- Step 1: Choosing the right words, style, and imagery to articulate your personal brand, so you shine through authentically to others and position yourself in ways that draw the right people and opportunities to you.
- Step 2: Learning how to amplify that brand to gain more visibility when you’re trying to accomplish a larger goal or purpose, like navigating a job search, building thought leadership, or launching a side hustle or business.
What Is a Personal Brand?
When I say personal brand, I'm talking about the things that people think and say about you when you're not in the room, the things that tell others who you are and what you stand for, the stories and essence that you confidently and proudly want to share with the world. Your personal brand isn't a jargon-filled, search engine optimized tagline, or elevator pitch to game the algorithm. And, it's definitely not about making you seem like someone you're not. At the core, your personal brand is about knowing who you truly are and putting that out into the world (or onto LinkedIn, as the case may be).
How to Build a LinkedIn Profile That Incorporates Your Personal Brand
This guide tackles your LinkedIn profile in the order it’s viewed from top to bottom, so if you’re working on your own profile and thinking about how to incorporate your brand, you can work through this guide (in order) in iterative chunks and not get overwhelmed.
LinkedIn Background Photo
Your Linkedin background, or header, is the banner at the top of your LinkedIn profile that sets the mood for the reader. It helps them understand the goal of your profile (either explicitly or implicitly) and it creates the emotion and intrigue that gets them to read further. Therefore, your background photo is one of the most important pieces of your profile to get right….and the good news is that most people don’t do this, so it’s a great way to stand out!
From the background photo perspective we have three main goals:
Incorporate your authentic personal brand
Position your background to your intended goal
Inspire someone to act
Incorporate Your Personal Brand
There are many pieces of information that we can include in your background photo that signal who you are as a person, what you care about, and how you want to show up in the world. For example, what colors you choose tell the reader more about your vibe as a human, what design aesthetic you choose tells them a little more about your personality, and what interests you represent help them get a sense of how you want to be spending your time personally or professionally.
When you share this type of information, it sets the mood for the reader and makes them feel something. When someone feels a connection to you they are inspired to learn more about you. And, that’s how we draw them in.
Position Your Background Photo to Your Intended Goal
What is positioning exactly and how do you do it? Positioning is all about connecting what you say to match what the reader wants to hear, so they land on your profile and think, “this is exactly what I was looking for!” To do this, you need to have a very clear understanding of the goal of your profile, and who you need to land on your profile to accomplish that goal.
Let’s look at the example of Senior Product Manager who’s on the job search and looking to level-up into a Director role. In this case, you would want to use words that demonstrate the attributes, values, and interests that a Director, for the type of company and industry you’re targeting, would have.
Perhaps, you might choose a color and a design aesthetic that helps people see you as a bold/vibrant/fun/yet structured leader. Perhaps, you’ll want to include a quote that hits on your value for people-first philosophy. Maybe you’ll want to include some hashtags that highlight the industry and niche you’re targeting like #greentech, #climatechange, or #productinnovation. And perhaps you want to add a call to action (CTA) that gets people to reach out for a coffee chat if they want to chat about leadership in the product space.
This would be way more effective than, for example, choosing a mountain landscape because you live in Denver.
Inspire Someone To Act
The best way to generate ideal connections coming your way is to create an easy opening and clear action for the reader. You want to make it so easy for the reader to take the next action that they would almost feel silly not to. Adding a Call To Action (CTA) can sometimes feel a little puzzling to people, especially if you’re not looking to “sell” something, but asking someone to make a purchase is far from the only type of call to action.
For example, a Career Coach who’s trying to get services could put…”Book A Call With Me” as their CTA, which is pretty self-explanatory and makes sense. Is it the best CTA? It could perhaps be stronger, but it’s at least very clear and that’s one of the main things we’re going for.
How could we make it better? There are many examples (based on your specific goal) but here’s one example. Let’s say you’re trying to get more calls booked quickly, maybe you’d add some scarcity to your CTA. For example, “I Offer 3 Complimentary Coaching Consults Per Month, Book Yours Today!”
Now what if you’re a professional who isn’t selling anything and you just want to casually have career opportunities come your way or grow your network. Should you still add a clear CTA? My vote…hell yes!
If you want to bring in more speaking or board opportunities from your profile? Well, that can be a great CTA! What if you’re trying to network with new product leaders at your level? Great, turn that into a compelling CTA! What if you want to pivot into a new industry and want to learn more about it. Guess what….that can be a CTA, too!
There are endless examples you could use, if you’re clear on the goal you’re trying to achieve.
