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Content Under Pressure

LinkedIn: Take the Time to Tell Your Story

By Susan Kostal

We have all internalized the maxim that we need to be on LinkedIn. Fair enough. But too many of us revert to resume-speak or a book report-style account of what we did in various positions. The problems are these: Resume-speak is often full of jargon and causes eyes to glaze over. Book-report accounts are just that, a rote recounting of what happened when. Neither tells the full story of who you are as a professional.

Unlike your law firm bio, LinkedIn is your personal digital real estate, to do with what you want. This means you have the opportunity to create a professional asset that complements your law firm bio — without the style and formatting constraints.

Here’s where to focus your efforts.

Rock Your LinkedIn Summary in 35 Words or Less

Sadly, a surprising number of professionals on LinkedIn don’t take advantage of the summary section, which pops up directly under the box showing your name and photo. This is the “location, location, location” section of your profile. It’s the first thing people see without scrolling down to the details of your work history.

You have numerous paragraphs to work with here but concentrate on the first 30 to 35 words, because without clicking on “show more” only three lines of text are visible. This means you have just three lines of copy to convince someone to click through to learn more about you … from you, in a first-person voice that invites engagement and sets you apart.

In every conference panel of general counsel I’ve attended, counsel say they want to know what it’s like to work with you. This is your chance to tell that story.

General counsel say they want to know what it’s like to work with you. This is your chance to tell that story.

How to do that? Distill who you are and why you do what you do. Concentrate on a strong opening sentence. Make sure you communicate your passion. This isn’t easy. But as hard as we work, we should know what drives us, what sets us apart. Be sure to include at least a teaser of that in the first 35 words of your summary.

Tell the Story, Don’t Just Log the Hours

Further down in your LinkedIn profile comes the traditional listing of where you’ve worked when. Take advantage of the open format of this section to move away from a bulleted list of responsibilities and talk about the impact you made in each position. Go beyond personal accomplishments, though, and talk about what you did for the organization.

social media marketingA prospect, whether it’s an employer or a client, wants to see him or herself in your copy. So rather than just list individual successes, talk about how you affected others, both individuals and organizations. Take that litany from your company bio and tell the story of how those accomplishments interrelate.

In your current position, talk about your goals; show you are forward-thinking.

Simple, active language can create a dynamism missing in most profiles. Drawing on the theme you laid out in your summary, flesh out the story, adding meat to the bones. If you are stuck for ideas, go over the recommendations you’ve received, those coveted, honest, third-person assessments of who you are, what you bring to the table and what it’s like to work with you. What evidence can you share in this section that backs up those accounts?

LinkedIn Is a Missed Narrative Opportunity for Most

When you are feeling relaxed and confident, review your LinkedIn profile, looking for ways you can harness the platform to tell the best story of who you are as a professional. Study the profiles of peers. You will find plenty that leave you hungry for more. People aren’t being modest, per se. They just haven’t taken advantage of all their profile could be. Find that colleague — or competitor — who has mastered telling their own story, and use it as a model to tell the unique tale of who you are.

For more tips on using LinkedIn and other social media platforms, get your (free) copy of Attorney at Work’s  “Social Media Marketing Guide for Lawyers.”

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Susan Kostal Susan Kostal

Susan Kostal is a legal affairs PR, marketing and business development consultant based in San Francisco. She is a contributing editor for Attorney at Work and writes the “Content Under Pressure” column. Susan has covered legal affairs as a journalist for nearly three decades. You can follow her on Twitter @skostal and view more of her content at www.susankostal.com.

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