fellowship my LinkedIn page, my advertisement to the world, was, frankly, boring.
It contained non-descript, vague suggestions of who I was in my past, but not what I did now, and certainly had no value-add to the reader. It was filled with gems like lawyer in technology advisory”, as if the reader couldn’t pick that up from the tagline. In short, it was ineffective personal branding doing myself a huge disservice.
As someone who helps people with their personal brand and how to present themselves, I, as Michael Jackson would say, ‘started with the [wo]man in the mirror’.
I supercharged my LinkedIn and my efforts to get who I was and what I was about out there in a more profound and meaningful way.
In my journey, I learnt a lot about what works, and what doesn’t. And during the Fellowship, in many one-to-ones having a look at some truly incredible women’s LinkedIn accounts, I realised this was a problem beyond just my profile. I often did a deep dive into their personal LinkedIn page to resuscitate it and make it an effective advertisement for who they were.
Happily, I agreed to do a presentation on this to the cohort, so if you want to know how to go from being in the LinkedIn dark ages to joining us here in the new world, listen up.
(P.S. I primarily focus on LinkedIn here, because so many people in the professional and startup world use it.)
Why personal branding is important 🤔
If you don’t have a presence online, people will either find something you don’t want them to find (e.g. your personal Instagram or Facebook), or worse, forget about you and move on.
I think of personal branding as an asset providing passive income: it creates interest in you whilst you sleep and do other things! You make the investment of time upfront, and then people find and engage with you. It pays dividends over time, in the form of career and personal opportunities. For example, I was asked to speak at the Bondi Innovation Forum 2021 because of my LinkedIn presence and content. I know others who’ve been offered job opportunities off the back of their LinkedIn profiles.
“It’s important to build a personal brand, because it’s the only thing you’re going to have. Your reputation online, and in the new business world is pretty much the game … Importantly, you’ve got to be out there at some level.” — Gary Vaynerchuck
LinkedIn 101 tips 📝
First ask, ‘what do I want to be known for, or seen as, in the marketplace?’, and detail your expertise and descriptions to the brand you’re establishing for yourself. Make it your own. I use emojis to make it fun, different and more ‘me’. (Not a lot of ex-lawyers brave the emoji world!) 😎
Here’s my step-by-step guide to improving your personal brand on LinkedIn. (Tip: all of these sections can be found under the ‘Add section’ button underneath your profile picture.)
1. Profile picture 🖼
Make it professional, people! Make it clean, up-to-date, without other people, and professional to your industry. Where billboards are shot with iPhones, rope in a good friend to take nice pictures of you dressed appropriately in clothes that symbolise who you are.
2. Banner image 👩 🎤
Many people skip the banner image behind the profile picture. Don’t be that person! Use it as a valuable billboard space. Create a banner image on Canva that shows you (or your company name/brand depending on who your audience is), or shows you engaging in an activity that fits the aesthetic and desired intention of your brand. For example, I’ve got a photo of me speaking with someone (hopefully looking pretty inviting🤞). For more inspiration, look no further than fellow Autumn21 Startmate superstar, Lauren Fong.
3. Header (i.e. the tagline underneath your name/photo) 📣
Use this to shout to the world who you are, what you do, and what you’re looking for (if appropriate). If you have any big names that you’ve worked with, put it here. (For example, mine currently says: Autumn21 Fellow @ Startmate | High Performance Coach for VCs - Entrepreneurs - Professionals | Ex Google + Baker McKenzie.) You can see Lauren’s header says she’s an Associate at a VC firm, a manager at an Angels fund and also a DJ/Producer, which gives the flavour of her and her personality.
4. Location & industry 🗺
Specifying these details means you’ll appear in the searches of people who are near you or searching for people in a specific area or industry.
Your ‘about’ section is your professional summary. It should give the reader an overview of your experience, as well positioning yourself as an authoritative figure or highlight your suitability for roles.
Make sure it’s engaging and show some personality. You want to be original. Ensure you’re not repeating what you’ll be writing about in the ‘experience’ section, this is the opportunity to highlight the highlight reel… and why they should tune into the sequel!
Top tip: if you’re going for a specific role/industry, look at the terms used in certain job descriptions, and use them in your about section to make you appear in targeted searches.
Include a call to action, so people know what to do next. For example, do you want them to connect with you, send you an email, or put you forward for a particular role?
5. Experience 🔖
Advertising what your company does in the ‘description’ section of your experiences gives an advertisement to your company, not to you. Don’t make it a list of your history (that’s already in there), nor what the company does in the description of your experiences.
Make sure you’re saying the main things you did, the impact that had on the company or team you’re working in, and clearly describe the value you added.
6. Publications / articles / posts 📰
If you have published or written anything online, make sure you link and put this to ‘featured’ on your LinkedIn page, it’ll show that you’re a thought leader in the industry. It also easily allows people to find your content when searching for you (see content piece below).
7. Recommendations 🤝
Give (and ask for) recommendations on LinkedIn. It’s so powerful if someone is able to write 2-3 sentences about how awesome you are. Think of it as a character reference! (You can do this under the ‘more’ button next to the ‘message’ button underneath someone’s LinkedIn profile picture).
8. 'Open to work' button 🔎
If you’re looking for work, make sure you opt-in for the ‘open to work’ button, so recruiters can easily identify you as top, available talent.
9. Skills/experience 🛠
Make sure you do a skills audit and update it with what you’d like to be known for, what you’re good at, and what you have experience in! People in your network can then recommend you for those skills.
Networking in 2021 👯♀️
Look at who you’re already connected with on LinkedIn and think of ways to cultivate and strengthen those connections.
Connect with others. As daunting as it is having not met them in person, connect with people that you’d like to work with or have in your network. Send a note with your request stating why you want to connect and if you want to have a chat, clearly state that and suggest a time.
Make a list of your dream contacts. Who would you love to be friends with in real life or work with? This is where your networking begins. Hit connect and explain in a note why you’re connecting to them, and why you’d like to be part of their network. Now, they might not accept you, but if they do, be ready to share content that would speak to and add value to these dream connections.
Join communities and hashtags to follow relevant trends in your industry.
The secret sauce for supercharging your profile 👑
Content is an extra investment in your passive investment portfolio. It creates interest (and indeed, sometimes money) while you sleep. Think of yourself as a content generator on the social media platforms you frequent. Content creation is a burgeoning industry, you should definitely get on the wave, if you haven’t already.
Creating regular content is also the biggest thing you can do to differentiate yourself from the pack of people attempting to establish a brand on LinkedIn.
The key question should be: ‘How can I use what I’m learning or know to add value to other people or the people I want to attract?’ 🤔
For example, if you want to be in venture capital, write articles on the industries you’re interested in, if you’re a founder write about your company and what you’re passionate about. You can also write about what's happening at work and in your life, and what have you learnt from it. Remember no-one can replace you, that’s a key asset!
Share the content you’re creating on other platforms 📝
If you don’t have a specific niche you’re looking for, you can start by writing things for the group just below you. For example, if you’re a senior manager, write for people at a manager level.
Other tips 👇
Know when and where you’re most creative. For me, during and after I swim I get the best ideas. Is it when you run or meditate or paint? Make sure you’re doing more of those actions when you’re starting to write!
Use a notes app on your phone to jot down content ideas 2x per day. Set a calendar invite to remind you to make a few notes!
When you find interesting content you like, save it and think about what angle youcan could take, and if you agree or disagree. Then use that topic to create an interesting piece of content.