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A practical guide to LinkedIn for investment industry professionals | Part I: Your profile

January 10, 2012

It’s hard to avoid LinkedIn these days. The online business networking site now has over 135 million members around the world – and is adding more than 2 new members every second. They’re using LinkedIn to keep in touch with former colleagues, reach out to new connections, keep up with the news, research the job market – and even apply for a new position.

But when it comes to LinkedIn, professionals in the investment industry often feel the kid outside the candy shop – staring through the plate glass window at the goodies inside. Strict policies at their firms – designed to ensure compliance with stringent regulations – have made social media into something that they can largely only look at and not share in.

There’s good news, however. While Facebook and Twitter are usually off limits for business use, most firms in the industry do allow their associates to maintain a professional profile on LinkedIn – which means that they can take advantage of some (if not all) of LinkedIn’s features.

What follows in this and subsequent posts is my guide to LinkedIn for professionals in the industry. It’s based on what I understand to be the typical social media policy. The policy at your firm may be more restrictive, so. . .

Make sure that you read your firm’s social media policy carefully. If you have any questions about it (or even if you don’t), ask your supervisor to clarify exactly what is and is not permitted – then follow the guidelines to the letter. It’s not worth losing your job over a social media post.

8 tips for improving your LinkedIn profile

Start by taking a close look at your profile – which is how you present yourself to the LinkedIn world.

  1. Professional photo.  Upload a photo that shows you at your business best. Wear clothes appropriate to an important meeting against a plain background. A professional headshot is best. Avoid that photo of you at the corporate Christmas or at Disney World with your kids – even if you crop it.
  2. Check for typos. Nothing says “unprofessional” more than a typo in your LinkedIn profile. Read your profile out loud, ask someone else to check it – do whatever you need to do to eliminate typos. (Here are some proofreading tips if you need suggestions:
  3. Customize your LinkedIn url. Your LinkedIn profile has a url that can be customized. To do this, start editing your profile. Click on the edit button next to your Public Profile url, then click on “Customize your public profile url” in the right hand column of the page that comes up. Choose a url based on your name.
  4. Keep it business. Include non-work activities only if you’d be willing to discuss them in a job interview. If it’s purely personal, put it in on your Facebook page – not here.
  5. Connect to company pages. When you input your positions into your profile, you’ll be prompted to enter the company name. As you start typing, you should see a drop down menu of LinkedIn company pages that are possible matches. Try to select from one of these pages –even if the company name doesn’t exactly match the one on your business card. Linking to one of these pages will make it easier for you to connect with colleagues.
  6. Company and title only for current job. Your firm’s social media policy probably limits what you can post about your current job to just company name and your title. Don’t be tempted to elaborate – unless you’re absolutely sure it’s ok with your firm.
  7. Use keywords to highlight your strengths — but check your firm’s social media policy first. Think about what you’re best at professionally – then identify a few words that summarize that expertise. In my case, it was “mutual funds” and “investment management.” For you, it might be “tax specialist”, “mobile device security” or “experienced manager.” Now use those words as often as you can throughout your profile. You will need to skip this step if your firm limits you to company and title for all positions.
  8. Write a strong headline — but ditto. The headline is the first thing that people see when they look you up on LinkedIn, so make sure that it provides a good summary of your professional expertise. Use some of your keywords if possible, and don’t just plug in your current title. “Tax specialist at Public Accounting Firm” is a much stronger headline than “Partner at Public Accounting Firm.” Again, your firm’s policy may limit you to just the bare facts — check before you write.

In Part 2, we’ll talk about making connections.

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