Fundamentals of LinkedIn

It's not headline news that LinkedIn is a highly effective platform on which to expand your professional reach; with over 500million members worldwide and 230million active users each month – these are big numbers. The truth is, most people barely even scratch the surface of what it has to offer and fail to lay strong foundations.

I've pulled together these simple, yet vital steps based on the patterns I've seen in the clients I work with as a coach. I work with many people who want to ensure that their profile represents them in the right light, and they are maximizing the community.

Firstly, focus on the foundations of the profile and then how best to use it to increase the reach and engagement within the community. Trust me, if you do these 4 things and nothing else, you are already ahead of most people. 

1)  Your Picture

First things first, the profile photo. Too many times there are profiles without pictures or a random selfie from a vacation in Honolulu - neither of these are viable options! LinkedIn members with a profile picture are 14 times more likely to receive page views. It’s worth taking the time and uploading the perfect photo. Consider these points;

  • Does it look like you? Not only should it have a strong resemblance it also needs to reflect the image you want to portray. Don’t include a picture from 1998; it needs to look current and appropriate while also showing your personality.

  • No selfies. I forbid it! While you do not need a professional headshot, you are more than capable of taking a great picture or asking a friend to help you. Once you have your shot use the many photo editing apps that exist and take the time to post something you are proud of.

  • What are you wearing? It’s important to note the clothing that can be seen in the photo. Don’t use a picture of you in a shirt and tie if you’ve transitioned your career from finance to yoga teacher.

Keep your photo up-to-date and relevant to your current profession, role and how you want to be seen.

2) Your Profile

LinkedIn offers you a lot of space to tell the world who you are. Take this opportunity and run with it. You can cover everything from professional experience, skills, certificates and education as well as interests and recommendations from within your network. Not enough people complete these sections and therefore lose the opportunity to tell their community who they are. The more you complete the better. As a minimum I suggest that you complete the following;


You have a lot of space here to highlight experiences and skills, but remember, most people are lazy and won't read it all. When you are viewing on a desktop only the first 250 characters can be seen unless you expand the section and even less is visible on mobile. Make sure the opening paragraph encapsulates your message and grabs the reader’s attention.


This is seen next to your name when people search and is also the main tagline on your profile page. Keep it concise and current to what you want the world to know about you; if you’re looking for a job, say it, if you’re looking to hire someone, say that! It can change as often as you want so think of it as a tweet that reflects your focus in the moment.


Treat this as an extension of your resume. What else do you want to say about the roles you've had in your career? What skills and the experiences do you want to add that you couldn’t fit on the 2 pages of your resume?


Keep this up to date as you gain more certificate or training. Not only does this show your growth in skills it's also a great way to build connections through your alumni. There could be some powerful connections that you've lost over the years that could come in handy today.


There are over 45,000 skills that LinkedIn offers so aim to find around 50 that apply to you and your experience. Also include skills that represent the kind of roles you want, the more you include the easier it is for people to search for you. The algorithm even pulls from your profile and makes suggestions – it couldn’t be easier! 

3) Your Connections

It’s now time to start building your network and community and that comes from the connections that you make. I get asked by many clients to explain the different degrees of connections, so below is an overview to help decrypt these.

1st Degree

These are people that you have accepted to be connected with or they have accepted your invitation. You are able to message them directly as often as you like. A good starting place is to link your Gmail contacts, focus on people from past and present organizations and review the suggested connections that LinkedIn supply you. The more the merrier!

2nd Degree

These are people who are connected to anyone who is a 1st degree contact of yours. Example; If Sally is a 1st degree contact and she is connected with David, this makes David a 2nd degree connection of yours. To make him a 1st degree simply click connect and an invitation will be sent, as soon as he accepts, he’ll move to 1st place.

3rd Degree

Similar principle as the above with the difference being that that these people are connected to your 2nd degree connections, so if Eric is connected to David he will remain a 3rd degree connection until either you connect with David, in which case Eric would become a 2nd degree connection or you invite Eric directly to connect and if he accepts, bumping him up to 1st degree. Think of it as a game of dominoes, knock down one and the rest fall in line.

Why does all this matter? The more 1st degree connections you have the more ability you have to contact them directly, be able to view their network or see if you have contacts in common. This is the starting point of building you community, and vital for the impact you can have through LinkedIn. 

4) Your Activity

Now it’s time to get active. The more involved you are in the community the more you start to build a strong picture of who you are, what you believe in and what your passions are. This can take on many forms, the more you do the bigger the impact. Some ways to get involved include:

Post, Comment and Share

Try posting articles, photos, memes, or videos that inspire or interest you. By sharing compelling content, you are letting people know your values and interests. It’s a powerful way to communicate your voice to the community.

Also consider commenting and sharing fellow LinkedIn members’ content within your profile. I’ve had great success in connecting with people through liking and commenting on something they have written or posted. It helps connect you with like-minded people


Perhaps you have a blog or enjoy writing or recording your own material. LinkedIn is a great platform to share your work and allows a different side of you to be seen. This can set you apart from the rest when it comes to finding a new role or building your network.


There are countless groups you can join which connect you to specific people within a smaller community; a group can be anything from "Cat's best friend worldwide" to "HR Professionals" - there are many to choose from and they are an excellent want to find your people and make powerful connections.

So now it’s time to follow these easy steps, lay down your foundations and get involved in the community and let me know how you get on.

Alistair Marshall