LinkedIn Profile Photo
Your LinkedIn photo is one of the most important parts of your profile. It’s one of the 3 prominent pieces of information that will represent you across LinkedIn, whether you’re writing an original post, commenting on someone else’s post, showing up in a search, or someone lands on your profile, they’ll see your name, your headline, and your profile picture.
People connect with others through images, especially ones where they can see your eyes. According to Forbes, a picture that has “Just the right” amount of eye contact… can produce a feeling of mutual likability and trustworthiness. So why not start off building rapport with anyone looking at your LinkedIn profile right away? Especially when you can do it with such a low-lift effort as putting a compelling photo on your profile.
Here are the top 3 things to think about when selecting a photo.
Aim for a photo that is primarily just you, has a simple, clean background, and has high resolution for the best effect. Whether we like it or not, people form conscious and unconscious biases about us for all kinds of reasons. The quality of your photo is one of the areas where people might start to draw assumptions about your tech-savviness and self-awareness. In this day and age, we need to be able to demonstrate that we have a certain level of tech ability to survive and thrive in the working world. Thus, ensuring that your photo quality is as high-resolution as possible, oriented correctly, free of elements that are not you (e.g., partners, friends, furry animals, busy backgrounds), and easy on the eyes is imperative.
One of the things that can kill human connection quickly is when someone gets the feeling that we’re not portraying ourselves authentically. So, it’s important to choose a photo that captures how you want to show up in the world, as you are today. Are you bright, bubbly, and colorful? Choose a photo that shows off this vibe. Are you professional, serious, and crisp? Show that.
You don’t want to create a bait and switch feeling of someone landing on your profile and creating a certain impression for you and then meeting you virtually or in-person and realizing you’re a totally different person.
According to, The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master The Art and Science of Personal Magnetism, there are three factors that allow us to become more influential, more persuasive, and more inspiring. Those three factors are presence, power, and warmth. Let’s talk about how you can capture each of these in your photo. One of the best ways to do this is through your eyes and non-verbal body language.
- Eyes: What do they say, “the eyes are the windows to the soul”, or something like that? The point is that a lot can be communicated through the eyes alone. People can pick up warmth and presence through your eyes, so it’s important to have your eyes be a dominant part of your photo. Make sure your eyes are near the center of the frame; looking directly at the camera; and are clear, bright, and easy to gaze into. You want to simulate that direct and compelling eye contact, even through your photo.
- Non-verbal body language: Exuding a confident and executive presence is one of the most sought after skills our clients want to develop. Everyone wants to feel like they take up a little more power in the world—but of course in an influential, not dictatorial way.
So how can you go about generating presence from your photo alone? Think about how you fill up the space in your profile photo. Similar to the way a gorilla broadens their chest when trying to exhibit dominance, the more we see of your chest in your profile photo the more confidence, power, and presence you will appear to have. Aim for a photo that ends about 3 to 4 inches below your collarbone and keeps your eyes near or just above the center of the frame. Having too much of your body in the image will shrink your overall image and make you seem small and having just your head causes your photo to lose that power dynamic. Instead, you want a little bit of your body, but not so much that your eyes lose their place as being the primary focus.
Your LinkedIn headline is arguably the most important part of your profile. It’s the only part of your profile (besides your photo and name) that every person sees without viewing your full profile—for example, when you’re commenting on a post, viewing someone’s profile, or writing your own post. Furthermore, it’s one of the most searched parts of your profile, so you’ll want to pay attention to what you say and the mood you create for the reader, but also what specific words you choose.
So, how do you choose what exactly to say here, and avoid using the default <<job title @ company>> structure? Here are a few factors you will want to consider including:
Your functional area and level: An example here would be something like, Director of Marketing. This example lets someone know what level of an organization you’re at (i.e., Director) and the functional area you work in (i.e., Marketing). If you’re aiming for a Director role, but haven’t held it yet, you might instead say something like, “Direct marketing strategies" instead.
Your unique contribution statement (or value proposition): A unique contribution statement focuses on the type of impact that you can bring to an organization that no one else can. One way to think about this is if you had to sum up your special sauce in less than a sentence what would you say? This is a great place to stand out, but remember you don’t want to say something that everyone else would say, you want this to be uniquely about you. For example, any Director of Marketing could say something like, “Direct marketing strategies to increase market share and hit company goals.” But that doesn’t tell us anything specific or unique about them, their brand, or how they go about their work. More to the point, it doesn’t tell readers why they would want to hire someone over all the other marketing director candidates. So instead, you might write something like: “Data analysis expert who discovers untraditional insights to develop award-winning marketing strategies and create die-hard customers.”
