Most of LinkedIn is easy to set up. You can cut and paste your resume into the Education and Experience sections. You can even attach videos, presentations, documents, and website links to the various settings to further showcase your work beyond mere words.

…but when it comes to writing the summary, most people get stuck.

I am convinced the main reason we have difficulty with this is the underlying concern (and truth) that we are selling ourselves. Generally, when it comes to the job search, any element that involves selling who we are tends to be where we struggle the most. Examples include:

  • Answering “Tell Me About Yourself”
  • Networking without sounding like you are schmoozing
  • Tailoring a resume or cover letter specifically to a job
  • …and the LinkedIn profile summary

It, of course, does not help that most of these elements are necessary and unavoidable in the job search.

However, a strong LinkedIn summary can help you get noticed by recruiters, or clients if you are an entrepreneur. As you build this summary, you should take three things into account:

1) Should I Use 1st Person or 3rd Person?

Many people have different opinions on whether or not to write in first or third person, and no one is right except you. You have to go with what feels right, as well as what comes most naturally to you. People who vouch for first person generally agree this style comes off as more personal. Since it’s how we write in other forms of social media (i.e. Facebook, Twitter) as well as how we interact with others (have you ever spoken in third person at a networking event?), it may be easier

People who prefer third person tend to agree that it sounds more professional and less egotistical. Third person also often avoids the sales factor—for example, in my case, what “David” can do for you as a coach can be a lot easier to accept or swallow than what “I” can do for you as a coach. Furthermore, most executive profiles that you read on annual reports and websites are in third person, so it sometimes appears to be the norm. At the same time, personality is sometimes lost in third person prose.

In the end, you have to ask yourself how you want to present yourself. You might also want to consider the industry you are in and what is most common. How you write about yourself as an engineer is distinctly different than what you might mention as a creative type. Visiting other people’s LinkedIn profiles within your industry or profession can give you ideas on what works best, as well as what you are most receptive to. There is a lot of value in what grabs your attention, as people who write that way speak to you, and in that sense, could be like-minded or similar to your own preferred communication style.

2) What Are the Strategic Keywords and Core Competencies in Your Industry/Career?

If you know your industry, you also know the lingo and keywords that will grab people’s attention. Look at five different job descriptions for the same type of position, and you can get a feel for what is essential to be considered for a job. If you research Search Engine Optimization (SEO), you can easily discover the most common words people search for on sites such as Google to find people (or information) in your profession. Incorporating these keywords and core competencies into your summary is crucial, especially if you want recruiters to find you, or you want potential clients to discover you.

How you organize it is another story.

Some people will simply list it in the Skills & Endorsements section of LinkedIn. Others will list it in a sentence (or paragraph) in their summary as a core competency, or an area of expertise. And even others will just incorporate it into their summary and try to make it flow throughout the narrative…and flow often. Marketing 101 suggests mentioning the same point at least six times so it will stick with your audience. How do you use keywords six different times to subconsciously reach recruiters and clients?

Whichever way you choose again is up to you. This truly is more of an art than it is a science. As long as you have those keywords in, you are golden.

3) Am I Writing for the Present or the Future? How Visionary Should I Be?

The next question is how to present yourself. Do you want to be seen as the professional you are now, or the professional you see yourself as in the near future? There is an inherent risk in mentioning what you want to do, especially if you are currently employed and you don’t want your employer to be aware of your intentions. However, showcasing where you want to be and what you are currently doing to get there lets people know your goals and how all your education, experience and background might lead to your next opportunity.

If your current employer doesn’t know you want to leave, this is indeed a slippery slope to consider. At the same time, once you are employed, it is rather rare that people bother to look at your LinkedIn profile unless they are LOOKING for you. Furthermore, you can set up your privacy in your settings so people are not notified when you make changes to your profile. This, again, prevents the word from getting out unless people are looking for you, your subject matter expertise, or your relatable/transferable core competencies.

In the end, writing a summary has more to do with who you are and how you most easily present yourself. Knowing there’s no right or wrong answer, make it about what comes most naturally, and what feels the most authentic to you. Most importantly, try not to let the summary hold you back from making your LinkedIn profile public. LinkedIn is fluid and you will be developing it constantly as your life and career prospects change. Keeping it private could be the difference between being recognized or looked over for the ideal career opportunity.