Deborah L. Jacobs wrote this piece in Forbes about LinkedIn. The biggest mistake I see people make is ignoring LinkedIn until they are out of work, and then ignoring it again once they have a new job.
Many people who’ve been laid off feel like crawling in a hole, rather than broadcasting their new job status (or more accurately, lack-of job-status) to the world at large. But if you want to find another position, that’s precisely what you should do, says Sandra A.VanGilder, an executive coach with her own firm in New York.
In the current economy, with so many talented people being let go, there is “absolutely no shame whatsoever” in clearly indicating that you are out of work,” she says. “You exude confidence by not being ashamed that you’re between jobs.” LinkedIn, which functions as an electronic resume, is a valuable tool to help you spread the word.
Until they are laid off, some folks either don’t know how to use LinkedIn, or have a very skeletal presence on the site, VanGilder says. Perhaps they think of it as a job search tool (a mistaken assumption) and either aren’t looking or don’t want their bosses to think they are. Others are too busy.
Still, while three years ago, senior people thought LinkedIn was for lower-level employees, now everybody is connected and checking each other out. Often, the first thing people do when they are asked to interview someone – or even just network – is to look the person up on LinkedIn.
If you suddenly find yourself out of work, develop a “robust, 100% complete LinkedIn profile,” VanGilder advises. This site is so user-friendly that even newbies ought to be able to find their way. Those who need guidance can rely on LinkedIn’s online tutorial or enlist help from an experienced friend or tech-savvy teenager.
In creating a new profile or editing your current one, be very public about the fact that you’re looking for new opportunities,” VanGilder says. These are issues she suggests you address as you wind your way though the key sections of the LinkedIn template:
In this line, which goes under your name, give a generic description of what you do or a sample job title (for example, Chief Administrative Officer, Chief Human Resources Officer). Label yourself as what you would like to be, rather than feeling limited by what your last job title was.
Since you’re now out of work, the “Current” heading should be deleted. Before you do that, though, cut and paste your previous company and job title into the “Past” section. Then click “edit” and “delete,” and make the “Current” heading disappear. Don’t be concerned that your job shows an end date. It’s very acceptable to be in between jobs.
In a couple of short, pithy paragraphs, emphasize your key skills and examples of accomplishments. Conclude with a sentence that says “I am currently looking for new opportunities in a couple of specific functions and industries.”
When trying to fill positions that are now open, both headhunters and in-house folks with responsibility for filling a job routinely comb LinkedIn for people who are out of work; it saves them the trouble of having to convince someone who is currently employed to switch jobs. So it’s to your benefit to indicate that you’re open to new opportunities.
For example, someone who previously worked as a chief administrative officer could write, “Actively pursuing chief administrative officer or chief human resources officer role in a dynamic, collaborative environment.” An experienced broker looking to reposition his career into investor relations could say something like, “Currently seeking to leverage my Equity Floor experience and education into Investor Relations.” (Alternatively, you can put “Actively seeking new opportunities” in your professional headline.)
Make sure your descriptions of past jobs adequately convey what you did. Standard rules of resume writing apply here: use active verbs, amply convey your responsibilities, and show results. Since words are scarcer in social media, aim for punchy (think soundbite). Get recommendations from your current or most relevant jobs that reflect varying perspectives — for example from a manager, a colleague and a client.
A perennial question is whether people should include graduation dates, which are a tipoff to their age. VanGilder, who says most of her clients are between their mid-40s and early 60s, discourages them from trying to mask their age. “It’s just one more data point around which people connect,” she says.
How do you know when you’re finished? When you’re in “Edit Profile” mode on LinkedIn, there’s a metric that shows the percent of profile completeness. It will make suggestions about what you’re missing — whether it’s a photo or recommendations. Keep revising until you hit the 100% mark. Then proofread vigilantly.
Once you have found another position, you’ll no doubt be eager to update your LinkedIn profile to show where you’ve landed. But don’t neglect it after that. This social media tool is great for sharing updates about what you are doing; your entries on the home page appear at the top of your profile. So think of your LinkedIn page as an active site. You won’t want it to go stagnant.