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Stand Out with a LinkedIn Headline

With global members pushing 800 million, LinkedIn is a prime piece of real estate for your personal brand. One way to stand out to potential employers is to make sure your LinkedIn Headline is in tip-top shape.

What is a LinkedIn Headline?

Think of a news story headline – short, snappy, and makes you want to read more. Your LinkedIn headline should pack the same punch because it is one of the first things people see – it invites people to read your career story. Given that it is only 120 characters, be sure to make each word count.

When writing your headline, keep in mind John F. Kennedy’s famous quote. “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” In this case, think not what a potential employer/contact/client can do for you, but what you can do for them. In other words, make it clear how you can add value. Think of it, says writer Sid Lipsey, as your elevator pitch – for Brand Me.

Just writing your current job title and company name (which LinkedIn includes by default) is not going to make you stand out. LinkedIn suggests asking “So what?” to help you define the specific ways you bring value. I like to put my own spin on this by thinking of a child asking, “Why…?”

“I’m a great PR Manager.”

“Why?”

“I’m good at enhancing brand presence.”

“Why?”

“I have a proven history of securing top-tier media coverage.”

Let’s tweak that to make it more personal: I can secure you top-tier media coverage. That’s more like it!

Now that we’ve learnt how to focus on your unique value proposition, let’s discuss a few other pointers. Take a look at this LinkedIn headline:

Nic Haralambous 20+ years as an entrepreneur, 3x Startup Exits | 11+ years as a Professional Speaker, TEDx Speaker | Bestselling Author | I help people build better lives and businesses

This is a great headline because it succeeds in packing a lot of useful information into a limited space. It conveys the breadth of Nic’s experience and the depth (years of experience). Here are some ideas to borrow from this profile:

  • Use symbols to save on space: use + instead of “more than”, for instance. Replace “and” with ampersands (&). 

Demolition Man | Health & Safety Head | 30 Years in Demolition, Earthworks, Waste & Asbestos Removal.

  • Take out unnecessary words like “experience” – as you can see from Nic’s profile, it just takes up valuable space.
  • Use vertical slashes to separate information.
  • Achieved something significant? Include it! If you have worked for any well-known companies, definitely add this too.
  • Tell readers how you can add value by using the aforementioned “why” strategy. Remember to be concise and clear as Nic has been in the above example.

Types of LinkedIn Headlines

While there aren’t formal names given to LinkedIn headlines, it’s helpful to think of different categories so you can decide your best fit. The style of your headline sets the tone of your “About” section.

#1 The Advantage headline

This headline focuses on how you can benefit whomever you are targeting. Here are a few good examples:

Lauren Ferreira Founder & Head of Wonder Social. We help brands achieve digital success with a focus on tracking bottom-line returns.

The takeaway:  Be sure to highlight the specific ways you can be of service, how you measure success, the methodology you use, particularly if it is different from the norm.

Take a leaf out of Lauren’s book and follow this formula when writing your Headline. Who do I help? (In Lauren’s case: Brands). What do I help them to do? (Achieve digital success). How do I do this? (By tracking bottom-line returns). Notice how she uses “we” and not “I” which is a great option for companies or collectives because it gives a sense of solidarity.

Don’t just say you can help companies, help them do what? Help them grow? Hmmm… Better but still a bit vague. Check the example below, George doesn’t just say he designs organisations…

George Gabriel SMART VILLAGES: designing & implementing resilient and innovative organisations & communities

By saying “resilient,” he immediately makes it more impressive.

The headline below also caught my attention because it is brilliant in its brevity.

Geir Tellefsen I start businesses. The takeaway? You don’t have to use all 120 characters to make an impact.

#2 Niche Headlines

If you are in a specialised field, make that clear in your headline.

Jonathan Horwitz [Driving] Solutions for the security industry, policing, military and tactical forces.

Takeaway: Jonathan does a great job of summarising his target market. I would just add a power-packed verb (but great effort, Jon) – so our second takeaway from this is to pick your words carefully.

Choose verbs with oomph and avoid overused words like “motivated” (bleh) and “experienced” (snore). To figure out which words to remove from your LinkedIn headline and summary, check out LinkedIn’s Top 10 Global Buzzwords.  This could be quite misleading as they sound like words you’d want to include. However, the issue is that they are too common, so rather focus on specific keywords relevant to your job title and field.

#3 Creative headlines

What better way to show that you’re creative than to write a beautiful headline? Even if you’re not in a creative field, it’s great to add a fun touch because who wouldn’t want to work with someone who has a good sense of humour/imagination/interest in researching elusive deep-ocean seahorses?

You can get creative with metaphors and imagery.

I steer sinking businesses back to shore.

Or adding a quirky personal detail that makes people feel like you’re a real person and not just a profile photo.

Linda Roos ooba Group Head: Human Capital | CHRO Nominee 2020 | Mother of Donkeys

Or inventing a cool description for what you do, such as the examples below.

Naomi Bütow Inspirer of Thousands of Mompreneurs, also the Founder and CEO at Mommy Mall SA: Business, Advertising & Shopping Community for Moms

And…

Andrew Allison Chief Commercial Officer | Corporate lawyer, accountant, B-BBEE specialist and business problem solver

Remember to include your actual job title to increase your SEO ranking.

#4 The Achievement heading

Oran gets an A+ for this headline, which features an achievement, in addition to giving a crisp summary of his value proposition, including who he can help, and how.

Oran Cohen I help fast-growing start-ups scale performance and culture through behaviour change and gamification HR tech | Top 10 Grindstone Alumni

Whichever of the headline styles you choose, select a professional photo to match. In closing, be yourself and present yourself in the best possible light. It might just land you that big opportunity.


Glossary

to build your personal brand – to promote yourself
to pack a punch – to make an impression
to put a spin on something – to twist something to your advantage
to tweak something – to make small changes
to take a leaf out of someone’s book – to copy someone (positively)
the takeaway – the lesson learned from this


By Leigh-Anne Hunter

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