How Hustlers Use LinkedIn to Promote Their Personal Brand


Just a few years ago, employers based their hiring decisions on resumes, interviews, and solid recommendations.

But today, although those things are still important, nothing makes weeding out a candidate easier than social media. Once you’ve passed the digital screen, you then have to measure up to the nearly 400 million profiles on LinkedIn alone. How does your profile stack up against the competition?

Here are a few strategies some of the most successful professionals use to stand out on LinkedIn: 

They Include a Photo…

Some of you aren’t sure which photo to feature on your LinkedIn profile, so you opt not to include one at all. This is a big mistake, because after an interview, even if the potential employer doesn’t remember your name, they will likely be able to recall your face when they see it in a photo.

But Not Just Any Photo

Recruiters associate the quality of your photo with your level of intent on finding on a job.  “I’m looking for a professional and approachable photo,” says Elizabeth Becker, a recruitment manager for IT staffing firm PROTECH.

“An unprofessional photo is a sign that someone isn’t on LinkedIn for a job, and that’s fine. Not everyone on LinkedIn is looking for their next career move. However, when you are in the market for a new role, a professional headshot is key.”

They Include Contact Details

Make it easier for employers to contact you. That may sound obvious, but it’s a simple step many ignore. Add the link to your online profile in your heading if it fits or in the first line of your bio. Include your email address and best time of day to reach you. If they don’t know how to get in contact with you, employers could skip right past your profile, onto the next one.

They Use the Right Keywords

As more and more people hop on the internet to search and find the things they need, they are using a vast array of keywords. If you’re only using one word to describe your career in “communications” you’re missing out on an entire army of potential business opportunities and recruiters looking for a copywriter, SEO specialist, long-form writer, and more. If you do all of those things, but you’re only using one of those words, you’ll never get found.

Don’t let the task of writing a bio full of keywords worry you. Simply write out your bio how you see fit and immediately after add a list of  keywords like this:

The Make It Interesting…

Whoever told you to make your LinkedIn profile as dry and boring as possible, probably didn’t have to read through hundreds of profiles looking for the right candidate.

“From the recruitment standpoint, the worst thing people do on their LinkedIn profiles is not let their personality shine,” adds Becker.  

“By adding hobbies, certifications, and any achievements, you’ll give a hiring manager insight into your unique personality and even provide talking points. On my own profile, I list personal achievements like being a published travel and children’s author as well as a produced film and tv scriptwriter.”

“By having these fun details on my profiles, I get a high response rate from candidates, especially if they have a side interest in one of those fields.”

Sure, you can simply list your position title and place of employment, but will this really catch a recruiter’s attention? In your “experience” section, in addition to your job title, describe the things you’re proud of; the things that make you, you.

Then They Blow You Away

Many times, going above and beyond and blowing an employer away doesn’t mean working harder, but smarter.  Tim Seidler, a Digital Marketing Manager and founder of Get Niche Quick, did just that.

They Make Videos

“I recently decided to return to the workforce after 2 years of self-employment,” says Tim.

“I knew it was going to be extremely difficult to get noticed in the Seattle job market for a marketing position so I took it upon myself to go above and beyond what my competition was doing. After applying through traditional channels I tracked down the Marketing Director and the Recruiter for the position using LinkedIn.”

“I then created a 10-minute video pitch with my recommendations about what I’d do if awarded the job. I wore normal clothes and sat in front of my computer. I captured my actions assessing their website through a screen recording tool which also captured video of myself through my iMac.”

“I sent the link to the video to both people and was called the next day by the recruiter. Not only had he personally decided to give me a call, but the Marketing Director reached out to him to tell him to put me into the interview process. I was eventually considered for the job, and offered a position at a higher level in the company.”

They Take Out Ads

Jack Smith, a serial entrepreneur and startup advisor, recently wrote about the ultimate LinkedIn hack  in which he describes placing a LinkedIn ad to get the attention of one specific investor.

