LinkedIn Success Strategies with Adriana Cowdin

PE-Backed Executives, or Operators, face career transition situations more often than any other type of business executive. One of the most important, and yet most overlooked, factors in a career transition process involves optimizing your LinkedIn profile.

The Operators, LLC runs a Career Resource Council peer group that hosts a monthly discussion led by Adriana L. Cowdin. Adriana is a former PE-Backed C-Suite executive, an experienced large corporate executive, and an entrepreneur. She has leveraged her corporate experience for over 25 years serving as an Executive Coach and is the founder of Be Bold Executive Coaching. In her experience coaching 5,000+ executives, she’s proven that her clients land 90 days faster and earn at least 10% more in compensation on average. This article is a summary of the discussion that Adriana facilitated on the importance of optimizing your LinkedIn profile.



Why is LinkedIn so Important in Your Career Transition Process

Since 95% of recruiters actively use LinkedIn to search for quality candidates, it may be a no brainer to be sure you are visible and put your best foot forward on LinkedIn. Not only is it an important resource where you may be discovered by hiring decision-makers, but there are highly relevant, desirable jobs posted directly on LinkedIn.

Your personal brand is the single most important ingredient in your career transition process, according to Be Bold Execuitve Coaching’s Adriana L. Cowdin. And there is no better place that LinkedIn to develop, influence, refine, and utilize your personal brand to attract attention from a prospective employer.

In addition, your activity level on LinkedIn influences how likely prospective employers are to find you when they search for you by name. When employers are searching for you, you want them to find your profile and not someone whose name you share.

Seven keys to a best-in-class LinkedIn profile:

  1. Ensure the information that visitors to your profile see is up to date.
  2. Watch out for grammar and spelling errors. If you’re not great at writing, use an AI tool or Grammarly to optimize your writing style and grammar.
  3. Show that smile! Did you know that profiles with pictures receive 14 times more views than those without? In a recent study of 800 LinkedIn profile photos, people who smiled in their photo were seen as more likable, competent, and influential. Evaluate your profile photo from the hiring decision-maker’s perspective. Use a photo that shows you in a professional demeanor, attire, and background, and make sure you’re looking directly into the camera.
  4. Ensure there is rich, searchable, relevant content. Think of LinkedIn as you would Google in terms of search terms. Look for jobs you would want to apply for or have applied for and find keywords they use. Then use those keywords in your profile. When headhunters gain a new mandate to find executives for a role, they have a desired persona and skill set they are actively searching for. Most searches on LinkedIn to find candidates that match the desired profile begin with keywords.

    In addition to simply thinking carefully about the words you use in your profile, there are opportunities to add Keywords. Think of keywords which are relevant to your skills and add them to your profile; doing so is essential to increasing your chances of being found. Many executives neglect to think of all relevant keywords. “Executive Leader,” for example, is often omitted.

    The Experience section on LinkedIn is not a substitute for a resume which allows you to be more economical with words. You can be quite brief in describing the Company and role, but you should have a description. Think of the experience section as another opportunity to add keywords, facts, figures, and accomplishments. You can omit outdated or irrelevant experiences.

    When it comes to searching, the LinkedIn Skills section is a valuable tool for both you and prospective employers. You can (and should) add up to 50 skills to support your Profile. A LinkedIn report revealed that 40% of companies globally have relied on “skills” to search for job candidates on LinkedIn. Take note of the skills that are commonly required of jobs posted on LinkedIn that are relevant to you. Determine which of these skills align well with your own abilities and incorporate them into your profile. While honesty is a must, you should build your profile to look competent with relevant experience for the roles you are seeking.

    Headlines – Recruiters search headlines to find words that match in terms of role, industry, profession, type of company, etc. Think about words most likely to be searched (CRO is less likely to be a search term than Chief Revenue Officer, so think of ways to tweak your headline accordingly). Although the headline allows for 220 characters, sometimes short and simple is the best approach here.

    Summaries – Recruiter algorithms also search summary statements. As you would with your skills statement, search LinkedIn job postings that interest you. Look for common keywords and phrases and sprinkle them into your summary section. Layer in quantifiable metrics and measures of your outcomes and successes.

    Now read your Profile again to ensure that you come across as sincere, genuine, and motivated. Finally, you will want to look for ways to add intrigue, excitement, passion and interest to your profile, particularly in the Summary/About section.
  5. Recommendations – Reach out to former colleagues, friends, and those who know you well(board members, customers, vendors, for example) and ask for a recommendation. The way you ask is paramount to receiving a response. Send a specific, tangible request for recommendation to the individual. Think about the roles you’re trying to win and the related job descriptions. Then, layer in your personal brand and craft some talking points to get them started. This will allow you to get more recommendations and ones that align with your personal brand and experience.

    There’s nothing wrong with asking someone to recommend you for skills A, B, and C and to share their experience of you as an executive. Giving them direction – and even writing a sample recommendation for them – significantly increases the chance of you securing the recommendation.

  6. Get “Verified” – According to LinkedIn, “verified” profiles get 60% more profile views, 50% more comments and reactions on their posts, and 30% more messages. You can use CLEAR or your driver’s license to become “verified.” It may be worth the time and effort!

  7. Add proof points – Finally, you will want to ensure that your profile demonstrates outcomes, accomplishments, and metrics or measures of your successes (facts, figures, etc.)

Beyond Your Profile

In addition to the seven Profile tips above, Cowdin offered several recommendations about utilizing LinkedIn as a Networking tool. 

The 411 Rule — For every post that you share about yourself, you should comment on four other people’s posts (or share those posts). Ideally, you should post three-to-five times per week. Those who are serious about gaining followers on LinkedIn experiment with different times and days to optimize their posts – aimed at ensuring they are discovered by relevant hiring decision makers.

Networking and outreach – Start by doing a targeted search for recruiters in your industry, role, geographic area, etc. Invite these individuals to connect with you. Include a note in your connection request that explains why you want to specifically connect with them. Remember that oftentimes people think of “what’s in it for me?” when evaluating asks or connection requests. Answer that question in your connection note.

A word of caution – Avoid using the “open to work” banner on your profile photo and/or in your headline. Similarly, don’t use “looking for work” or “job seeker” in your headline. What you do want to do is leverage the Open To Work tool on LinkedIn to demonstrate that you’re, quietly, available. 

In summary, LinkedIn is absolutely an essential element of success in your executive job search, 

and optimizing your profile is an essential component of a successful career transition strategy. For more information on LinkedIn success strategies or Executive Coaching, feel free to contact Adriana L. Cowdin on LinkedIn

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