Your Professional Headline is the line that appears under your name on LinkedIn. When users first encounter you on LinkedIn, they may not be looking at your Profile; they may see you as a suggestion in People You May Know on their Network page, in search results, in a list of connections, or in a LinkedIn Group. In many of those cases, all they will see is your photo, name, and your Professional Headline, like this:
Think of your Headline as your LinkedIn elevator speech or your virtual introduction. It should be short and to the point, but it should communicate enough information about you to entice people to want to know more. In the case of LinkedIn, you want your Headline to convince users to click on your name and view your full Profile or to connect with you.
Know your audience
Think about what is most important to your audience or the people you want to connect with on LinkedIn. Your Professional Headline is a valuable tool that can communicate your area of practice, your knowledge and experience and to distinguish yourself from other lawyers. It should be a differentiator that helps you to stand out in search results and it should be descriptive so that when people see your Professional Headline they immediately know what you do.
Don’t make the common mistake made by many lawyers by limiting your Headline to just your title (Associate, Partner, etc.). Include your practice areas or the types of work you do for clients. Consider including the name of your firm as well – it won’t always be obvious to LinkedIn users if they’re not looking at your full Profile when they encounter your name.
But don’t stop there. Even your title and firm name (“Partner at Flintstone and Rubble, P.C”) are not enough. If a user is not familiar with your firm, this information may not be enough even to communicate that you are a lawyer (Flintstone and Rubble could be an accounting firm, for example).
Add a description of your practice areas or clients, keeping your audience in mind. Use keywords that your audience might use to search for a lawyer in your practice area. Utilize all 120 characters that LinkedIn makes available for your Headline.
Compare these Headline examples:
Partner -or- Partner at Scooby and Shaggy, LLP, Management-side Labor and Employment Law Trial Attorney
Associate at Lane & Kent, P.C -or- Elder Law and Estate Planning Associate Attorney at Seinfeld & Costanza
Trial Partner at Florrick, Agos -or- Partner, Scott, Schrute, Halpert, Beesly & Howard, PC, Risk Management and Legal Malpractice Attorney
If these headlines appeared in search results, which one in each pair would you be more likely to select?
Revising your Headline
Certain key events (getting a job, losing a job, promotions, etc.) will trigger the need to revise your Headline (along with the rest of your Profile). There’s no hard and fast rule, and much depends on your purpose and audience, and how fast those things change.
Revise your Headline as often as you need to. But keep in mind that when you revise your Headline, LinkedIn may send your connections a notification that you have a new job. If that isn’t the case and you’re just tweaking your Headline, you may want to turn off those notifications before you make your Headline changes.
If nothing significant has changed, you may want to look at your Profile and your Headline every 6 months to a year to see if there’s any updates that need to be made, any changes in language or new ways of phrasing that you might want to incorporate based on what’s happening in your practice and in the marketplace.
Job seekers: Include your desired position?
If you have a specific kind of job in mind, you can certainly make it clear in your Headline. But be aware that if you are currently employed, your employer or other colleagues may be able to see this information. If you do not want them to know that you are job hunting, you might want to keep that information out of your Headline.
If you don’t want your employer to know you’re jobhunting, you can still use LinkedIn’s job search and apply for jobs listed on LinkedIn, and you can make sure that your Professional Headline and your summary reflect the knowledge, skills and experience that would be attractive to a new potential employer or for the new position that you are seeking.
What you include in your Headline depends upon what you’re looking for, what you think your audience will respond to, and how much attention you want to call to it. If you want to let as many people as possible know that you’re seeking a specific kind of position, putting it right up front in your Headline is likely to attract attention.
For example, your Headline might read, “Recent New York Law Grad Seeking Associate Position in Commercial Real Estate.”
The benefit-driven Headline
Lawyers who want to really stand out on LinkedIn might want to consider writing a benefit-driven Headline.
What is a benefit-driven Headline? It is a Headline that focuses on the benefits that you offer to your clients, rather than your title or what you do.
For example, instead of, “Elder Law and Estate Planning Associate Attorney at Seinfeld & Costanza,” you might want to focus your Headline on the benefits that you provide to your clients, saying something like, “Helping families protect their aging loved ones and their legacy.” You might even try creatively combining these, using all the available 120 characters.
The Professional Headline is one of the most important elements of your LinkedIn Profile – take some time today to sit down and think about how you can be more creative with your Headline to attract clients, referral sources, hiring partners, or even the media.
If you want help with your LinkedIn Headline or other aspects of your LinkedIn Profile, contact me to see how I can help.
UPDATE: If you're more of a DIY type, you might be interested in this FREE printable LinkedIn Headline worksheet.