Emerging Practitioner: Build your Humanitarian career  Online course

Dear International Aid Worker… Your LinkedIn Profile Sucks

Sunday, Feb 05, 2017
by Humanitarian Institute


13 tips for Humanitarians on LinkedIn.


Love it. Hate it. Don’t get it?

Chances are you are one of over 300 million people, including humanitarians, using LinkedIn. Yes, it is the largest social media platform dedicated to careers; and yes, this medium is becoming an increasingly important part of your humanitarian job search and brand build.

But it’s more than just an online resume! Done well and used effectively this tool can accelerate your humanitarian career.

So we’ve connected with Aid professionals from around the world and developed some tips and tricks for building and managing your humanitarian LinkedIn profile:

Complete your profile… all of it

The biggest mistake Aid Workers make on LinkedIn is that they don’t complete the entire profile. From the summary to experience to causes, it’s all important. Having a full and interesting profile demonstrates that you’re committed to your humanitarian job search and career. Whereas a barren profile screams, “I only have a profile because someone told me to.”

Your role is to give potential employers insight into who you are. Demonstrate you’re a passionate candidate, and that your values align with the sector. These are important factors for international development sector employers.

But don’t just copy and paste your resume. If you have, you’re not utilising LinkedIn’s potential to help you land your dream humanitarian job. After all, if you’ve applied for a job, an employer has already seen your resume. If they’re checking your LinkedIn profile it’s because they want to know more!

Remember your LinkedIn profile is not an online resume. It’s a marketing and branding tool designed to highlight your professional value. LinkedIn is free marketing. You’re selling you!

Make your profile stand out

LinkedIn allows you to add achievements and awards, and/or examples of your work such as projects you’ve worked on, articles you’ve published (or links to where employers can find them online), and/or video of the work you’ve achieved. These are a great way to add colour and movement to your profile (anything to break up looooong text) and showcase your professional talents. The more they see of you, the better idea they’ll get of your potential. You can include:

Organisations you’ve volunteered for, and/or donate toCauses you’re passionate aboutOrganisations and “influencers” you follow - think international development!

Even if these aren’t directly related to roles that you’re applying for, each will give employers more insight into your interests, passions and who you are as a person. Also, you can add links to your website, blog or Twitter. But please make sure that the content is relevant and appropriate!

And make your profile easy to read! Use sub-headings and dot points, this makes your profile easier to navigate. Don’t forget grammar, spelling and sentence structure as well!

Photo time… use a ‘professional’ headshot

Employers want to see what they’re getting. This doesn’t mean you have to go out and pay for a photographer. It means you must ensure your photo is both professional and recognisable. Remember LinkedIn photos appear as thumbnails, so try and find/take a photo with only your head and shoulders.

Dislike photos? No choice. But keep in mind  we all look better in black and white!


It’s in the details… focus on your summary!

Your summary is the most important section in your profile. Employers are looking for some character. You can highlight your experience and accomplishments while still demonstrating your personality. A great summary is critical for two primary reasons:

It’s the first thing people see. If it’s not compelling, people will be less likely to keep readingMany humanitarian employers search LinkedIn for staff. A killer summary means you’re much more likely to pop up in search results.

It’s not what you know but who you know

Connections are the heart of social media, including LinkedIn. What value is a well-written profile if nobody ever sees it?

While reaching that 500 milestone can be a goal, it’s important to make sure you have a relevant network. When employers take a close look at your profile, they want to see sector influencers, or at least humanitarian contacts. This reflects your capacity to network within the humanitarian space and demonstrates your drive to stay up-to-date on aid news and information.

Just like Facebook, LinkedIn has groups for people with common interests and positions. It might be groups for Aid Workers with an interest in M&E (it exists!) or other practice areas. In any case, groups are a fantastic way to network, to keep up to date with the latest humanitarian developments, and increase your profile within the sector by becoming a regular contributor. Once you’ve joined, make sure you actively participate. Ask questions, share relevant articles, and comment on others’ posts – get to know your fellow group members!


