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8 LinkedIn essentials for a winning (unretirement) profile

8 July 2019 By Victoria Tomlinson

What’s your relationship with LinkedIn? If you are coming up to unretirement, or made the move a year or two ago, there is a good chance you fit into one of the following categories

  • You created a basic profile years ago, couldn’t see what the fuss was about and have done virtually nothing with it since
  • Hate LinkedIn with a vengeance – you only seem to get requests from people you have never heard of and don’t want to know
  • Know there is probably something useful about LinkedIn but don’t know where to start
  • Know that you need a decent profile to sell yourself – whether as a potential non-executive director, trustee, consultant, advisor or other. But where do you start?

If you said yes to any of the above, this blog is for you!

  1. LinkedIn is a search engine

The first thing to remember is that LinkedIn is the world’s most powerful business search engine. It is used by headhunters (even if they say they don’t, they do – it’s the essential tool for any researcher starting an assignment); HR teams increasingly use it and even Google uses it.  You may notice that when you search for someone on Google, typically their LinkedIn profile will appear in the top two or three entries.

So you need to think like a search engine.  What words would people use when searching for someone with your skills?

  1. Be distinctive

We are working with a lot of professional firms and I use this stat to make the point – are you really standing out?  If you search on LinkedIn for ‘audit partner’, it says there are 4.7m people with this in their job title

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When thinking about your personal brand – and therefore what you put on LinkedIn – you want to make yourself distinctive.

Ask yourself, ‘what problem am I solving?’.  This could be in terms of non-executive director roles, trustee roles, consultant or advisor, interim work, thought leader as a speaker and more.

I have been on the nominations committee, and involved in recruitment of non-executives, on a number of boards over the years.  As an example, these are some of the roles we went out specifically looking for

  • A very commercial finance director – not an audit partner, but someone who was used to making tough decisions on finances and able to look at accounts with a commercial eye
  • An investment manager – when we were thinking of setting up a long-term fund
  • Commercial property – to advise on finding a new building and negotiating terms
  • Expanding into China – someone who had first-hand experience of specific risks and also could help build networks and relationships

So what experience do you have that could help boards and others? You want to make sure you have the phrases in your LinkedIn profile so you are found when people are searching for these skills. When you are meeting headhunters, ask what board skills they find hardest to recruit for – and note the specific phrases they use.  You want to be using their phrases in your profile – because these are probably the ones they will type in when searching for relevant people.

Test out your own skills and experience against what they say are the roles they recruit for. You want to give them permission to be brutal – a lot say,’ great you are just what we need’ and know they will never even put you on a shortlist. You want to get honest feedback.

Read job advertisements and talk to people in your network – listen to the way they talk about their problems and again, the exact words and phrases they use.  If you have these skills, use these words in your profile.

  1. Your headline is more than a job title

One of the key places where LinkedIn is searching, is on what you might call your ‘job title’. 

If you go into the edit section of your profile (see below) you will see it is now called ‘Headline’, not ‘Professional headline’ that it used to be or even ‘Job Title’ from years ago.  You have 120 characters for this headline and that gives you a lot to play with and include keywords here

Edit image for LinkedIn blog

I regularly change my headline according to what I am doing and promoting – I check if it is still valid and relevant every six months or so. 

The words I have put in this headline have all been chosen for a specific task

  • Of course, our business name. This is a small part of helping Next-Up to be found on Google as well as LinkedIn
  • My title of course – I could have put founder here, but it doesn’t add a lot for the word space
  • Unretirement – positioning what we do and our market
  • Helping people – that is what we do
  • BBC expert woman and international speaker – for credibility
  • Non-executive because I am still interested in roles. There wasn’t space to add ‘director’!
  1. The About section will bring you to life

LinkedIn regularly changes its format – the About section used to be called your Summary, but it still has 2000 characters including spaces. This is where you can repeat some of the keywords for search, in a natural way.  Explain the key points of your experience that are most relevant to

  • The problem your solving
  • The roles you want

I saw one profile recently of someone who has launched a local business directory in his retirement – great!  But he doesn’t mention the directory in his profile at all – which is what the reader is really interested in.  And he talks about his career going back 35 years so you lose the will to live.   This is an extreme example, but it is easy for everyone to talk about what they think is interesting, rather than focus on experience and stories that will win you new roles or work or what someone looking up is keen to know about you.

  1. Connect widely

The other day someone made a comment that really resonated.  They said that ‘work’ (whether roles or advisory/interim work or whatever) after retirement is most likely to come from those on the fringes of your network.

That makes sense – the chances of former colleagues, associates or suppliers having work for you are probably limited?  You therefore need to build new networks and particularly lots of connections on the fringes of your previous life – from headhunters to chairmen of boards and directors who need your services. The more connections you have, the more opportunities are likely.

You probably want to aim for 2,000+ connections. Have a plan to do this – say 20 new connections a week.

Do this from a laptop or PC so that you can add a message (which you can’t from a smartphone*).  You can create a standard message that sounds personal eg ‘Hi John, I am starting to think about my next steps after a great career here. I am keen to understand more about xyz sector/roles (or similar) – do you have time for a call?  Would love to learn from your experience/hear your views on….’

That way you are starting to position yourself in the new market, build your new brand and start your research and connections to help you in the longer term.

  1. Get found on Linkedin

There is no bible on how LinkedIn’s search algorithms work and they also keep changing.  But some basics about how their search generally works

  • Because LinkedIn was designed to help the recruitment business, it rewards those who help make their life easier. In particular, when someone searches on LinkedIn, LinkedIn prioritises people who have a complete profile first – All Star on your dashboard.  This is what you need for All Star

LI blog pic 2

  1. Use LinkedIn to build a new personal brand

Once you leave corporate life, you need to market yourself to explain what you are doing now, the problem you are solving and your expertise.  Of course, you don’t want to post all this blatantly!

But what you can do is to start sharing articles that are relevant to what you are doing – sometimes adding a view on comment.  Keep these focused around your brand and people will soon start associating you in this new field.

It’s a good idea to post once or twice a week to achieve this.

  1. Engage with others

Who is going to be important to you in your new life?  Draw up a target list of say 50 people – these could be headhunters, directors of companies you are interested in working with, people who are good networkers and could refer work to you and so on.

Keep this list by your desk and a couple of times a month look these people up on LinkedIn and see what they are doing/posting.  If relevant and interesting, share their posts, comment and engage.  Be authentic in this – and don’t become a stalker!  But this is a great way to build genuine relationships and learn about the people you are targeting/want help from.  See what you can do to help them – the golden rule of networking.

So those are the basics of using LinkedIn for unretirement. Let us know how you get on and good luck!

*Thanks to Mark McMullen who pointed out LinkedIn’s latest changes mean you can do a personal message from a smartphone when linking with someone.  Thanks Mark!  And we like your LinkedIn profile!

Victoria Tomlinson

Written by Victoria Tomlinson

Victoria Tomlinson is chief executive and founder of Next-Up, which helps people leaving full time work to use their skills in unretirement. A former director of EY, she is an international speaker on unretirement, personal branding and using LinkedIn strategically as well as on leadership and women on boards. She mentors chief executives and directors, start-up businesses and ex-offenders. Victoria is Honorary Teaching Fellow at Lancaster University and chaired an advisory board for University of Leeds.

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