Your industry or interest area: You may also choose to signal the industries that you work in or want to work in, so we get a deeper picture of what type of environments allow you to thrive and feel engaged. You might also use this strategy if you’re thinking about pivoting in a new industry. Perhaps, you work in the technology sector, but want to move into travel, food, or wine. Maybe you’re a colorful communicator who is known for being emoji-friendly. Perhaps, your headline includes: Passionate about .
Call to action (CTA): One thing that most people underutilize in their headlines is a call to action or CTA. If you’re being intentional with your LinkedIn profile, you have to think about the goal you’re trying to achieve with it. Are you looking for job opportunities? Are you looking for board or speaking opportunities? Do you want to grow your network in a new space? Are you trying to learn about something new? Are you trying to create thought leadership and build a follower base? Do you want someone to visit your website or portfolio or reach out to you? Whatever your goal is, leveraging a CTA in your headline (and About section) makes it as easy as possible for the reader to know how to best connect with you. And, after you incorporate your amazing personal brand into your LinkedIn profile, surely they will ; )
LinkedIn Hashtags and Creator Mode
One of the main distinctions of the creator-mode versus non-creator-mode profile is the way that it’s organized. Currently, when you turn on creator mode you have the ability to add up to 5 hashtags at the top of your profile, your Featured section comes next (as well as your Activity section), and then your About section comes a little later. When you have creator mode off your About section generally comes a little higher.
One of the benefits of turning on the creator mode is being able to quickly set the positioning of your profile from the get-go. Not only do we have the background photo and headline, but we also have the hashtags that can let someone know right away what topics are associated with your brand.
These days, people often don’t have the time or desire to read and are more likely to skim, so generating content that is skimmable is a great way for you to strengthen the positioning of your profile in 5 words or less.
Some Criticisms for Using Creator-Mode
Some would argue that letting your About section drop lower on your profile is a downside—especially if you’re not going to be creating content. However, you could also say that people may not read the about section anyway if they aren’t already bought into your profile from the get go.
The other main criticism of turning on creator mode is the possibility that your profile may get less reach if you aren’t posting regularly. However, most people don’t truly know how the LinkedIn algorithm works, and like most social media algorithms, it’s changing all the time. If you’re concerned about your reach, you can always track your stats before turning on creator mode and after you turn it off (while keeping all other things constant) to see if it has an impact for you.
At the end of the day, the vast majority of people are not going to have major fluctuations in their profile statistics, because they aren’t producing content on a daily-basis.
In your featured section, you can showcase your work directly by adding things like posts, media, articles, newsletters, and links. Your featured section is also a great place to highlight some of the most powerful things about your personal brand.
Going back to our earlier point, it’s important to think about the current goal of your profile and then add relevant information that might strengthen your positioning for that goal and help you achieve it. For example, if you’re a service provider trying to be known for and sell your service, perhaps you would add some strong testimonials from recent clients. If you’re someone who’s trying to get more keynotes or speaking engagements, perhaps you’d include a link to your speaker reel and common keynote topics. If you’re a jobseeker trying to highlight particular skills, ideas, or experiences you bring to the table, perhaps you’ll include a portfolio, a recommendation, or an article you wrote or where you were quoted.
If you don’t already have these items prepared, you can be thoughtful and strategic about what 3-5 pieces of content would add to your goal and create them now, with a little bit of thought and strategy this can be an easy lift and make a big impact on your profile.
Your about section is, as you might imagine, one of the best places to really expand on who you are and what you’re all about!
Many people struggle with figuring out what to include in this section, but it doesn’t have to be so hard. Your personal brand is a story—a story and narrative that pulls the reader in and creates connection points that allow them to see themselves in your story. This is true regardless of the goal of your profile, because the ultimate goal is always creating connections with others. Those connections are what leads to aligned opportunities.
Here are a few pieces that you may decide to include in your about section as you build it out.
Consider starting off your LinkedIn about section with a strong statement that draws the reader in and sets the stage for what they are about to read. Write 1-3 sentences that tell me something deep and personal about who you are and how you want to show up in the world.
Depth and Breadth of Experience
Listing out every experience you’ve had and the specifics of what you did is what your experience section is for, not your about section. Instead, here, you should look back at your entire career to find commonalities in your experience and share a high-level take in 3-4 sentences. This way someone can get the gist of your entire career quickly and decide if they want to learn more, remember people don’t read they skim, so giving them a quick snapshot means they are more likely to consume the information you want them to.
Personality and Values
In this piece of your about section, you might start to signal more about what you care about, why you care about it, and what values are strongest for you. This will not only give someone a sense for you as a person, but it will also start to signal the type of connections and opportunities you’re open to and culturally where you’d be a great fit. People want to work with others who share similar values, and this is a great place to signal this.
