How to Optimize Your LinkedIn

If you want your LinkedIn profile to get attention from the right people, use these tips make it stand out.
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Meg Embry
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Meg Embry is a writer at BestColleges covering all things career and education related. An award-winning journalist and editor, she has lived and worked in Canada, the Netherlands, and the United States....
Updated on April 20, 2022
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Giselle M. Cancio
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Editor & Writer

Giselle M. Cancio is an editor for BestColleges, where she focuses on a variety of topics including subject-specific content, DEI, and career-related content. She previously worked in higher education, managing social media and digital communications...
Learn more about our editorial process is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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  • Consider your audience.
  • Make use of LinkedIn's personal branding elements.
  • Tell a career story that will get recruiters' attention.

Hey, job-seekers and career-changers: If you're not making the most of LinkedIn, what are you even doing right now?

Job hunting can be brutal. Even in a job-seekers market, landing that just-right-for-you career will require real intentionality and dedication.

That means you need an online presence that actually does you justice.

So pull up your LinkedIn profile and buckle in: we've got 4 important tips to optimize your LinkedIn for a career change.

LinkedIn Is a Must-Have

Let's get one thing straight right away: having a LinkedIn profile is non-negotiable.

Let's make sure you're one of them by focusing on three important elements of your Linkedin profile:

  • Your audience
  • Your brand
  • Your career story

Who Is Your Audience?

Think of your LinkedIn as an advertisement, and yourself as the product. Who are you selling to?

Forty-six percent of employees are considering a major career change right now. If you're one of them, make sure your profile is targeting hiring managers and recruiters for the kind of roles you're trying to transition into, not the kind of roles you've held in the past.

If that means all of your work experience is in the 'wrong' field, don't despair. You can still curate your profile to appeal to your target audience.

Who Are You?

Start by telling a clear story about who you are as a person and as an employee: a personal brand, if you will.

In a world where many of our first impressions happen online, your personal brand will play a big role in how future employers perceive you. There are four crucial branding elements on LinkedIn that users tend to notice first: your headline, your photo, your personal summary, and your recommendations.


Remember, LinkedIn is a search engine, and you want the right people to find you. So spend time searching the job board for roles you're truly interested in. Pay attention to the words and phrases that appear most frequently across the headlines for those roles: we call those 'keywords.'

Be sure to include the same keywords in your own headline, and leave out any keywords that aren't relevant to your future career goals.


Profiles with a picture are 14 times more likely to get views than those without.

And the quality of your photo matters; this isn't Facebook. So skip the goofy selfie in your Halloween costume and go for something along the lines of a professional headshot instead.

Use good lighting, dress for the job you want, and smile. One study showed that people who smile in their profile photos are seen as more likeable, competent, and influential.

'About' Section

The LinkedIn summary section lets you define yourself on your own terms –– a powerful tool for career-switchers. Here's how to make the most of it:

  • Start with a hook. Only the first three lines of your summary are visible. You want to use those lines to grab the reader's attention and make them click see more. There are a lot of ways to do that: surprise them, intrigue them, tell them what problems you solve, reveal something interesting about your personality.
  • Provide context. If you're trying to jump into a new career, explain how you made that decision and what steps you are taking to get there.
  • Bring your passions to life. What motivates you? What do you love about the work you want to do? Why will you be great at it?
  • Display a growth mindset. What new skills have you learned? What classes have you taken? What projects are you working on?
  • Include a call to action. You've told people who you are and why they should want to hire. Now invite them to do something about it: "Contact me to learn more at!"


This may come as a surprise, but hiring managers are absolutely reading your LinkedIn recommendations.

Recommendations are basically Yelp reviews for employees: Past and present colleagues publicly rate the experience of working with you.

Peer recommendations are valuable to potential employers because they provide insight into who you really are as a teammate or direct report, including your character, your work ethic, your personality, and how people feel about your professional contributions.

Strong reviews can seriously bolster your image, so you want to make sure you have at least a few impactful recommendations from good sources.

What is Your Career Story?

Another way to appeal to your target audience is to use the 'experience' section of your LinkedIn profile to create an appealing, cohesive career story.

Avoid the temptation to treat this section like a traditional resume. Instead of listing every job duty you've ever performed, hone in on elements of your work history that gave you important transferable skills relevant to your career change.

  1. Write summaries. Give your reader a concise overview of what each job entailed in 2-3 sentences. Keep it conversational and interesting.
  2. Highlight achievements. For each role, create an "achievements" sub-heading to highlight your big wins. Back these up with real-world evidence wherever you can. Instead of, "I provided brand content" say, "My content contributions increased click-through rates by 20% over twelve months."
  3. Embrace keywords. If you're applying to a role you really want, sprinkle your experience section with the keywords that show up in the job description. Draw direct correlations between the requirements and responsibilities of the job you want and the things you've done in the past.

Good work! You've optimized your LinkedIn profile for a career change.

Now remember that on Linkedin, engagement increases exposure. So get out there and like posts, share articles, leave comments, join groups, create content, and participate in discussions. Let the networking begin!

Frequently Asked Questions About LinkedIn

What shouldn't you put on LinkedIn?

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While LinkedIn is a great place to humanize yourself as a job candidate, it's important to keep things professional and courteous. It's best to avoid:

  • Complaints about former employers or colleagues
  • Political opinions
  • Personal photos or status updates
  • Sharing content that's unrelated to your work or career goals

Should you include hobbies on LinkedIn?

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It can be a good idea to include your hobbies on your profile - so long as you're thoughtful about it. For example, consider mentioning hobbies that develop skills relevant to your professional role.

At the same time, you're unlikely to get hired because you have certain hobbies - though you may be ruled out as a candidate if you list hobbies that come off as inappropriate, political, or offensive.

Is it okay to reach out to recruiters on LinkedIn?

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This is totally acceptable, assuming you've done your research to find a recruiter who is looking for people with your skills and experience. Make sure your LinkedIn profile privacy settings are set to allow the recruiter to see your entire profile. Then send a friendly and concise message detailing your qualifications and what you're looking for.

Feature Image: d3sign / Moment / Getty Images is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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