How to Optimize your LinkedIn Profile

November 26, 2012

Why does LinkedIn Matter?

LinkedIn is the largest network of professionals on the web. What makes it great for business and career networking is the ability to leverage the people you already know to exponentially expand your network of potential career and business contacts.

Another reason LinkedIn has become so important: You can expect recruiters and potential employers will search for you there and elsewhere on the web.

Having a robust LinkedIn profile is not only an ipso facto digital resume, but it can also highlight things that may not fit (or become lost) on a paper CV – such as links to your publications and patents or a place to mention your volunteer work.

The Fundamentals

Before we begin delving into section-specific information make sure your contact information is up-to-date (especially your phone number and email address). If you already have a LinkedIn profile, you can edit this section by checking the “Edit” box. This will expand the content sections and reveal an “Edit Contact Info” tab beneath your number of connections.

How to edit your contact information on LinkedIn

Click the “Edit Contact Info” tab to reveal your listed email address, phone number, address, and any other contact information (including websites and social media profiles) you have previously listed on LinkedIn. Click on them individually to edit and select the blue “Done editing” button when finished.

How to Edit Sections of your LinkedIn ProfileFor every other section, if you would like to edit the content simply click on the small pencil icon in the upper-right-hand corner of the section. You can also arrange the sections in your profile to your liking by click-and-dragging the vertical arrow next to the pencil or “+ Add” icons.


How to list your work experience on LinkedIn

This is the most important part of your LinkedIn profile, curriculum vitae, or resume. It is also the most straightforward section on LinkedIn.

Be sure to include as much information as possible, especially describe the actual roles and responsibilities of your occupation in the “Description” section. For help check the “See Examples” link below that box or search other LinkedIn member profiles who have similar occupations to your own (more on how to search by skills when we discuss the “Skills and Expertise” section below).


How to List Education on your LinkedIn Profile

The education field is the second-most important part of your LinkedIn Profile as an engineer. It not only serves to substantiate your educational background but also provides a place to describe your field(s) of study, list activities or societies you may have been a part of and identify your GPA or if you graduated with honors.

It is important to note that the more years of experience you have the less important embellishing this part of your profile becomes.

  • If you graduated with a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering 30 years ago, simply include your field of study, dates attended, and degree obtained.
  • If you are an undergraduate applying to your first job, an internship, or graduate school – this part of your profile may be the most important as the experience part of your profile is likely thin. Include as many relevant details about your degree program, activities and academic accomplishments as possible.


How to fill in the language part of your profile on LinkedIn

Language expertise is highly sought after by employers in many industries and engineering is no exception. If you have functional literacy and fluency in two or more languages, fill this field out.

LinkedIn further allows you to identify your level of proficiency by selecting from the adjacent drop down menu. 

LinkedIn Language proficiency options

Skills and Expertise

How to fill out the LinkedIn Skills and Expertise Section

This relatively new section allows you to bullet-point job skills of particular emphasis. You can seed this list on your own (no more than 50 skills can be included) and your LinkedIn connections can “Endorse” you by selecting the skills they think you have.

Example invitation to endorse skills of LinkedIn connection

As an example, above is a screenshot of an invitation I received to endorse the skills of someone in my network. This is the same kind of invitation, with skill keywords specific to you, your LinkedIn connections will receive if they visit your profile.

What makes this section different than the others is this is the only part of your profile that your connections can initiate content in. If you have been a LinkedIn member for a while, you may have received notification that a connection has “Endorsed” you for a particular skill. You have the option to include or exclude the endorsement by editing (with the pencil icon, as above) the skills listed.

An example of the “Skills & Expertise” section for an Aerospace Engineer (jobs):

Sample LinkedIn Skills and Expertise

As you can see, this particular engineer has been endorsed by members in his network, and LinkedIn sorts his “skills” according to the number of endorsements he has received for each.

This section will be increasingly relevant as it is adopted by more members in the LinkedIn network as a search tool. To take the example above, I found this engineer by searching (in the upper right hand corner of your main page on LinkedIn) “Aerospace Engineering.” This is what the search propagated:

How to search by skills on LinkedIn

If you’d like to be found in a LinkedIn search for a particular skillset or area of expertise, it is essential that you list that skill in this section.

Special Note: If you have a security clearance list it here in addition to any other section you may include it in.


 How to fill in your Summary on LinkedIn

Your summary should, in a few sentences, describe your skills, expertise, certifications / licensure and what you are working on currently. It is a condensed version of who you are professionally.

We recommend you complete this section last so that you can take in the breadth of your experience, education, publications, etc and present it in the most concise, effective manner possible.

The Next Steps


What to do with Projects on LinkedIn Profiles

Were you involved in a specific project at work? This is where you can call out specific development projects, product launches, or programs you were a part of for either an employer or an organization.

For example, if you were one of the Red Bull Stratos project members as an employee of Red Bull North America, Inc. (jobs), this would be the place to highlight that significant work experience.


What to do with Organizations on LinkedIn Profile

In this section organizational membership should include professional affiliations related to your work.

A few engineering-specific examples:

Be sure to highlight involvement beyond normal membership if you have any. If you are collegiate, local, regional or national officer – include this information in “Position(s) Held.” Also take the time to describe what that role requires in the “Additional Notes” section.

Volunteer Experience and Causes

 What Volunteer Experiences and Causes to list on LinkedIn Profile

If you have them to list, consider including volunteer experiences or causes you may be involved in. Where the rest of your resume may attest to your ability to execute a given task, volunteerism humanizes your profile and demonstrates work-life balance, human interest, and a myriad of other positive qualities to a potential employer.

LinkedIn allows you to either select a date (if the experience was a one-time activity) or a date range, so you can identify if the activity is ongoing or was performed over a period of time.

Types of Causes under Linkedin Volunteer Experience

It’s important to note these volunteer experiences are not limited to religious or civic roles. If you look at the drop-down menu under “cause,” you’ll find a wide range of topics, including Science and Technology.

A few examples of Science and Technology volunteer opportunities:

Honors and Awards

 What Honors and Awards to list on LinkedIn Profile

If you are a member of an Engineering Honor Society or have received an award for professional or personal merit, fill out this section. Only the “Title” field of the award or honor is required.

As a best practice, try to limit your awards section to the two or three most notable or recent achievements you’ve had; listing too many has opposite of the intended affect.

The Must-Have Profile Additions if you are an Engineer


How to fill out LinkedIn Certifications

The certifications field is a must-have if you have obtained a certification that would be included on a business card. Common examples include those who have passed the Principles and Practice in Engineering examination (P.E.)  in the United States or P.Eng. in Canada.

Beyond professional certification, you can also use this space to identify the states you have obtained registration and licensure in (be sure to include the date that licensure expires).

This would be the place to identify if you have obtained other certifications directly related to your line of work. For example:

  • Six Sigma certification
  • Lean certification
  • Scuba licensure, if you are a PE who conducts underwater weld inspections
  • Pilot licensure, if you are an Aerospace or related engineer


 How to List your Patents and Patent Applications on LinkedIn

If you are an engineer with patent application(s) or patent(s) to your name, this section is a must-have.

“Patent Pending” applies to any patent applied for that has not yet completed the prosecution cycle (e.g. does not yet have a patent registration number). Select the country the patent was applied for in the drop-down menu and the appropriate radio button beneath to identify its current status.

Include the other relevant information as indicated (number, title) and be sure to include the names of your co-inventors if applicable.

Patent URL is not a required field, but if you are interested in including it you can conduct a search by your name here: Google Patent Search.

For the “Description” field, best practice is to include (cut and paste) the abstract from your patent application or patent. If you have a physical copy of your patent application, you can find the abstract in the last written page just following the Claims section and before the Official Drawings. In a hard copy Patent the abstract is probably listed on the first page of text or cover sheet.

When you’ve completed the fields hit “Save” and repeat the process as needed to include additional patent applications or patents you may have.


 How to Fill in the publications section of your LinkedIn Profile

Publications, especially in peer-reviewed journals, are a great way to substantiate your subject matter expertise.

The only required field in this section is the title of the publication, but be sure to fill out as much information as you can. Especially don’t forget to include and credit any co-authors who participated in the publication or study with you.

As above, the “Description” field is best served by the article abstract if you have one. Alternatively write a brief 2-3 line summary.

If you would like to include a URL to your scholarly journal or would like to look up other details of your publication, including date and publisher, you can search here: Google Scholar.

Test Scores and Courses

Similar to “Education” above, these fields are less important the more years of experience you have under your belt.

If you are currently an undergraduate student seeking to apply to graduate programs, find internship opportunities, or network your way into your first job after graduation – it is a good idea to include and complete these sections.

Otherwise, these are the least necessary sections of all previously mentioned.

Having Trouble Finding these Sections?

You Can Also Add on LinkedInA new LinkedIn profile will ask you to include Experience and Education foremost, but it isn’t as obvious where to find the section for Patents, Certifications, Organizations, etc.

From within your LinkedIn profile, take a look on your right-hand sidebar. You will see a field that probably looks similar to the image at right.

Click any one of these section titles and the empty section should propagate for you to fill in.

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This is just the first in a 3-part series on how to optimize your LinkedIn profile and use it to increase your professional network.

Next week we delve into LinkedIn best practices, how to claim your name URL, obtaining endorsements  and more.

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