From the looks of LinkedIn’s pricing, you’d never think you could afford to advertise on the growing social network. But Jack spent just $.001 on his ad and ended up landing a major investment for his startup.  

They Show Their Work

With so many recruiters and potential customers scanning your LinkedIn, they’re looking for that key aspect that sets you apart. The best way to do that is through your work.

“If you’re a pro in your field, use the LinkedIn publisher tool to write about it,” says Becker.

“Nothing gets better attention or shows you’re an expert like published content on that subject.”

Did you design a brochure? Did you assist in any type of multimedia work an employer might find impressive? Include it. In this way, you’re not just talking about what you do, but backing it up. It goes without saying that in these content-obsessed times, writing is a skill many employers appreciate.

They Tell the People What They Want

In your summary, include the kind of job you’re looking for, or are interested in. Because so many majors have so many possibilities, it is helpful for employees to see what kind of work you want to be doing before they pursue you any further. Or, if they are impressed, they could refer you to someone they know who is looking for a candidate such as yourself.

They Make (the Right) Connections

The temptation to get your LinkedIn connections past the 500 mark is real. Yes, you may import your contacts. But connecting with people just to connect with them is not only pointless, it may hurt you in the long run.

If you’re going to connect with someone you don’t know, be intentional in the way you go about it. The worst thing I’ve seen people do is connect with someone they don’t know and ask them to “introduce” them to someone else. Not only will they not introduce you, they’ll never connect with you again.

They Make a Custom URL

Make it like your own official website. You can edit your LinkedIn URL to be whatever you want — but make it professional, obviously. The best option is to make it your name. For example. your LinkedIn URL can be This makes it easy for employers to find you. And it looks a lot better than a URL with a lot of random letters and numbers. This can easily be done on the edit page on your LinkedIn.

Finally, They Don’t Ask for Recommendations, They Give Them

This isn’t about being too proud to beg. Instead of waiting around for recommendations, or outright asking for one on LinkedIn, start giving them away.

Giving recommendations to interns, colleagues, co-founders, and other relevant contacts will not only compel them to do the same for you in return, it will increase your visibility on LinkedIn. After giving away 10 recommendations, you now show up on your own profile and 10 other profile pages. This means you just multiplied your connects by infinity.


How do you stack up against the competition?

My Path to Writing Speeches for the Likes of Eric Holder


“I certainly wouldn’t be here without a whole lot of luck,” says Riley Roberts. 

As someone who’s had the unique pleasure of working with Riley side by side, I’d say luck had little to do with his success.  At 28, Riley has led an impressive speechwriting career and has shaped the message for some of the most prolific political figures of our time. 

“I remember when I first wanted to be a speechwriter,” says Riley. “It was during my internship in then senator Obama’s office. I was working for his economic policy advisor and I knew I wanted to be in politics, but wasn’t sure if I wanted to do policy or communications.”

“That was when the financial crisis was happening and I got to write a couple of floor scripts for the Senator. After seeing my words in print, I was so excited and realized this is what I want to do.”

“I had my eye on speechwriting from that day on and went after every opportunity to show that I was interested and eager to learn. I was fortunate that I got the opportunities that I did.”

Soon after his internship for Senator Obama, Riley landed a job as speechwriter for Congressman Joe Sestak’s campaign. The former U.S. Navy three-star admiral was running for a senate seat, and Roberts was at the forefront of his campaign.

Although Sestak was narrowly defeated by Republican nominee Pat Toomey, the week of the election, Riley  heard through the grapevine that Holder was looking for a deputy speechwriter. He applied and got the job.

After 2 years as Deputy Speechwriter, the Chief Speechwriter left and Roberts was promoted to the position. 

“I was really excited and really intimidated to work for the Attorney General,” admits Riley. “I’m not a lawyer and we’re writing about terror and crime and justice reform.”

