By Ash Athawale, Senior Vice President and Senior Managing Director, Robert Half

A CEO recently asked me for the piece of career advice I give most often. It’s quite simple: Don’t look for a role when you need it. Always be looking.

In my last post, I covered why it’s important for senior leaders to keep their resumes up to date, so they’re ready for any opportunity. In this piece, I’ll discuss LinkedIn points for seasoned leaders ranging from the director level to the C-suite. (If you’re newer to your career, check out this informative post from my colleague Brandi Britton.)

Having a current LinkedIn profile is even more impactful. Think about it: Your online presence can work for you around the clock – enabling you to be present to new opportunities when you’re working, sleeping, vacationing and otherwise not thinking about a new role. Notice I say that your presence can work for you. Just having a LinkedIn profile won’t guarantee the right people will find you. And even if they do, not all profiles will pique the interest of search executives.

The good news is it’s relatively easy to establish a solid presence and keep it fresh. Here are three steps I recommend you take:

1. Update your professional photo

Many executive-level professionals have a corporate headshot. A lot of them, though, are quite dated. If you haven’t updated your photo in the last three years, now’s the time. Hiring a professional photographer is a wise move: A good one knows about lighting, backgrounds and color and will help you look your best. You’ll want a clear, crisp headshot in business attire. Too many people post casual vacation photos, blurry or poorly cropped images. Your photo creates your first impression, so make it count.

2. Make the most of the ‘About’ section

It may be tempting to overlook this section. After all, why fill it out if you’ve already got an extensive rundown of your career history and education? Skipping the About section means missing out on a prime opportunity to offer a snapshot of your professional capabilities. Think of this as the online equivalent of an elevator pitch. Summarize what you do, why you’re different and what makes you successful. A concise, well-written About section encourages people to read your full profile.

3. Promote others

LinkedIn is all about community, so make sure you’re doing your part to build others up. Network without expectation. Offer to write recommendations for others. Comment, like and share others’ posts. When you post news about your or your firm’s accomplishments, share credit with others.

For instance, in a post I wrote about winning a major company award, I credited my clients, colleagues and network for helping me achieve the milestone. I firmly believe that none of us succeeds in a vacuum. When we accomplish something, there are many people around us who help make it happen. (That post got more than 27,000 views and nearly 450 reactions!)

Your profile and activity have more power than you think

When I talk about promoting others, people are often skeptical. “Why should I focus on this, Ash?” they ask. “Shouldn’t my goal be to promote myself?”

As someone who searches for C-suite and other executive roles for global clients, I can tell you the focus is quite different when hiring at this level. The key here is to look at the big picture: Your LinkedIn profile shows your career history and focus. But your activity on the site highlights your qualities as a leader.

I can get a good sense of who people are as leaders by viewing their LinkedIn activity. Are they sharing meaningful content that educates and informs? Recognizing the contributions of others? Sharing credit? Mentoring newer professionals and helping them advance?

As you can imagine, there are red flags that indicate someone is lacking in leadership ability.

Two things I advise you never do:

  • Complain— LinkedIn is not the place to gripe about your organization, role or other issues. Nor is it the venue to opine on political or other non-professional issues. Those who view your profile may lack appropriate context for these types of remarks, and your points are likely to be seen as unprofessional and unnecessary as a result.
  • Boast— People who only post about their individual successes, daily routines, reasons why they’re the best in the business, and so on do not gain admirers. They alienate people. This “all about me” focus is tiring and runs counter to the community-building nature of the site. Self-centered people do not often make for good colleagues or leaders.

I’m not saying you can’t celebrate your wins. Please do so! Just don’t make them the focus of every post or share.

Can you review my profile?

As search executives, we’re often asked to review and offer feedback on job candidates’ LinkedIn profiles. As I noted in my earlier post about executive resumes, aside from offering a few points, we don’t have the time for full reviews and overhauls of content. If you’re short on time or don’t feel writing is your strongest suit, find a writer to help you. Ask a mentor or others in your network to review your updated profile and offer their insight. What’s their main takeaway from your content? What’s their lasting impression?

Setting aside time to update your LinkedIn profile and engage with others on the site can bring big rewards. Taking some simple steps will help others gain a better understanding of you as a leader and a person. If you’re open to a new opportunity, ask yourself: Does my profile help hiring executives envision me as a potential fit in their organization? Make it easy for the answer here to be a resounding yes.

Follow Ash Athawale on Twitter/X and LinkedIn.