Developing a professional profile that works

By Jillian Mikolaizyk / March 21, 2023 / , ,

While having a good resume is still important, even more important these days is a good personal and professional profile. These are used for our social media channels liked LinkedIn, on a website and for sharing your story in a networking setting.

Being able to succinctly explain who you are when meeting new people, whether online or in person, helps attract the kind of clients who might want to work with you or your company.

There are a few critical components to any good social media profile, and like a resume, they can make or break a professional connection. Focusing on your past work history or education is still valuable to help frame your career, but even more critical is how you share your skills.

Let’s look at four ways to communicate who you are:

  • Be authentic
  • Keep it simple
  • Focus on skills
  • Have a good photograph

A real story is better than information

Begin by asking a few questions. What is it you want to highlight? Does it explain who you are? And is it based on the real you?

Too often, people fill their profiles with the items you’d find on a resume – work history, education and a kind of chronological look at your career. These all may be true, but they lack a storytelling aspect.

Explain your career by telling your story. Use the five Ws to help – who, what, when, where and even why. Use a narrative approach for this part of your profile, whether for LinkedIn or an “about” page on your website.

Practical details, things like dates and job title, have a place, but focus on what those things really mean. If you worked for a corporation for five years, write about what you did during that time to meet your company’s goals, to display the culture and brand of the organization and how those actions created success or results.

The real you should come through at all times. You may have been a manager, but what does that mean, really? How did you manage people? What was – and is – your personal style and your take on being a leader? Since so much of this is about people, talk about that – your team, the way you explained work and delegated responsibilities to your staff.

Too often we look back on what we did versus how we did it, or why it might have made an impact on your company, or even you. Instead find ways to share the real you – how you overcome challenges, what your strengths are and even your areas that need improvement.

Less is more in a profile

Most important is to keep it simple. Profiles on social media, or even websites, are more than blogs. The toughest part of any writing is being clear and simple. A complex career with many facets can be tough to boil down to its essence, but remember some of the secrets to good writing: pay attention to structure, word choices, length of sentences, overall tone and using active voice.

Sure, those things are not necessarily simple, and conveying a lot of information in a short, easy-to-read way takes time and practice. Some of the hardest writing you will ever do is short writing, taking a complex idea and explaining it in an understandable way.

Since this is your story, hopefully you know it well, and can craft a narrative that covers essential information but tells a tale that will help the reader and any potential contacts or clients.

One good starting place might be to try and prepare an “elevator speech:” a 30-second explanation or who you are and what you do. When it comes to telling people about what your company actually does, the elevator speech becomes a great way to begin a conversation, especially if it’s genuine and comes across easily.

An elevator speech about you takes more work but can achieve the same outcome. How many times have you been asked to tell someone about yourself? You begin with where you are from or your family or education or you can talk instead about what makes you tick, who you are as person.

No matter the approach, keep it simple.

Skills matter, job title not as much

Like a good resume, a good social media profile should be about who you are as person or professional in your career. Try to focus on your skills. Telling someone that you have had seven different job titles doesn’t tell them what you are good at or what you have learned along your career path.

How can you show your value to a potential client or employee? Remember that skills come in many varieties – they can be formal training in softwares or programs or they can be things you’ve learned through your daily work requirements.

Knowing how to use Excel or Word isn’t just done in a classroom, and being clear that you know a business tool like these softwares can be done through examples or insights you discovered. For example, if one of your skills is “budgeting,” you might talk about the scale or size of the budgets you’ve managed and their inherent complexities. This isn’t something Excel does for you; you have to look beyond the numbers sometimes and balance what is important with what is necessary to get the work accomplished.

Another example is meeting deadlines. No one really learns how to meet deadlines from a software program or college course. Understanding the importance of deadlines is the first step but then it becomes critical to develop time management skills and be prepared for bumps in the road.

In general, skills can be sometimes best be garnered through real life, from work challenges as well as through those more formal certification or education programs.

Visual presentation matters

This part is simple: make sure you have a professional photograph of yourself and, if you are a small business owner, a logo or company brand symbol that gives a visual representation of your business.

Today, profile photographs are all over the place. They are often less formal than the old “head shots” done in a studio and they try and convey a sense of who you are through visual language. At a minimum a good photograph tells the viewer something about you, certainly the basics of what you look like. A photograph also signals your willingness to be recognized and known by those who you might never meet in person but who want to connect with you or your company.

All too often people lack a photograph with their social media profiles or they use inappropriate personal images. Sure, this can convey the “real you” we talked about earlier but you have to ask if that is the way you want to present yourself. Just as we dress and talk, how we look to other people can make or break whether we land a new client or make a connection with someone we want to get to know professionally.

So focus on the visual message along with your story. Together, these elements will help you develop a profile that makes sense, is authentic, showcases your skills and is simple enough for anyone checking you out to understand quickly.

Profiles should be like elevator speeches – short and simple. They should also like resumes – explain your skills and professional qualities. And they should have a visual element when possible. These will help you to gain attention, make new connections and hopefully land new clients.