“It’s a great advantage that Attorney General Holder is a wonderful guy– whip smart, fantastic sense of humor, and very informal. I can’t imagine working for someone better on so many critical issues… it was a dream come true.”

The work of a speechwriter 


Riley Roberts and Attorney General Eric Holder

“People have a romanticized image of what being a speechwriter for the likes of the Attorney General is. Ninety nine percent of the job is you verses a blank screen. If you don’t really love that, and you’re not fairly good at it, you wont survive for long.”

“Speechwriting is you verses  the computer. Then you get to be on the road, and meet new people. But I always loved writing so I approached it as a writer.”

“When you start to get burned out and lose that sense of awe… you should do something else. It’s a privilege to be in the room. You pinch yourself when you see the impact of those speeches or you’re providing advice and dealing with the White House, State Department, or CIA.” 

“In 2013, I got to travel with the Attorney General Holder to the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. We flew in for the 50th anniversary of the bombings– where 4 little black girls were killed. It was an intensely moving experience to hear from people who were there and be there with the community.”


“For Attorney General Holder, it was a deeply personal speech. I remember him telling me – this is for history. I felt like he was saying he felt the burden of that history that we were there to commemorate. It was an honor to see all these great speakers.”

From his years on the Hill and in the Administration, I know Riley had much wisdom to share. If you’re interested in a career as a speechwriter or writer, here’s what he says: 

Be prepared to move fast

“There are only a few years to do this and be involved. This isn’t for someone who doesn’t have the time or energy to give it their all. This is your moment to make a difference so you absolutely have to seize it and that means working late and doing what has to be done. Do that and you will be rewarded by your colleagues and the greater institution.”

Be prepared to hold on to your idealism 

“One of the most important things I learned from Attorney General Holder was the importance of holding on to my idealism. You have to fight day in and day out for what you think is right. The issues we were dealing with were so daunting… from national security to holding civilian trials to criminal justice reform.”

“I was always amazed by his ability to not pay attention to the BS and always be the same good natured guy.”

Be prepared to work as a team 

“When it comes to speechwriting, I learned early on that writing a great speech is only part of your job. A huge part of your job is working with others, getting buy-in from people inside and outside the building to make sure that speech actually gets delivered.”

Be prepared to defend your work

“The other part is defending that speech during the vetting process. You have to have a sense of how the organization works so that you’ll be able to back up your reasoning for keeping the parts of a speech others think need to be cut.” 

“If you fail to defend it, you risk losing your hope in your work.”

Be prepared to serve 

“Attorney General Holder is an excellent role model. He is a true public servant. I have told him that there are people who work in Washington for 35 years and never have a chance to work for a boss like him. He brings no ego to the conversation. He treats everyone the same. He is warm and so idealistic and that’s what I really love about him.”

“In any position of authority I will carry this with me. Wherever you go and whatever you do, find a way to serve. You win peoples trust when they know they can rely on you and trust you.”

After Riley’s time with the Attorney General he went on to be a Senior Writer at West Wing Writers, a Washington institution.

In 2015, Riley married the love of his life, Elisa, in Normal, Illinois.


Photo courtesy of  Lonnie Dale Tague


Photo courtesy of Riley Roberts

Riley holds a bachelors degree Political Science and grew up Wheaton, Illinois. He currently resides in Washington, DC.

Ursula Lauriston

After 20 Years, A Notable D.C. Journalist Reinvents Herself


What exactly does it mean to reinvent one’s self?

That question came to mind when I sat down with former journalist turned PR Executive Lisa Matthews for a one-on-one.

Before transitioning to her role as Vice President of DC Public Relations firm Hager Sharp, Lisa had been with the Associated Press for nearly 20 years.


My millennial brain exploded when I heard this.

When it comes to their careers, most Washingtonians have the same game plan: land a job, scale the organizational ladder, then go on to run your own PR or lobbying firm.

But going from employee to executive is in every sense a reinvention. It seems easy in theory but in practice, it is an entirely different ball game.  

