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Four Key Decisions on Your LinkedIn Profile

by Maggie Graham, MEd, CPCC

Here’s what happens when I talk to people who skirt the edges of LinkedIn: they confess.

Sometimes they even lower their voices to a whisper to reveal what they’ve been holding close to their chest for so long.

  • I really don’t understand LinkedIn.
  • I’m afraid of identity theft.
  • I don’t want people to see how old I am, and my picture will give it away.
  • I have no idea where to begin with LinkedIn.

LinkedIn can be intimidating. After all, more than 460 million users are on the platform across 200 countries and territories, its features are undergoing constant change, and there’s a tidal wave of decisions that confront new users.

Fortunately, it doesn’t take much to establish a presence on LinkedIn, and once the basic framework is in place, small investments of time can dramatically strengthen your presence there. Whether you’re a job seeker, a business owner, someone who wants to advance professionally – even if you fit into all of these categories – you’re in the right place and you’re not alone. In this series on LinkedIn, we’ll tackle both the big picture and the details of wading into the waters of this professional networking tool.

Set Up Your Profile

If you don’t have a profile on LinkedIn yet, take the plunge. Certainly, there are risks in having an account. Identity theft is a threat to us all, and I can’t offer you reassurances that your information is any more secure on LinkedIn than it is behind your bank or credit card’s firewall, on voter registration records, or inside your mobile phone company’s billing database. Our personal information is vulnerable, and it’s important that we’re vigilant about monitoring its security.

If you’re in a job search or you’re seeking to move forward professionally, LinkedIn is a key tool for you. Can you be successful without a profile? Absolutely! Do your odds of crossing hiring managers’, recruiters’, and decision makers’ radar increase exponentially with a LinkedIn profile? For sure! A study from Jobvite last year found that 87 percent of recruiters use LinkedIn.

Business owners have strong reasons to use LinkedIn, too. It’s a great way to build your reputation, demonstrate thought leadership, and build traffic to your website. LinkedIn is consistently listed as one of solopreneurs’ social media strategies to grow their presence and elevate their brand.

Setting up your account is simple:

  • Go to
  • If you’re curious about LinkedIn, go to “What is LinkedIn?” and read about this social media behemoth.
  • Enter your email address and confirm your address.
  • Sign in and voila … you’re a LinkedIn user!

Tip: Use your personal email address as your primary LinkedIn email address so if you leave your current position, you don’t have to remember to switch your account from your current work email address. Even though your personal email address should be your primary email address, be sure to list your professional email address (both current and past) so that colleagues from both present and past can find you. See the video for details about this tip.

Add a Current Profile Photo

One of the biggest hesitations I hear from new and veteran LinkedIn users is whether to add and/or display their LinkedIn photo. Age discrimination is a painful reality that we all encounter, and we’ll address some techniques for steering clear of it in future blog posts, but it’s important that you add a current photo to your LinkedIn profile. Statisticians have found that adding a professional profile photo elevates your chances of being found on LinkedIn by a factor of 14. You’re also more than 36 times more likely to receive a message on LinkedIn if you display your profile photo.

Important details about your photo:

  • It should be current, within the last decade.
  • It should show your face clearly (I’ve had people display a photo of themselves in scuba gear and snowboarding goggles to obscure their age – that can backfire because it looks like you’re hiding something and also not recognizing the professional nature of the platform).
  • It should not be cropped awkwardly to eliminate others in the photo.

“But if people see how old I am, they’ll eliminate me immediately,” my clients often protest. Yes, that’s a risk. What’s worse, however, is if you walk into an interview looking significantly older than your current photo. That move creates a pall of distrust that’s almost impossible to overcome no matter how skilled you are or how well you present yourself in an interview.

Use a professional photo (you can often find coupons for department store photo studios and other photographers and get the shot done for a very small investment). You have nothing to hide.

Customize Your LinkedIn URL

Whaaaat?! People look at me quizzically, as if I’m speaking in a foreign language when I mention this suggestion. Take a look at the video for more details, but let me point out how useful this LinkedIn feature is. Once your LinkedIn url is customized, you can add it to your email signature and your resume header, and people can click on it and find your LinkedIn profile with ease, whether they’re connected to you on LinkedIn or not. That’s the point of LinkedIn, right? Being found by the people you’re targeting.

Updated video: For users with latest LinkedIn user interface