Three Steps to Perfect Your LinkedIn Profile Headline

Recently a student asked how to write a headline or tagline for her LinkedIn profile that didn’t sound hopelessly vague or nondescript. Her valid concern was that as a student she didn’t really have a job title to point to, or an extensive “work persona.”

It’s actually pretty easy to do once you’ve figured out the basic approach. Whether you’re a nursing/healthcare student, recent graduate, or established professional, the following steps should help you develop a terrific headline.

How LinkedIn’s headline field works (if you ignore it)

When you create your LinkedIn profile, if you don’t fill in the Headline content box, LinkedIn automatically defaults to your current title and employer. So, for example, if you were a pediatric nurse at a hospital in Philadelphia and simply went with the default headline, yours would potentially read: Pediatric Nurse III, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

If you’re a student and you note that in your Experience section, it will pick up “Student” or “Graduate student” or “Nursing student” (however you’ve indicated your status), and the name of the institution you’re attending. For example, your default headline might read: Graduate Nursing Student, American Sentinel University

Not much there to grab someone’s attention. Happily, you’ve got 120 characters (including spaces) within which to provide a much more compelling, engaging, and informative headline.

Instead, tell your story – briefly

How do you differentiate yourself for potential employers within that 120-character parameter? A really simple approach is to simply identify your area of professional expertise (rather than your job title); for example:

  • Pediatric nurse
  • Digital medical records specialist
  • Healthcare clinic manager

If you’re a student or recent grad looking for a job, you can modify your area of interest with qualifiers like “aspiring,” or “in training,” for example, “aspiring pediatric nurse” or “digital medical records specialist in training.”

Or, you could create a headline that goes a step further in showcasing your unique strengths to potential employers. The following three steps will help you do that.

1 – Be specific

Can you provide more detail about being pediatric nurse? For example, are you a “Pediatric nurse known for compassionate family support following high-risk deliveries?”

Or perhaps you’re a “Multilingual healthcare clinic manager specializing in working with immigrant populations.” Or maybe you’re a “Digital medical records specialist with expertise in the top 5 records platforms,” which indicates that you’re current in your field and probably able to step in and add value for an employer immediately.

Do you want to build your opportunities within a specific type of healthcare provider, or industry, or type of organization (for example, government, start-up, nonprofit)? If so, make sure to mention that differentiator in your headline as well.

For students/recent grads: if you’re a student or recent grad, you have two options…

Option one is to focus on the path of expertise you’re pursuing in grad school (most useful if you’re early on in your program and not yet job-hunting). At this point, assume you’re just starting to build your professional visibility. Your headline might be along the lines of:

  • Nursing program grad exploring nursing research opportunities where I can contribute, continue to learn
  • Healthcare management student eager to contribute multilingual marketing/outreach skills to large East Coast urban hospital (5/17 grad)
  • Aspiring medical records specialist seeking opportunities to contribute to pharmaceutical research corporation

Notice that each of these headlines is focused on a desire to contribute to the organization, rather than on what you, as the job seeker want.

2 – Use keywords

This item takes the “be specific” approach a step further by purposely including the keywords that potential employers are most likely to search on when seeking someone with your expertise.

There are a number of ways to easily identify the best keywords for the type of job you’d like your headline to align with, but the best starting point is Susan Joyce’s article, “How To Identify Exactly The Right Keywords For Your Linkedin Profile.” Joyce provides very clear instructions for how to find your optimal keywords, as well as noting why it’s so important to do so.

3 – Focus on your unique value

When you’re showcasing your unique ability to provide value to a potential employer, you want to focus on what makes you the person they’ll want to hire. If you’ve been working for awhile, you should have enough “wins” and/or specializations that you’ll be able to include some aspect of these in your headline.

For example, what problems can you solve? What unique expertise or skills do you have? One way to address this is to use some variation of the following format: I [create what benefit] by [using my specific expertise] [for whom]

Putting some sample nursing/healthcare terminology into this format might result in:

  • I increase patient satisfaction by creating and managing high-performance nursing teams for large private hospitals
  • I ensure successful pharma product development by supporting research teams with best-in-class data management results
  • I improve productivity rates for nursing processes through workplace technology training and implementation in small- to medium-sized private clinics

What about injecting some personality?

I personally think it’s great to include a bit of your personality if you’ve got the space to do so. Why not say something that indicates you’ve got a healthy sense of humor and don’t take yourself too seriously? (I tend to think that any organization that doesn’t appreciate and seek out these wonderful traits isn’t really a place you’d want to work anyway, but you may feel differently.)

A caveat here, however, is to make sure that what you see as a light-hearted and endearing headline comment is likely to be interpreted similarly by others. Check with your most professional friends for their feedback – if they hesitate for even a moment, best not to include.

For more tips on how to use LinkedIn to boost your nursing career, also check out:

This article was brought to you by American Sentinel’s career coach, Kim Dority – be sure to check out her other articles for more tips.