So how did Matthews, who had become ingrained in her profession, pull off the envy of every D.C. professional and make the career change of a lifetime?

“If you really want to reinvent yourself, you’ll have to be bold,” says Matthews.

And bold she was.

Her advice is, in many ways, unconventional. Matthews is a black woman. And she believes using things like race, your job title, and whatever else you have going for you to your advantage.

On Making It Personal

Matthews’ foray into journalism started out with a pair of shoes.  

She was working in retail when a customer wearing a baseball cap with the Magic 102.3 WMMJ  logo on it walked in.

Matthews leaped one the opportunity.

When the customer had trouble locating a size 12 shoe, she promised to help if he’d help her get an interview at the radio station.

So a deal was made, and both parties held up their end.

Not long after, Matthews was writing the news for WMMJ, and she was on the air. She knew very well the importance of the hustle: she took unpaid jobs, eventually landing one at the National Public Radio. By building her network, she was eventually introduced to Jeffrey Ballou– the 2016 VP of the National Press Club.

“I’ll say I’m a black woman and it’s very important to me that we get this interview. You can’t just be bold, you have to be humble.”

Despite the rise of digital business cards and LinkedIn, Matthews is a testament to the power of being prepared. “I always had my resume with me and was always prepared to promote myself.”

The hustle paid off: she nabbed a job at the Associated Press, where she worked for the next 20 years. There, she got a glimpse at every corner of the newsroom.

“When you’re seeking something new, you have to show that you know when to speak and when not to speak.

It was not a coincidence that that guy happened to walk in that day. It was up to me to open my mouth and speak up. You can’t be afraid to step up when you have what it takes to back it up.

I started as a writer and then I became an in-house reporter then newsroom supervisor and planning editor, assignment manager which was the last thing I did there.”

A healthy dose of perseverance, mixed in with the day-to-day hustle, propelled Matthews down a career path that would be the envy of many.

But it didn’t come easy. “I had to fight for every job I ever had,” she said as she reflected on those early days.

On Being BOLD

As a journalist, Matthews knows how to use her resources to get a difficult interview. “I’ll say I’m a black woman and it’s very important to me that we get this interview. You can’t just be bold, you have to be humble.”

When Matthews told me this grain of wisdom, I found myself wondering how someone could do both of those things well, and at the same time.  

The AP veteran had a few of her own ideas about how to strike the perfect balance, and how important it is to do both.

“Don’t be overly braggy. Know your stuff. After you put it out there, if folks don’t accept you, move on to the next thing. You have to be willing to do the work and you have to be willing to work for free. But you have to respect others and know that they’re there for a reason.”

If it’s not clear from her career trajectory, Matthews thrives off of new challenges. It’s part of the reason her new role excites her.

“What they brought me here for is to help clients craft better stories, but part of being a VP is bringing in new business. I work on parts of the proposal, how to address earned, paid, shared media. Very different from my life at the AP.

On the Typical D.C. Career Trajectory

It seems everyone moves to Washington with the same plan in mind: land a job, scale the organizational ladder, and eventually move to a consulting, lobbying, or VP role.

I asked Lisa if this was her plan all along.

“No, I love and still love the news. I’m the only VP with a TV on my desk. I’m connected to [media] in so many ways.

Everything is changing and I think young people aren’t engaged. They don’t know the ins and outs and history of the media. There are people who voted for Donald Trump just because he is part of the conversation.

I thought I would be at the AP forever. I thought I would have a lifetime career there. There are people there who have been there for 35 or 40 years. I sought to leave when the way that we covered the news started to change.

When I came to Hager Sharp, everyone was seriously engaged. We decide which clients we want to represent and truly believe in what we do.

It took me some time to get this job. I interviewed over the course of 2 years. It was time for me to make a change and make more money. I’m still transitioning and learning client’s needs. I never thought working in PR would be hard. I thought it would be a breeze. I thought I’d be chilling but that is so far from the case.”

Ursula Lauriston