Of course, your unique expertise is a part of your personal brand, as well, we just don’t want it to be the only facet of your brand. If you have a specific or general area for which you’ve been building expertise over a certain period of time, let readers know about it, and perhaps let us know why you were inspired to build this type of expertise and point us to some examples that demonstrate that expertise like thought leadership pieces or posts.
Key Accomplishments and Results
This part is optional, and will probably be the least read part of an about me section, but some individuals (especially job seekers) like to include a few key accomplishments from their work history. Choosing what to include here can be dicey, so lean towards stories that align with the goal you’ve set for your profile, and that you would almost inevitably talk about if someone asked you to share about some of your proudest career moments.
While there is a skills section on your profile (we’ll talk about that in a minute), sometimes people decide to include an abbreviated list of skills toward the end of their About section to strengthen the positioning of their skills and the goal of their profile. If you decide to do this, aim to choose 5-10 skills (maximum) that are aligned with the skills that you believe are unique to you and your brand. And, don’t add too many or you may end of diluting your credibility or make you seem unfocused.
Call To Action (CTA)
Similar to your headline, consider including a CTA in your about section to let the reader know exactly who should reach out and why. People hesitate to reach out to strangers because it’s intimidating. If you let people know they are welcome to reach out, they will be more likely to do it. And don’t worry! You won’t get bombarded by messages and connection requests, people are still very hesitant to reach out to stranger. But, including a CTA will give them a little more confidence to reach out and will help you find the people you’re most interested in connecting with.
Many people struggle with the experience section. You may have even heard conflicting advice to leave it blank or just copy and paste your resume. But both of these strategies result in a missed opportunity for incorporating your brand.
Your LinkedIn profile gives you the space to elaborate on your experience in ways that you can’t on your resume. You’re not trying to fit everything on a page or two, so your LinkedIn experience can be more of a narrative.
For each role you have the space to give profile viewers:
- The rationale and the why behind each role you’ve held
- A full view of the depth and breadth of what you did in each role: Paint a picture of your work there, don’t just list barebones job duties or tasks
- An understanding of what you enjoyed about the role and where you thrived
- A couple of key accomplishments and skills from each position
Your experience section is like practicing the interview questions, “Tell me about yourself,” or “Walk me through your resume,” but in written form. The more color you share in your narrative, the more someone feels like they know you and are excited to get to know more about you. This is key for attracting relevant and ideal career opportunities through LinkedIn.
Here 4 key elements for you to incorporate into the description for each of your experiences:
Depth and Breadth
Start with a high-level depth-and-breadth statement that gives us a full glimpse into what you did in the role. If someone were to read only those 1-2 sentences they should still be able to walk away understanding what you did in the job and know whether or not it’s relevant for them to read further.
Include a brief paragraph that shares more about your rationale for taking the position, what you enjoyed most about working there, and what you wanted to learn next (which is a segue into your next position). This helps the reader see themselves in your story and connect with you, and personal brands are all about creating connection points with the reader.
Because the majority of your accomplishments and results for each job will be on your resume, this is an opportunity to choose the top 1 or 2 that you’re most proud of and elaborate on them. This is ideally not written in resume language (which is a strange type of writing that most people aren’t skilled to do well) and instead written more like a narrative that tells readers a little more about that particular accomplishment and why it means so much to you.
If you decide to include skills in this section (either because you want to or LinkedIn has prompted you to) consider only choosing the top few skills related to this role and that are relevant to your overall brand, instead of creating a long laundry list of skills that detract from the wonderful and compelling narrative you just wrote. Remember, people will resonate with elements of your story. It’s less likely they will see a list of skills, and think, “Oh, me too!”
The education section is pretty straightforward. You can simply add your universities/schools and call it a day; that strategy is totally fine. But, there is also an opportunity to add more information and color here if you’d like to. Are there any activities, scholarships, or associations related to your time at school that strengths elements of your personal brand that we should know about?
Perhaps, you want to include 1-2 sentences about why you chose that school or that major and what you learned there. Anywhere you can add information that won’t fit on a resume is an opportunity for you to expand your personal brand and tell us more about you. And your education section is no exception.
The skills section of your profile is a bit of an enigma. No one is sure how it “really” works and the strategy behind it has changed many times in the last decade. Notably when LinkedIn was acquired by Microsoft, the platform started to ask people to endorse everyone for Microsoft Word and Powerpoint, which is how SO MANY people wound up with these endorsed skills on their profile. In the real world, who would endorse someone for being great with Microsoft Word?! Um, no one.
Ok, so what exactly to do with this section to articulate your personal brand?
