People tell me all the time how they have trouble writing their LinkedIn summary story. It sounds stiff. It sounds braggy.

Often, LinkedIn users get so fed up that they leave this space--right below their name, title, and location--blank or simply repurpose word for word their résumé. Don't waste this opportunity. Instead, tell a story.

Here's why stories matter: Stories make you memorable. We are emotional creatures who crave these human connections. Research has shown this. In one study, a Stanford University marketing professor found that two out of three students remembered stories from short presentations. But only one out of 20 students recalled facts and numbers.

When you're trying to land a new job or new client, you want to stand out from the crowd, not blend in. On LinkedIn that means not sounding like the other half-billion user profiles out there. You do it with a story, and here are three tips for writing yours.

1. Look for common themes.

Reflect on your life and career, asking yourself questions like:

What do all of my jobs have in common? What have I enjoyed throughout my career? How did I get here? What inspired me when I was younger--as a kid, in high school, in college?

In my LinkedIn summary story, I write about how I got a typewriter for Christmas when I was 5 years old. How perfect is that? Storytelling has been my lifelong thing.

Recently, I was working on a LinkedIn makeover for a client who on paper had had a series of very dissimilar jobs--in the hotel industry and financial services, as a lay minister at her church, as a realtor, and now as a nutrition and wellness coach. Then, we talked, and I started asking questions. Turns out her career path made total sense. She's always been spiritual and has the soul of someone who wants to help others live a healthy life--in terms of mind, body, spirit, and personal finances. There's always a common theme.

2. Ditch jargon and overused crutch words.

Remember, you are not trying to be like everyone here. Almost everyone uses jargon and clings to crutch words like passionate. What do you mean you're passionate about creating turnkey solutions? Really? Passionate? About that? I call these crutch words, because everyone seems to depend on them, so people are almost afraid not to use them. Trust me, you need to get over it.

The easiest way to let go of jargon and overused words is to tell your story the way you'd tell it to your mom or a close friend. I don't know about you, but when I talk with family and friends, I don't say I partnered with so-and-so and we aligned our best practices to create best-of-breed communications on behalf of our client. I might say I worked with other smart professionals to brainstorm and create a communications plan that helped our client appeal to its audience.

If it sounds too corporate, it probably is. Goodness, you don't have to have your lawyer or legal department approve your LinkedIn story, so it shouldn't sound like you did. One reason a lot of corporate writing sounds so bad is because there are too many cooks in that kitchen, and none of them great writers. Your LinkedIn profile shouldn't read like it was written by a committee at a highly matrixed organization. You are free to keep it simple and easy. It should sound like a conversation, because that's what you're looking to gain--conversations with recruiters, managers, clients, and business partners.

3. Pretend someone is introducing you to speak before a crowd.

When writing my own LinkedIn story or those of clients, I imagine I'm introducing that person to a crowd. Maybe my client is going to give a speech, and I am setting them up to do that.

This mindset helps me to find common themes and let go of jargon. I'm not telling the crowd that this person is highly motivated; I'm painting the picture with stories. I'm talking about the lawn care business he started as a teenager or how she earned her MBA while working full time and taking care of her family.

I also write the summary story in third person. This is a somewhat controversial choice. Many feel strongly it should be told in the first person. However, I think that third person allows you to step back, be more objective and straightforward in telling your story, and not feel so braggy. 

Whatever you do, don't leave that summary section blank. Tell a story. Make it personal and memorable and real. No jargon or fluff allowed.

Published on: Apr 9, 2018
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