Personalise your URL

Personalising your URL will help boost your profile visibility in searches, on LinkedIn as well as Google (especially if your name is kind of, how do we say this, ordinary / common). LinkedIn offers you the ability to make a unique URL with your name. Surprisingly most people don’t take advantage of it. Many employers will search for prospective candidates on Google even before LinkedIn, which is why it’s advisable you to take advantage of this trick.

Plus your LinkedIn URL should be on your resume… the URL looks a lot better with your name than with a random collection of numbers and letters, but you be the judge:




Make your profile relevant

Increase your search ranking and make your profile more visible to potential employers. Granted, increasing connections is one way to boost your ranking. But it’s also important to be mindful of keywords. Use words in your profile that could be found in the job description of a job you want. This will help you appear in search results when an employer is looking.

Make sure your profile matches your resume… I know, but you’d be surprised!

One of the first things an employer does is compare a candidate’s LinkedIn profile to their resume. Double check dates and other details such as degrees, because employers will look to see if they match. You don’t want a typo to be interpreted as a lie (or should we say ‘alternative fact’?).


Engage, engage, engage

Once you’ve implemented ALL these tips, there is still one important element to remember - engage. Continually establish new connections. List new skills. Make note of your accomplishments as they happen. Like relevant articles. Join more groups. Articulately comment. Reach out to humanitarian movers and shakers.

Whatever you do, don’t lie dormant.

Become a networker… a good one, not an annoying one

One thing that’s straight forward on LinkedIn is making new connections. But while you might think it’s a numbers game, don’t just add people to your network for the sake of it. If you’re new to LinkedIn, start with people you know. Then work your way towards people you’d like to connect with. Start by asking mutual acquaintances to introduce you to people you want to connect with. Or, if you don’t have a mutual connection, reach out, but personalise your invite and explain why you want to connect with them.

Many people receive loads of LinkedIn requests a week. If your message doesn’t explain who you are and why you want to connect, they’ll likely ignore you… fair enough, wouldn’t you?

Recommendations… go both ways

Recommendations are a good way to display references on your profile. Our goal here is to give potential employers confidence in your skills and experience. The best people to recommend you are previous employers or colleagues, so consider approaching them and asking them to make a recommendation on your page. Be polite and offer a recommendation in return!


Don’t forget endorsements!

The more skills that you have endorsements for, the better. The first step in doing this is to add relevant skills to your page. Then don’t be afraid to reach out to friends and current/former co-workers to ask for endorsements. Another way to acquire endorsements is to endorse other people.

Look, if a potential employer sees that you were in a position for, say, 3 years and no one endorsed (or recommended you) it could raise alarm bells.

Don't pester people for work

Once you’ve made some connections, be mindful not to simply ask people for work. Build rapport with your connections. Be useful to them by posting relevant content or offering help. Be polite and work on fostering a long-term relationship.

Networking this way allows you to connect with people you might not have been able to meet in ‘real life’. It also opens up the possibility of meeting their networks too. And it gives you the opportunity to learn more about what is happening in the humanitarian sector, and potentially open the door to volunteer or job opportunities.


Many international development professionals would argue that LinkedIn is becoming the new resume. Maintaining an engaging LinkedIn presence is now a requirement for any aspiring humanitarian or aid professional.

Simply put if you don’t have a solid LinkedIn profile, it’s a red flag for potential humanitarian employers. Don’t be that person!

Now get to work. Apply these tips and get noticed.

Do you have any other tips for LinkedIn? We’d love to hear them!

Humanitarian Institute: Meet Australasia's most effective humanitarian training provider!

Our immersive courses help Humanitarians acquire in-demand skills through hands-on, practical training by Development professionals.

Now enrolling students in Australian and New Zealand major cities!


© 2023 Humanitarian Institute. All rights reserved.