Everyone knows how important it is to be on LinkedIn – it’s the top social media site for career and professional networking. And while most people do have a LinkedIn profile, it’s surprising how few know how to optimise their profile so they can maximise their chances of finding a role.
We spoke to Victoria McLean – CEO and founder of City CV – to find out what you need to do, as a returner, to make sure your LinkedIn profile becomes your hardworking ally on your return-to-work journey.
First of all, let’s understand why LinkedIn is so important when you’re looking to return to work after a career break or indeed for any subsequent job search. Well, here the stats are clear – and mind-blowing. Ninety-seven percent of recruiters/headhunters use LinkedIn as their primary way to source candidates; 85% of recruiters make their shortlist decisions based on LinkedIn alone and nearly 50% of engaged users of LinkedIn have hiring decision making authority.
“LinkedIn is your online marketing document. It’s your business case that needs to clearly demonstrate why you meet your future employer’s needs and why they should hire you,” says Victoria. “Your profile is all about strategically aligning you to your target role,” she adds. It’s used in every part of the recruitment process.”
Victoria recommends starting with a blank Word document so that you can strategically plan out, format and spell check your information before you put anything online.
Here are the steps she recommends you take:
1. Carry out a detailed keyword research. This is where you need to start. Create a list of key words and phrases (key skills, expertise, job titles etc) that a recruiter or a computer algorithm is likely to use to find candidates like you. The more keywords you have the better. It doesn’t matter if you’re saying the same thing in lots of different ways – make sure you cover all your bases. Once you have a comprehensive list, use it in every part of your profile so that you can be easily found. And remember – keyword breadth and density is important.
2. Create a killer profile. The first things a recruiter will see are your photo, name, headline and location so it’s super-important to get these right. Make sure you use a corporate-type photo – professionally shot, if possible. When it comes to your headline, LinkedIn’s default is to use your last job title, but you can change this and create a brief, powerful picture of who you are and what you have to offer. You have 120 characters so try to use all of them wisely. Make sure you include your industry (or target industry) in your headline to increase your chances of appearing in recruiters’ searches. For your location, it’s important to say where you want to work, not where you live. Recruiters screen by location and if you leave this out, or have the wrong location, you could miss out on a lot of opportunities.
3. Craft your summary. This is the most important and valuable part of your profile and it should set out your business case. Find a tone, style and level of detail that suits you, make sure it is keyword rich and use all the 2,000 characters available to you. It’s completely up to you whether you use the first or third person when writing your summary, although Victoria says she prefers to use the first person. It’s really important to get the first two or three lines spot on so that recruiters are motivated to click on ‘see more’. One way of making sure you have used all your keywords is to have a list of your specialities within your summary.
4. Talk about your experience. Make sure you use job titles that are searchable (eg Marketing Manager not Brand Warrior). And double check that your job titles and dates match those in your CV. Use the first person and bullet points or short paragraphs – enough to entice a recruiter to contact you – but don’t copy and paste from your CV. Focus on the most important information and go back far enough so that former colleagues can find you.
5. Fill in your education details. It’s important to add your university (and maybe school) details as you’re likely to receive 17x the messages you would get if you left this section blank.
6. Detail your skills and expertise. You can add up to 50 skills and areas of expertise. This section is an ideal opportunity to use your keywords to say the same thing in different ways (to maximise the chances of your profile coming up in searches). LinkedIn will guide you and suggest similar phrases. Input the skills needed for your target role, putting the most relevant ones first. See if you can get endorsed by your contacts for these keys skills as endorsed skills will appear at the top of the list.
But as the well-used saying goes, knowledge is power, and in today’s ever-advancing world of digital, it’s confidence-building too. With government predictions showing that 90% of jobs will require some digital proficiency within 20 years but a quarter (23%) of adults still lacking basic digital skills, it’s time to take control of your career and bring your digital toolkit right up-to-date so you can dazzle prospective employers with your digital know-how and feel empowered in the 21st century workplace.
“Do you remember when we used to send emails?” Those are the words you’ll most likely be hearing in a few years’ time. Email is dying in many workplaces and in its place are new communication tools like Slack, which operate like WhatsApp on steroids with the ability to set up public and private chat groups all under the same roof, share documents and link to your Trello board…
Nikki Cochrane is co-founder of digital training academy, Digital Mums.
