Reasonably Spiffy with Room for Improvement – Part 2: The Summary
Who are you? and why should I bother?
If you had only 10 seconds to tell someone what you do, what would you say? That is about how much time people spend scanning your profile. The classic elevator pitch is 30 seconds. You don’t get that much time on LinkedIn. You must stand out from the crowd.
What would you say?
It needs to be simple, compelling and precise.
The summary is an important part of the profile and the most real estate you get on this platform, 2000 words. I don’t recommend using all that space. I don’t care how good your writing is, I am not going to read 2000 words. 400 – 500 is adequate.
So, what makes a great summary?
There are about as many theories as there are social media and LinkedIn consultants. I take a very practical view. We are all sick to death of being ‘pitched’ and the glitzy, hard core sales, straight on, “I am ….” doesn’t for me.
The summary should paint a vivid picture of who you are as a professional. If you do not have a website, when someone Googles you, the first thing that pops up is your LinkedIn Profile. This is your chance to direct what others are finding out about you. Take advantage of this opportunity.
Do you know who you are as a professional? The greatest gift any of us can have professionally is a large dose of self-awareness. It is the keys to the career kingdom. So many clients want me to answer this question for them. I can’t. If you know very clearly who you are, I can help you write a killer summary. If you don’t, the process is long and takes detours and sometimes gets lost or abandoned.
What we are really talking about is branding. Consistently communicating who you are, what you do, how you do it, and who you would like to work with. What is your ‘special sauce’? What is your exact flavor?
I have heard there is are organizations that will flesh out your entire profile. $695. I have a friend that hired one at a conference. She cannot recognize herself in the profile they created for her. She didn’t keep any of it. Your voice is unique. The way your clientele relate to you is special. Get in touch with your voice and incorporate it into your message.
Tell me a story
The summary is the perfect place to use narrative. We have to read it all the way to the end; that’s how our brains are wired. We want to know what happens. “Show, don’t tell” is compelling. Here’s an example:
I was working with a professional and we had finished his entire profile. He had done some really great work with his experience descriptions and visuals, I was super impressed. But, he told me he couldn’t write the summary. He had struggled for weeks and was frustrated.
It isn’t easy. Finding the perfect first sentence and a story that sums up your entire career is intimidating. So I asked him, “Tell me about a defining moment in your life.”
He said when he was 16 he got in trouble with the car. As his punishment, he was to do all the lawn mowing and landscaping for their house and his grandma’s. When he picked up the landscaping tools and began to learn how to use them, he knew he had found his life’s work.
He is an Environmental Engineer, a hydrology and geology specialist creating beautiful subdivisions that enhance the local natural features, wildlife habitats and hydrology. I was stunned into silence.
For me that was compelling. Who hasn’t gotten in trouble? He created common ground and all of a sudden you understand why he does what he does, in the way he does it. Memorable.
Break it up
One of my favorite formulas is 7 – two to three sentence paragraphs. With all that white space and quick to scan paragraphs, it is easy to find the key words and phrases you are looking for. Very few people read large blocks of text on LinkedIn. Tell me what I want to know quickly; don’t make me work so hard to discover who you are.
There are many ways to break up the summary –
Bullet-ed lists of services or skills
Clients you have worked with
In its simplest form, LinkedIn is a search engine with the purpose of connecting the right business people. Anyone can use the search feature on the top and enter specific key words to find the right people, goods, services, skills, companies, etc.
What are your ten key words? What do you want people to find you for? Who is your ideal client and what words would they use to look for you? What are the current key words in your industry?
Key words should be included in your summary, your skills section, your experience descriptions, and the headline. If you want the right people to find you, use the right key words.
A Call to Action/Contact info
LinkedIn is designed to connect business people. Who do you want to connect with? Be as specific as you can be. I have a friend that is a business coach for yoga instructors that combine yoga with a healing practice. Very specific. If you fit both qualifications, she will give you a free 30-minute consultation. She lists her e-mail address as her preferred method of communication.
Make your call to action very clear and list how you would like to be contacted. If you e-mail me at email@example.com I will send you a writing activity to help you get at the kind of material you need to produce a great summary.
Think 5 – 10 years ahead
So many summaries are anchored to accomplishments from the past.
Where are you going? That’s more interesting. What are the opportunities and communities you are looking for? Do you need a mentor?
If you are transitioning, and everyone is, where are you going? What do you need to get there? If you list the things you have done in the past, people will assume that you want to continue that path.
“Looking for opportunities to expand into ________________ market.” “Looking to collaborate with XYZ professionals.” Ask.
Show me where you are going.
You can add at least 2 pieces of media to your summary. Whatever you add, make it count. If you have a website, this is a great place to provide a link. Have you designed a great Power Point Presentation lately? Save a version that has the cover slide, with a great photo on it, and a slide with the outline for your presentation. Add it to your profile. If you are not concerned about proprietary information, include the entire presentation.
Photos change the way people relate to your profile. If you use them well, they begin the Know/Like/Trust process. The summary is a wonderful place to include photos of you speaking at an event, working with a client, volunteering, etc.
Video is all the rage on LinkedIn. Testimonials, video tips, speaking clips, are all good ways to utilize video in the summary. They don’t have to be professional videos. iPhone video can be as compelling as a polished studio video. I would argue the non-professional variety is more authentic.
“Tell me what to pay attention to and I will tell you who you are.”
Jose Ortega y Gasset
Who is you target audience?
When writing your summary think about who you are trying to reach. For job seekers, who is your ideal employer? What are your superpowers and what problems do you solve. How do you align with their mission statement?
For entrepreneurs and small business owners, who is your ideal client? What sets you, your product, your service, apart from your competitors? Are you offering an experience or community as well as a product or service?
Look at the profiles of others in your field and see how they present themselves. We all have an idea of who we are and how we want others to perceive us. How much time do we actually spend working to craft that precise message?
Good messaging doesn’t happen by accident. It takes thought, interaction with your audience, self-awareness and clarity. I think the summary is the hardest part of the profile to write. It took a year for me to decide to sit down and re-write mine.
But, it is also by far the most important piece. A well written summary can help you attract the right kind of collaboration and superior opportunities. It requires a deep level of self-knowledge and vision for where you are going.
It is not for the faint of heart. Be brave. Write a lot. Edit judiciously.
And get lots of good feedback.
Next week – Experience.
Have a great week!
Angela Dunz is a Public Speaker, Workshop Facilitator and LinkedIn Consultant and Strategist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org