In today's digital age, just about anyone and everyone has a LinkedIn profile. The truth is, some of them are awesome, and some of them are...well...not so awesome.
Often, a LinkedIn profile falls flat because one of the prime pieces of real estate in a LinkedIn profile (the summary) falls flat.
What is a LinkedIn Summary?
Think of your LinkedIn summary as the first impression you are making with potential employers and collaborators. You can think of it also a bit of like a fishhook, designed to draw people in and get them reading the rest of your profile.
The problem with many LinkedIn summaries is that people mistake them for the more traditional "objective statement" you place on your resume.
Let's be clear:
A LinkedIn summary and your "resume summary" are wildly different. Your resume summary tends to be targeted to a specific job and company, perhaps even a specific person or department.
Your LinkedIn summary however, is your attempt to connect with and reach out to many different potential employers and collaborators. So, while you don't want your summary to be muddy, and you want it to accurately reflect what you do and what you offer, it should also be broad enough to appeal to a wider audience.
It’s beneficial before writing your summary to sit down and ask yourself a couple of questions.
- Who are you trying to reach?
- What is it you want them to know about you?
- How do you want them to feel when reading your summary?
Knowing these things can help you to write your summary with intention and your goals in mind. The nice thing about LinkedIn summaries; as your goals change, so can your summary.
First or Third Person?
One key point to keep in mind when it comes to crafting your summary is what point of view should you use? This honestly boils down to personal preference.
However, bear in mind that the most engaging and intriguing LinkedIn summaries are often written in the first person. Third person can be effective when done well, but when done poorly, it can come across as bland and boring.
So you have to be careful when making your choice. Really consider the audience that you are trying to appeal to and the action you want them to take when reading your summary.
Try to avoid being overly salesy. Yes, you want to sell yourself to the reader, but do it in a way that is tasteful and subtle, not overbearing.
You can include third-party mentions in your summary as well, where and when they are relevant. Only include those that are related to your current goals for your summary. Stuffing everything imaginable into your summary is counter-productive.
What Makes a Summary Great
Ultimately, the most effective LinkedIn summaries pique curiosity and connect with the reader, prompting them to learn more about you and what you have to offer.
Authenticity is extremely important, so always strive to make sure your summary reflects the real you. If you wouldn't say it or do it in person...don’t put it into your summary. You will create a massive disconnect when someone meets you face-to-face.
One last point to bear in mind is that in the online world, attention spans are short. So, while you are allowed 2,000 characters to create your summary, it doesn't necessarily mean you need to use all of it. Use only as many characters as is required to convey your message. No more, no less.
Examples of LinkedIn Summaries Done Well
Barbara's summary is great and makes an excellent example of the third person point of view done well. She uses blunt humor and honesty to convey her message. She also drops relevant hints about her skills and successes, and includes a (very) subtle call-to-action at the end.
David has a good summary that uses the first person point of view. He is authentic and shares a story that piques interest. It clearly speaks about his accomplishments as well as his goals, and you are left with the knowledge that speaking gigs are his thing.
Sean's summary is short, purposefully outside conventions by using all lower case letters and no capitalization, and fits perfectly with a persona you might expect from a self-proclaimed "serial start-up guy" and disrupter of norms.
Eduardo's summary is another nice example of first person done well. He leads with his biggest accomplishment (Facebook) and then drops subtle keywords (like "seed investment") that are related to his industry as a venture capitalist that speaks to his audience, but doesn't go overboard. He also tells his summary like a story, and drops a little bit of humor and humanity at the end by mentioning his chess and meteorology addictions.
Jay’s summary offers another third person example done right. He uses a succinct and intriguing opening line that hooks the reader. Then he goes on to share his successes and skills, sprinkled with jokes and humor. He clearly states his objective, and you reach the end of the summary knowing exactly who he is, what he does, and how he can help you.
As you can see, a LinkedIn summary is an important piece of social real estate. While there is no single "right" or "wrong" way to do one, it's important to remember who your audience is, and what your goals are with it. Then communicate to that audience, those goals, in a way that puts your best foot forward. First impressions always matter, and no one gets seconds.