First , you should focus on adding all of the skills that are relevant to the goal of your profile (yes, back to that goal thing again). For example, if you want particular career opportunities to come your way, think about all the skills that are relevant and that someone hiring for this position may search for and add them to your skills section. (Obviously you need to actually have these skills, as well). Or, for instance, if you’re aiming for more speaking engagements, include things like: speaking, keynote speaking, keynote speaker, communication, public speaking.
From a personal brand and positioning perspective, what is most important here is pinning the most important skills to the top of your skills section. Choose the 3 skills that are the MOST relevant to what you’re trying to achieve and that strengthen the overall brand you’re trying to demonstrate.
As a bonus, if anyone endorses you for skills, it’s MUCH more likely that they will do this for the top 3 skills pinned on your profile. So this is a good strategy for gaining the endorsements that most strengthen the skills related to your overall brand.
The recommendations section is often an underutilized area for demonstrating your personal brand. The reason is that most people think they don't have control of this section because someone else will be writing it, but that’s not the whole story. There are many things you can guide in this section to ensure that the elements of your personal brand, that you want to shine through, do so. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
- Be selective in who you ask: You can decide who you ask for a recommendation and also whose recommendation you share on your profile. Just because someone writes a recommendation for you it doesn’t mean you need to include it. If it feels like it’s highlighting the wrong area, it wasn’t written well, or you simply no longer want to be associated with the person who wrote it, for whatever reason, you can hide it on your profile.
- Keep it recent and relevant: It’s very common for people to only ask for recommendations when they are job searching, so you may see a flurry of recommendations and then a several year gap before they have more (if they have more at all). Sometimes, people think, “well I have several strong recommendations so why do I need more?” But the thing is that you learn and grow over time, so we would expect your recommendations to evolve with you. Perhaps, the impact that you created at the beginning or your career is different than the impact you can bring now. Try to get a new recommendation each year from someone who you work with closely and can speak to the value you’re bringing to others. Bonus, this will be a big confidence booster for you when you actually do go out to look for a job!
- Decide what you want your recommendations to focus on before you ask for them: Do a little bit of reflection first to think about where you’ve been, where you are, and where you’re going next in your career. You want to focus on the areas that will help provide social proof and demonstrate the areas that are most important for the goal that you’re trying to achieve. Perhaps, earlier in your career you want to be very known for having a strong work ethic, being meticulous, and always delighting people. As you move further into your career, maybe you want to be seen for your strategic insights, your expertise, your breadth of experience, and/or your ability to collaborate. And, as you move into senior-level roles you now want to be seen more as being a calm and trusted leader, an analytical thinker, a mentor, and a coach. Some examples might look like, if you’re trying to gain speaking engagements: get a recommendation that talks about how and why you’re such a captivating public speaker. If you’re trying to land a job: understand the top attributes someone will be looking for in that role and talk about those. If you’re trying to build thought leadership: have someone talk about how insightful your content is and what they have learned from you. Whatever your goal, get clear on what parts of your personal brand best match what you’re trying to achieve and focus on those.
- Guide the direction of your recommendations: Did you know that it’s ok to let recommenders know what you’d like them to say, and in fact they appreciate it? Writing a recommendation for someone else, especially when it’s going to be a public representation with your face and name attached to it, can be stressful for the writer. They might wonder what to say, what to focus on, or what will be useful to you. Ultimately their goal is to be useful to you, so help them out! When you reach out to make the request, let them know specifically which areas you’re hoping they will focus on, share some examples of times where you believe you’ve demonstrated that skill, knowledge, expertise, and let them know the reason that you’re looking to get a recommendation now.
The interests section is another great place to incorporate elements of your personal brand. But for many people, it’s an afterthought. There are are 2 main benefits to customizing your interest sections:
- Demonstrate What You Care About: It will give readers a lot of data to learn about who you are. What top voices, companies, groups, schools, and newsletter you follow says a lot about you and your personal brand. Why not use this opportunity to signal those things?
- Cultivate Your Feed With Content To Engage With: By following the information that’s more aligned and relevant to you, it’s more likely that information will show up in your feed, which means more opportunities for you to engage with content, and every piece of engagement increases your personal brand as well.
Now, You've Got All The Details On How To Incorporate Your Authentic Brand On Your LinkedIn Profile
What we know for sure is that, reflecting and sharing your authentic personal brand is challenging for every single person on the planet, because it's hard to look deeply at who you are and how you want to show up in the world.
But, you now have a breakdown of exactly what to include and where are you start to articulate and incorporate your brand out in the world. Need help in attracting ideal career opportunities straight to you? Learn about our personal branding services.