Rebuilding your LinkedIn profile?
Here's why a tear-up session with strangers is your best source of feedback
Is your LinkedIn profile working for you? It’s a deceptively simple question.
Beyond filling the available content slots with the basics of your work history, skills, and experience, how can you know if what you’re presenting will get you the position you want?
Are you unwittingly keeping yourself slotted in the role you already have? Have you undersold your story and accomplishments? Is your portfolio presented to its best advantage? What about your education and training?
If you work for yourself or own a business, the line between you and the company can be even more challenging to demarcate.
Recently, I led a Growclass session on LinkedIn profiles to help a group of growth marketers solve this very problem. As it happens, there’s a simple solution to second-guessing yourself to eternity.
All you need is four strangers willing to be vulnerable and a cone of digital discretion.
The Raw Signal methodology for reviewing LinkedIn profiles
Before the pandemic, I attended an epic career day workshop with Raw Signal Group.
If you’re unfamiliar with their work, Raw Signal is run by tech veterans Melissa and Jonathan Nightingale. They believe great bosses are built, not born, and their mission is to throw a life preserver to as many of us floundering in the management waves as possible.
For example, one challenge with bossing is the utter lack of resources or preparation given to first-time managers (hell, even experienced managers). The first time I led a team, I was at a loss as to how to provide them with career growth ideas.
I’m not the only one, either. Speak to mid-career or senior leaders, and half of them will tell you their journeys were a) luck, b) happenstance, and/or c) an accident. No matter your path, it rarely feels like a straight line from high school to career accomplishment.
So, how do you turn that haphazard experience into something that’s actionable for others? Particularly when you come from different backgrounds and have varying levels of privilege?
The workshop I attended was designed to start solving that problem, both for us as individuals and for the people we might manage. And while there’s a mountain of insight to be shared on this topic (whispers: would love that career development book someday, Melissa and Jonathan!), the Raw Signal methodology for LinkedIn profile feedback is the simplest of the exercises we did that day.
At its core, it asks you to share your profile with a group of strangers and see how your profile looks to fresh eyes.
Sounds great. What do I actually do?
Here are 7 simple steps to improve your LinkedIn profile
Find a small group who are each willing to offer up their LinkedIn profile for feedback. Don’t do this exercise with people who already know you or your work. You want an unbiased perspective.
Fight Club rules apply: What’s said in the session doesn’t leave the session, and it’s a judgment-free zone. When it comes to telling our own stories, we are all beginners. Most importantly, everyone provides feedback and everyone gets a turn to listen.
No glass houses!
If your participants are students, new grads, or otherwise inexperienced at optimizing LinkedIn their profiles, help set the table. Give them a rundown of the various content options LinkedIn provides (e.g., profile header photos).
I often use my own profile as tribute for this part of the exercise. For example, I’m committed to working in Toronto, so my profile reflects that choice through the glossy skyline image I have in my header.
As I learned in a recent session, new LinkedIn content features crop up all the time. For example, you can now tie professional skills to specific roles and highlight them within each position you’ve held. (Thanks to Aparna and Carina for that heads-up!)
When everyone’s got a shared baseline, ask a brave soul to go first.
Have the other three participants review the participant’s full profile. You can facilitate this section in a group or do it as a small-group breakout session.
Based on the content you see, share top-of-mind impressions about the person being profiled. As with creative writing feedback, it works best if the person listens and doesn’t take the opportunity to defend their choices until the review is over.
Your goal is to hear how the profile lands to someone who doesn’t know you, like a recruiter or a potential hiring manager.
For example, if you’re looking for a role as a Marketing Director with a SaaS startup, check out a few job postings for roles you’d be interested in applying to. What skills are in demand? Roles may ask for work with growth campaigns, SEO building, paid and organic content, and data-driven decision making, to name a few.
Make sure these skills are covered in your profile where possible, and pick projects or campaigns that showcase that experience.
You’d be surprised how often the group will surface something you didn’t think about, like burying your leadership role at a company you founded. That was actual feedback we gave to one participant in the last session I ran.
Be kind, empathetic, and constructive, but observe and gently call out content gaps. Seeing missing or omitted content is sometimes harder to assess than what’s actually on the page.
Ask yourself: What content would help the person stand out for a given role? Is there any angle they’re overlooking? What’s a different way to sum up their experience?
For example, the first time I did this exercise, the participants noted I had experience in Toronto’s research and startup communities, which positioned me for roles that bridge both worlds. I hadn’t thought of myself that way before.
Rinse and repeat for the other participants. Each person should receive a minimum of 10 to 15 minutes of feedback, and have the opportunity to respond to any specific questions.
When you’re finished, connect with your fellow participants on LinkedIn. If you can, regroup a month later. What have you changed? What still needs to be done? Hold each other accountable.
You can do the exercise as a small group or, if the participants are willing, with a larger audience observing. Both can help you see your profile with fresh eyes while learning from others.
Note: The Raw Signal team shares this LinkedIn exercise under the Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0. If you use the exercise in future, please ensure you’re giving appropriate attribution, and note the license is exclusively for non-commercial use. If you are interested in commercial use (paid workshop, video content, corporate training, etc.), please contact the RSG team directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elizabeth Monier-Williams is a fractional marketing executive and novelist who works in Toronto’s tech ecosystem, specializing in digital health and fintech. She participated in Growclass’s inaugural cohort in Fall 2019 and is an active member of the GC Slack community. Follow her on LinkedIn.