With features to help you make long-term career plans or stay on top of industry news, LinkedIn has plenty to offer business professionals. Even if you aren’t currently hunting for a new job, it’s a network loaded with opportunities. But if your profile doesn’t represent you well, you won’t have as many chances to tap into LinkedIn’s full potential.

It’s especially important to be smart about managing how people perceive you on this network, since your profile is the first impression you’ll make on possible employers, partners, or associates. You should consider it a part of your personal brand and take the time to maintain it, just as you would for the social media page of a corporate brand. Below are some general pointers for sprucing up your LinkedIn profile, along with two examples of what can happen if you don’t invest some time into putting your best face forward.

The Empty Profile

Even if you have great credentials like a strong education and relevant work experience, not including a photo could cut down on your chances of catching an employer’s eye. It has become standard on social media networks to be transparent, so having no photo makes it seem as though you are hiding or less willing to participate in LinkedIn’s service.

The person has made another major mistake by not filling out the Summary section. Especially on a job networking site, make sure that you’re taking advantage of all the information you can share about yourself. On LinkedIn in particular, the Summary is where you can do more than simply copy over details from your resume.

It’s key to get some element of your personality into your profile so that an employer can distinguish you from the crowd. With no summary and no photo, somebody looking at this profile has no context for the list of job titles and skills.

Take the time to fill out your whole profile with enough detail that a reader can get some sense of who you are as a professional. It doesn’t have to take you a long time, but having a complete profile shows that you’re willing to put the time into presenting yourself well and that you are proud of what you have done.

The Bad Photo

It’s not enough to pick any old photo as your profile image. Choosing a bad photo will reflect just as poorly on you as having no photo at all. First, be sure to resize your image appropriately so that the final result isn’t pixelated or fuzzy. Second, make sure that you’ve chosen a picture that shows your face. People are on LinkedIn to interact with other people, not mystery figures.

Pick a photo only showing you; there’s no need for a group shot. And just as you would on any other network, be sure to avoid any pictures where you are engaged in inappropriate behavior. Be fully dressed, sober, and professional. Think of it this way: if you wouldn’t look like it at a job interview, don’t use it for a profile photo. And remember, a smile never hurts.

Other Common Mistakes

The profiles above are just two examples of how carelessness could keep you from getting a job. But there are some other important things to keep in mind as you curate your LinkedIn presence. First, while you should be comprehensive in presenting your work information, make sure that you’ve put that information in the most appropriate places. For example, your title should be a concise explanation of what you currently do, not a litany of all your credentials and skills.  This is a third common mistake.

The next key element: Less is more. Some people will attempt to draw extra attention to their profiles by using fancy characters, from asterisks to arrows to exclamation points. Skip the fireworks and focus on your actual content. Remember to proofread and use proper grammar. Using all caps or leaving everything lowercased doesn’t help promote your personal brand.

Finally, you shouldn’t close yourself off. Consider making both your profile and connections public. Since LinkedIn is a professional network rather than a personal one, the focus is on seeking new connections instead of just developing existing friendships. Making your information available to other members is an important step in forming those new bonds. You can be selective in the information that you share on LinkedIn if you are concerned about privacy, but to take full advantage of what the network can offer, it helps to be open to discourse.

[Image credits: AKZOphoto, Nan Palmero]