If you are planning to return to work after a career break,
you need to have all your job search documents ready. It’s not enough these
days to simply tag jobs onto the front of your CV and hope for the best: the UK
job market is more competitive than ever and if you have been away for any
amount of time you really need to invest time and effort in making sure your CV
meets current criteria and recruiter expectations.
crucial element in your armoury and your LinkedIn profile has to reflect your
excellent career to date. It needs to demonstrate your professional credibility, encourage people to contact and connect with you and, over time, attract the attention of potential hirers. It can also extend your network of influence – creating useful contacts and enhancing your online brand.
the leading online professional directory of individuals and companies.
Individuals use it for professional networking and to present to their world a
‘professional online profile’. It is also a major tool for job seeking.
returning to the job market, here are some important numbers:
400 million users worldwide in more than 200 countries;
million users in the UK alone;
million company pages;
new users are joining LinkedIn every second ;
of those check in daily;
LinkedIn users have ‘hiring decision making’ authority.
- Returning to work after a break – Include your break as a line in your work experience section e.g. ‘Parental career break + dates’. You can briefly explain in one or two sentences what you did over that period if it’s relevant to your professional profile or you can leave it blank. If your break was intentional, state this. It works well to refer to it in your 2000 character summary section
with something like “Following planned parental career break now seeking to return to an
executive marketing post.” Nice and simple and to the point.
- Changing your career – The important thing is to develop and then
stick to a good strategy. Your LinkedIn
is not just a history of what you have been doing; it should be targeted to
where you are going. Spend considerable time thinking about your target role
and transferable skills. What were you doing previously that could be
advantageous to the new direction you are seeking?
- Part-time roles or contracting – If you have had a lot of part-time or
contracting roles detail them separately and make sure it is clear that they
are contract roles. Unlike your CV where too many employers can make your CV
look messy and inconsistant, LinkedIn lists them all clearly and you can be as
concise as necessary.
- Take time to get it right – Don’t rush into creating a new profile. You
are preparing your business case and establishing your credibility and so your
profile needs to be well planned. The key is to take your time. If you feel
your LinkedIn needs an overhaul then you need to allow time to do this. You
have to be ruthless with content and remain objective throughout. Your profile
needs to be strategically thought out, key-word rich and proof read again and
again before anything is uploaded live.
- Make your career experience count – Your work experience section lists your
entire career history in chronological order. Here is an opportunity to sell
your key deliverables and make them attractive to a potential employer. It’s
vital to refer to your key words – key word density is super-important.
- Make connections – LinkedIn is all about linking and connecting with people you know and/or
have worked with but also people and companies you might like to work with.
Grow your network by connecting with head-hunters & recruiters, hiring
managers, other people in your target sector, and industry leaders. Similarly,
join groups connecting to your industry, participate in discussions and find out
about the best jobs first.
- Shout about your skills – You will have used many skills when you
were in paid employment so it’s essential to add these to your profile. Think
about how you can say the same thing in different ways: Resourcing, Recruitment, Talent Management. You
can also add any skills you developed or discovered while on a career break –
many skills we use in parenting are transferable. People with at least five
skills on their profile have on average 17 times more views. You can have up to
50 skills so make the most of the opportunity.
- Include a professional photo – Don’t be shy. A professional photo (which
means no comedy hats, glasses or cocktails) means you are 14 times more likely
to get found on LinkedIn – and 35 times more likely to be sent a message. A
head and shoulders shot is perfect.
I’ve done nothing in my break apart from bring up my children. What do I say about my break on my CV?
We always advise returners to specify that they have taken a career break rather than leaving an unexplained gap. It can be stated simply, with dates (e.g. 2008-date Parental career break), and does not need further detail if you were totally focused on caring responsibilities. It is important to state in your profile statement and cover letter that following your career break you are now motivated and committed to returning to work. In addition, don’t dismiss unpaid or low-paid work that you have done during your break which employers could find useful and relevant (e.g. organising a large event, setting up a small home business, studying for a qualification). Finally, if you are getting ready to go back to work, now could be the right time to find some relevant work experience, or to update your knowledge by studying for a qualification, to demonstrate your renewed interest in the field you are returning to.
