If you’re getting ready to return to work – and have been following this blog – we hope you’ll have a CV drafted, a list of contacts and an idea of organisations you’d like to target. Do you also have a LinkedIn profile or any idea of the many uses of this networking site? LinkedIn is essential for your return to work as it is your ‘public face’ where people you contact in your networking and job search will gain an impression of your skills and experience. And it is increasingly used by recruiters searching for candidates. So, you need a profile and it has to present you in a professional and credible way.
Key elements of your profile
You can spend many hours adding to and fine tuning your profile but none of this will matter much if the following elements are missing:
- Photo – This is vital and it has to be a proper photo, not a holiday snap with your family or one taken while you are sitting in front of a computer/tablet screen with your head at an odd angle. It doesn’t have to be taken by a professional but you need to look professional in it, even if you are standing in your back garden.
- Title – Don’t make your title ‘career break’ or ‘homemaker’. Relate it to your past experience if this is relevant to the roles you are targeting eg. financial services professional. You don’t have to limit yourself to one title if you have a portfolio of interests eg. Accountant | Writing expert
- Summary statement – This is the first thing that people will read about you and so it worth spending some time getting right. If you have a personal profile on your CV you can use it here, just changing to the 1st person. Keep it factual rather than using overblown adjectives. It is important to communicate your past skills and experience in this space, and possibly the type of role you are seeking.
- Career details – Make sure that these are consistent with your CV (years, job titles, qualifications) but don’t include as much detail as on your CV. This is more of a ‘shop window’.
- Career break – Include your career break, don’t try to hide it, & briefly explain the reason eg ‘parenting career break’ or ‘career break for travel’. This is definitely preferable to having an unexplained gap which will just raise questions in the reader. Remember to include any significant voluntary, freelance or entrepreneurial roles that you’ve had during your break.
While you are refining your profile, it’s a good idea to change your privacy settings to private so that your contacts are not continually updated.
How to use LinkedIn
LinkedIn can be used in so many ways for your return to work: networking, raising your profile, research and job postings are the main ones. It is a great aid for those of us who are nervous of networking, as a way of getting an introduction, but it cannot replace getting out and meeting people face-to-face.
- Networking – the first thing you need to do once you’ve created your profile is make connections. It’s an easy way to get back in touch with old colleagues. Invite people you know to link in with you and always use a personalised message. There are two reasons for this: you will start to make it known to your network that you are looking for work and you will gain access to their contacts once they have accepted your link. You will discover connections that you would never have known about otherwise and you can then ask your primary contacts for an introduction to their connections (your secondary contacts). How much simpler could it be to get an introduction!
- Profile raising – A good way to raise your profile on LinkedIn is by joining groups. These can be alumni groups of your former employers or educational institutions as well as industry specific or special interest groups. Once you are a member of groups you can initiate or contribute to discussions on topics; you will see that people ask questions, post interesting articles and start conversations. By following groups you will find out more about the current issues facing the group and by contributing with a comment, question or article your profile will increase.
- Research – LinkedIn is a great tool for finding people who work in a particular industry, organisation or role. Just type your search term into the bar at the top of the page and a list will be generated of all your primary, secondary and tertiary contacts that meet the search criterion. You might be surprised what you discover! To make contact with secondary and tertiary contacts you will need to ask your primary contacts for an introduction. They will find it much easier to help you when you can ask for a specific person.
- Job postings/approaches – more and more employers are using LinkedIn as a recruitment tool (and avoid paying recruiter fees) so you might receive a direct approach about a role. Additionally, job postings are often added to group notices and LinkedIn itself emails bulletins of vacancies that it thinks match your profile (although these can be a bit erratic).