LinkedIn logoA friend has a LinkedIn profile, but beyond listing his title and employer, he has nothing — nothing! — to say what he does and how well he does it. He doesn’t even have a photo.

Of course, I’m bugging him about it. “At least get a photo up!” I told him. “And then you can work on your profile.”

In truth, he’s far from the only one. Scrolling through the list of people LinkedIn thinks I may know, I found four of the first 16 suggestions had no photos on their profiles. Some people think it doesn’t matter, especially if they aren’t looking for a job at the moment. But that’s the thing. The time to build your profile and your network is when you aren’t looking for a new job.

LinkedIn doesn’t have to be intimidating. If you do nothing else, do this:

  • Post your photo. Make it a closeup. Smile. Look professional. (Update: Entrepreneur posted the do’s and don’ts of the perfect LinkedIn profile photo, saying “it’s the photo that makes that crucial first impression.”)
  • You have 160 characters to explain what you do. You can put your job title and employer, or you can describe what you do. (You may be a “Consultant” but better to be specific, such as that you offer “Communications training that helps clients stand out.”) Transitioning to something new? Put what you’d like to be doing.
  • Fill out your summary. You have up to 2,000 characters to describe how you can help your target client or employer.

There are lots of other things you can do to strengthen your profile, such as asking for recommendations, adding volunteer work, filling in specifics of past jobs or education — but you don’t have to. There are also lots of things you can do to boost your presence on LinkedIn, such as joining groups, posting regular updates and sharing content — but you don’t have to.

Check these blog posts for more detailed suggestions about how to build your profile and used the LinkedIn network: