The New Alpha Checklist for Your LinkedIn Profile

The New Alpha Checklist for Your LinkedIn Profile

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This article is the first of a three-part series describing how to optimize your LinkedIn profile in order to fast-track your professional advancement. 

Whether you’re looking to advance your career, find a new role, or build your professional network, optimizing your LinkedIn profile is an easy, inexpensive, and relatively quick way to help you achieve your professional goals.

The New Alpha Checklist for Your LinkedIn Profile provides a roadmap to the basic and advanced tips and tricks that you can follow to ensure that you’re using LinkedIn to get the most strategic professional exposure possible.

Check Before making any changes, consider setting your profile updates to private.

Before you get started, think about whether you want your network to be notified of your edits, since sharing this information with colleagues could inadvertently signal that you’re planning to leave your current job soon.

If you’d prefer to make the updates without sending a blast to your network connections’ newsfeeds, be sure to select “no” next to the “Notify your network?” setting (just to the right of your profile when you’re in edit mode).

Check Have a professional-looking photo.

Having a professional-looking photo makes your profile much more likely to be viewed. The second article in this series focuses, specifically, on optimizing your LinkedIn profile photo, so stay tuned…

Check List your professional history.

Be sure to detail the portions of your professional history that are relevant to your career aspirations. No need to list anything that’s not related to your future career goals. Less can be more.

If you choose to provide a brief description for any or all of your job entries, focus on the roles and responsibilities for each position that most closely relate to the type of position that you are seeking.

Check Customize your URL

Notice the difference:


Creating a custom URL takes about 45 seconds and is an easy way to show your LinkedIn (read: professional) savvy.

Check Include your DESIRED industry on your profile.

Again, this makes you more likely to show up in people’s searches and takes less than 30 seconds to do.

Check Include your education on your profile.

This, too, helps you to get more views, so if you have a college degree (or more!), then go ahead and list it.

If you don’t have a formal degree, consider listing relevant course work in the “Courses” section, and/or any relevant “Certifications” or “Awards & Honors.”

Check Join relevant groups.

Identify groups on LinkedIn that relate to your desired field or industry and join them. This, too, makes you more likely to show up in people’s searches. Moreover, it gives you access to a network of people with similar professional interests who you don’t have to know to connect with.

It’s okay to join a large number of groups—just be sure that they are strategic choices, and that they are large and have a lot of activity.

Check Be sure to list your relevant skills in the Skills & Endorsements section.

This helps you to get more profile views and is a great opportunity to define yourself as a professional. Don’t make people guess about your strengths; tell them what you’re good at by selecting some skills to get you started. Note: the third article in this series focuses on how to politely ask for endorsements and recommendations.

New Alpha Tip: If you have a handful of skills that you’d like people to know about, in addition to listing them here, be sure to use them throughout your profile.

New Alpha Tip: Being endorsed for a lot of seemingly random and unrelated skills listed can actually make you look inexperienced or like too much of a generalist—instead of the expert that you are. Don’t be afraid to delete or reject some endorsements and really focus on those skills that are most likely to catapult you toward your professional goals.

Check Advanced: Use the Summary section.

Having a professional summary written in the third-person makes you look more polished and makes you more likely to show up in LinkedIn search results—use this section to showcase your skills, talents, interests, and personality.

Also, be sure to also include words that are specifically tailored to a your ideal next professional step.

If you’re struggling with what to write here, browse your network to get ideas for how people use this section—however, you should never just copy and re-word another person’s summary, which would be totally unethical and not Alpha.

Check Advanced: Get recommendations.

You should have at least three 3-5 sentence professional recommendations on your LinkedIn profile. The third article in this series focuses on how to politely ask for endorsements and recommendations, so again, stay tuned…

Check Advanced: Include some “rich media.”

LinkedIn has an option where you can upload photographs, web pages, or videos of work that you’ve done—be sure to use this option to showcase your best work.

If you’re less than flush in the “rich media,” department, you can include pictures of you giving a talk or presentation, or an “action shot” of you working with others. I recommend using these sparingly as they can be helpful tools, but can also clutter your profile if overused.

Check Advanced: Shoot for 500+ connections.

Having 500+ connections exposes you to a broader network on LinkedIn, and it sends the message to potential hiring mangers and recruiters that you’re a well-connected, network-savvy professional.

Since LinkedIn is a professional networking site, it’s perfectly acceptable to connect with your current and former colleagues—as well as classmates, clients, and people you meet at networking events. You can also try out the “People You May Know” feature that LinkedIn offers.

New Alpha Tip: On the day after a networking event, go through a list of the people who you met and connected with at the event, and invite each of them to connect on LinkedIn. Remember to reintroduce yourself in the invitation, and express how much you enjoyed meeting them at X event.

Check Advanced: Include your customized LinkedIn URL in the signature of your personal email.

Unless it’s the norm at your work place, you should be careful about including the URL to your LinkedIn profile in your work email signature, but be sure to list it in the signature of your personal email—doing so is a quick and easy way to share your professional expertise and expand your network.

Check Advanced: Set a calendar reminder to update your LinkedIn profile regularly.

Keep your LinkedIn profile current by setting a calendar reminder to set aside an hour every 6 months to make updates. This saves you time in the long run, and also ensures that your professional online presence accurately represents you.

Check OPTIONAL: Include some work in the Volunteering and Causes section.

For less experienced professionals or those looking to make a career change into a more cause-oriented field (or anyone who just wants to look like a thoughtful, proactive person…), this is a great place to list your relevant experience, which many hiring managers consider to be equivalent to paid work experience.

No matter what your career goals, following the New Alpha Checklist for Your LinkedIn Profile will help you to optimize your online presence, so that you get the best professional exposure possible.

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Danielle Harlan is the Founder and CEO of the Center for Advancing Leadership and Human Potential ( and author of the leadership book, The New Alpha ( She earned her doctorate in political science and M.A. in education from Stanford University, where she was a Jacob K. Javits National Fellow and received a Centennial Teaching Award for excellence in instruction. Prior to launching the Center, she was the Chief of Operations for the Carnegie Foundation, where she worked to harness the power of networks and quality improvement strategies in order to solve important educational problems. Named one of Silicon Valley's "40 Under 40," Danielle has also been a speaker for TEDx and worked as an instructor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and U.C. Berkeley Extension's Corporate and Professional Development Program. In addition, she has given guest lectures at the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (the “”) and the Career Development Center at Stanford, and has been featured in leading publications such as Fast Company, Forbes, and Women's Health. Danielle started her career as a Teach For America corps member and later served as a mentor and advisor for Global Leadership Adventures, an international leadership development and service program. In addition to teaching in the U.S., she has taught in Brazil, China, Costa Rica, and South Africa. She is a member of the International Leadership Association, the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics, and the National Association for Female Executives.

  • February 26, 2016

    Great approach to helping define your professional skills and making yourself more marketable.