LinkedIn has quickly become one of the largest and most accessible professional social networks out there, and because of this, it’s imperative that everyone who wishes to maximize their career potential join LinkedIn, set up a profile, and begin networking.

Of course, as with many other social networks, there are unwritten rules of etiquette that you must first figure out and then abide as you embark on your LinkedIn journey. Unfortunately, figuring out these rules and not making mistakes or breaking these rules is rather hard for those new to LinkedIn or even social networks in general.

Below I’ve tried to list a handful of mistakes that many LinkedIn users make, and I’ve tried to incorporate solutions into each section. Please, if you know LinkedIn well, feel free to add to the information here in the comments section. And, as always, happy job hunting!

The following are mistakes many LinkedIn users make and how you can avoid them:

1. Failing to Understand Social Networking Contexts

The biggest thing many LinkedIn users fail to understand is that LinkedIn is simply one of many social networks out there. No matter how professional you try to make your LinkedIn profile, the fact that a crazy Facebook profile or irreverent Twitter account under your name exists could significantly hurt your career chances. Do not ignore the other social networks you’ve joined, because recruiters, hiring managers, and others within the industry are looking at these other sites too!

Solution: Google yourself constantly. Manage your entire online presence. Edit your Tweets, check your photos on Facebook, untag yourself from unpleasant photos and conversations, and watch what you post on whatever forums you’ve joined. Always assume that your LinkedIn account is merely a portal that a potential employer can enter in order to access your entire online persona.

See more at 10 Ways to Sweep Your Digital Dirt Under the Carpet.

2. Lacking A Good Profile Photo

This is relatively simple. I’ve seen so many people fail to upload a good profile photo. I can understand why people would wish to not upload a photo; however, lacking a photo can seriously hurt your chances of getting clicked. Think about a recruiter. He or she is browsing entries; is he or she more likely to click on a photo or a tiny bit of text in the search results page? An updated photo of yourself will assure the recruiter that you are, indeed, human after all, with all your quirks and faults.

Solution: It’s much easier for someone browsing search results to connect with a human face than a bit of text, so upload a photo as soon as possible!

Further reading at How to Choose a Picture for Your Personal Brand.

3. Filling Out a Vague Headline

How many LinkedIn accounts have you seen with a bland headline beneath the profile? How many ‘Project Managers’ and ‘Sales Executives’ do you see in that headline? Boring, right? This is a big mistake because users see that the majority of LinkedIn accounts simply list a position title in this field, so they put in their own position because they think that’s what it’s for. Well, the more successful profile headlines are those that say something like “I offer my clients a quick and efficient means of incorporating various security systems into their databases.” It doesn’t have to be complicated. Instead, this statement actively states what you do while also giving your voice a chance to shine. Compare that to “Database Security Specialist” and you can see what I mean.

Solution: Market yourself in one sentence. This one sentence should be active, include the word ‘I,’ and concisely state what you can do for a client or employer.

Check out 10 LinkedIn Headline Examples from Recruiters.

4. Not Creating a Personal Narrative

Finally, you’ll see many LinkedIn users stick with the traditional format as suggested by LinkedIn. They basically enter their resume into the form and publish it. Well, how many resumes have you read that you think are incredibly interesting? I’m going to guess you’ve read no interesting resumes, ever. We’re human; we love to hear a story. So why not give others what they want to here: your professional story. Yes, of course, you can still enter your resume; however, you want to be careful in how much you pull from your resume, especially the language of the resume.

Solution: You don’t need to use resume-speak; instead, use longer sentences and active verbs that describe your story. Use the section in your profile that allows you to write a summary to tell your story, the story that isn’t on your resume. That way users can see both aspects of your career resume and aspects of your slightly more personalized professional story.

Related: 7 Pictures You Should Never Use on Your LinkedIn Profile.

This guest contribution was submitted by Pamelia Brown, who enjoys films by Sergei Eisenstein and drinking Carling lager.

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