LinkedIN logoIt’s no secret. I’m nuts about social media. (I lead the Cisco Careers “Life at Cisco” social media strategy.) Word gets around, so people who aren’t as nuts about social media ask me for advice. I love helping them, because when you’re passionate about something, you want others to be passionate about it.

One of the biggest questions I get asked is about how to make a great LinkedIn profile. There are lots of tips out there – have a great profile picture, fill out all the sections of your profile, etc. However, there’s one word that I tell people will change the way they think about their LinkedIn profile.

Here it is. You ready for it? The word is “keywords.”

Carmen's LinkedIn profile
My LinkedIn profile, full of keywords!

LinkedIn is the Google Search of the professional world. If a hiring manager is looking to fill a role, they’re going to search for keywords. If a job seeker is looking for a new role, they’re going to search for keywords. If someone wants to network with their peers, reach out for new opportunities or build their contacts in a certain area, they’re going to search for keywords.

That’s why your LinkedIn profile better be filled with keywords.

Ask yourself this: “What are the words or phrases that best describe what it is I do.” (Or, if you’re early in your career, what you WANT to do.) Not sure what keywords are right for you? Do a LinkedIn search using the keywords you THINK you want to use, and look at the profiles that come up on the first two pages. Do those people represent what you’re looking for? Or, look at the profiles of people who you feel represent your chosen field. What keywords do they use?

Once you’ve got your keywords, you need to start building them into your profile.

1. Start with the Skills section of LinkedIn. (Go to Profile -> Edit Profile -> Scroll to Skills -> Click “Add Skils” box.) Enter your skills (which should be your top keywords). Now, LinkedIn will start asking your connections to endorse you for those skills/keywords. The more endorsements for those skills/keywords, the higher you’ll come up in search results for those skills. For example, my top two keywords are “social media marketing” and “social media.” I have the most endorsements on those two skillsets.

2. Now, look at your LinkedIn Headline (the short section under your name on your profile.) Are your top skills listed? If not, put them there. (Go to Profile -> Edit Profile -> Scroll over headline -> Click Pencil button to edit.) This area doesn’t have to be your title (we all know that sometimes a title says nothing about our skills.) The edit box even gives you the opportunity to see examples or what other people in your industry are doing. (Let’s hope they’re using keywords!)

3. Now, tackle your summary. Your summary is your chance to show your personality, while incorporating your keywords. Make sure when you use your keywords, you’re doing them in a way that makes sense so people don’t get annoyed. (For example, I didn’t write “social media” 50 times in one paragraph.)

4. Is your experience section filled out? Make sure that your experience section uses action verbs, is results-oriented, and features your keywords.

That covers the basics, but I’m going to go past LinkedIn 201 to LinkedIn 301 with my last tip, for those of you who are now so excited that you want to rank on the top search page for your keywords if it’s the last thing you do.

As you grow in your career, your keywords should be what people recognize you for – your areas of expertise. Pay it forward, and share your expertise with others. LinkedIn allows you to create what is essentially a blog post that is tied to your LinkedIn profile. (Go to your Home page, select “Write a Post.”) What should you write about? Your keywords. Share knowledge. Share projects. Share learnings. Share mistakes. When you write these posts, use your keywords.


Carmen Shirkey Collins

Social Media Manager

Talent Brand and Enablement Team, HR