Along with the rest of the world, the IT talent market has changed radically in the wake of COVID-19. Almost overnight, a market defined for years by increasing corporate demand and a worsening talent shortage is suddenly filled with people looking for jobs. Companies have paused or hit the brakes on hiring plans and many have had layoffs, with more potentially in the works.

IT is key to a company’s success and will ultimately be among the early areas to start hiring, particularly consultants, when the time comes. Hopefully, you aren’t in a position to need to worry about it, but it always makes sense to keep your personal brand up to date. Whether you’re looking for a job or not, it is a good way to be better known in your own company, industry, and with colleagues.

I look at a lot of resumes and LinkedIn profiles in my business, so here are some of the LinkedIn “best practices” I’ve gathered over the years:

1) Use a profile picture. Your profile pic is an easy way to connect with people and is a LinkedIn “must have”. People want to see who they will be doing business with. Keep it professional, fairly current (in the last 3 years or so), and wear business casual attire at a minimum. Please smile—it’s another easy way to make a positive first impression. If you want to take it to another level, you can add a banner photo as well. I’ve seen profiles with company logos, team events, city skylines, or other professionally appropriate banners.

2) Summarize key details about yourself in the “About” section. Often, this content is lifted from the “Summary” section of your resume. It is also the space where you can offer some personal details about yourself (if you so choose), but remember to keep it brief. It’s a quick overview.

3) Provide detailed insight under Experience. Similar to the “About” section, many people take the descriptions of their experience directly from their resumes. As a best practice, the more details you can provide, the better. Include past employers, your official titles, major projects, dates of employment (month/year), and other responsibilities. You should mention any major achievements or personal recognition you’ve received here too.

4) If applicable, give a full explanation in your Education section. Like your Experience section, you should be specific about your educational background. List your degree(s), school/university awarding the degree, majors or areas of concentration, dates of attendance, and any honors earned. If you’re pursuing a degree currently, share as much of this information as you can.

5) Consider using the optional LinkedIn sections that are available. LinkedIn offers more sections where you can include additional information below your Education section. It’s generally a good idea to utilize these, if you have the experience. Some of the more common examples include the Licenses & Certifications, Honors & Awards, Accomplishments, References, and Skills & Endorsements headings. These extras give you the opportunity to distinguish yourself beyond the core profile sections we’ve already discussed. Take advantage where appropriate, e.g. ask a past manager for a reference, make a list of your skills, or explain an award you received, etc. There are also sub-sections worth using as well, such as the “Contact Info” link under your name and profile picture. It’s a good idea to list an email and, ideally, a phone number where you can be reached.

Regardless of your goals on LinkedIn, anyone can utilize these strategies for building a compelling LinkedIn presence. Put your best foot forward with a warm, professional profile picture. Leverage the “About” section as a quick snapshot of yourself. Be detailed and clear in your “Experience” and “Education” spaces. Expand your profile using optional portions of your profile, applicable. By following these rules, you’ll set a foundation for strong professional branding.

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