I’m an experienced doctor with no wish to return to practising medicine following my break. How do I work out what my transferable skills are and who would find me useful?
We suggest that you approach the question of what to do next in a different way: rather than try to work out where your experience and interests might fit, we recommend that you start with investigating what your personal strengths and interests are so that you can focus on finding work that you will find satisfying and fulfilling. There are a number of books listed on our website which can help you to do this self-analysis. Alternatively, some people find working with a career coach is helpful to support you with working out your new direction.
I’ve relocated from overseas and don’t know how to get started with building a new network.
A useful way to think about your network is that it consists of people from your past, your present and your future. Your past network includes your previous work colleagues, suppliers and customers and school and university class-mates. Even if they are based in your prior location, they might well have contacts in the UK which they can introduce to you. Your current network includes all the people you engage with in your community in your daily life while your future network consists of people you can connect with through new activities you intend to start or training you plan to do. If you have a professional qualification, make sure that you contact the equivalent professional body in the UK to find out about membership, conversion requirements (if any) and networking events. An essential tool for building your network will be LinkedIn so make sure that you create a basic profile and build your online network too.
If you have other questions you’d like to ask, please get in touch with us or join our private LinkedIn group and share ideas with other returners.
Posted by Katerina
Pinterest or Twitter accounts, I felt out of touch with social media platforms.
While I was contemplating returning to work, I realised I had to do something.
I had to jump in. So I embarked on a mission to familiarise myself with social
media and develop a professional credible online profile.
LinkedIn adverse, fear not, you can teach yourself a few basic things that
really can help to kick start your career.
by “googling” yourself. Potential employers will check your online credentials.
With this in mind, and if you have been prolific on Facebook with personal
matters, consider removing inappropriate posts.
professional network and staying current with relevant information. Start by
building your profile on LinkedIn. This can be daunting, but start with a
skeleton of your CV, an outline of your career, your interests, education and
volunteering experience. Read our previous blog for details on how to set up your profile, develop your
network and job search on LinkedIn. Your new network will be invaluable for job
searching, gaining references and endorsements and getting introduced to new
professional network. I know what you are thinking. What shall I tweet about?
Well, you do not need to tweet to get started; you can adopt a rather passive
approach that will show your areas of interest and more importantly keep you
abreast of real time news on topics, individuals and organisations that you
have carefully chosen. You can be a follower (on Twitter that is) and that’s
fine for now. Look at potential employer
campaigns, find out about their current issues, research topics related to
women returning back to work and employment diversity. Follow your favourite
publications. Once you are confident, you can start “retweeting” useful information.
And if you get the twitter bug, you might start tweeting your own thoughts
before you know it.
as much as you want. You can make the most of social media without having to
post something groundbreaking every 5 minutes. It is about embracing an
effective medium to revive your career by growing your network and uncovering a
new world of opportunities, sharing content as you see fit and not falling into
a pool of information overload.
media by doing the above and completing courses which were paramount to revive
my career in marketing communications. I was lucky to be part of the Back2BusinessShip
course (sponsored by Golin, Starcom Mediavest and F1), an excellent programme
for women wanting to go back to their PR/Media/Marketing/Communications careers.
I have completed comprehensive social media online courses (more on courses in
a future blog). And thanks to my expertise in social media and refreshed
marketing communications skills, I have recently joined Women Returners as their
Digital Media Expert.
Why networking is important for a back-to-work job search
We talk regularly about the importance of networking as one of the key routes to get back to work after a long career break. The value of networking has really been brought home to me by two recent experiences.
First of all, two highly experienced and qualified women who have successfully returned to work, one in investment banking and the other to a senior corporate role, told me how unhelpful headhunters were when they approached them. This included headhunters with whom they previously had relationships during their pre-break careers. The banker (who is now happily employed at Credit Suisse following a placement on the Real Returns programme) was told that her career break of 11 years was too long for the headhunter to place her. She was advised that the only way to find a role would be through her own network.
Separately in a meeting I attended to learn more about a new and growing professional women’s network, my contact told me about two roles that she was trying to fill, in a discreet way, that might be suitable for a returner. These two roles are examples of the true ‘hidden job market’ that really does exist: often managers want to make a hire quickly, quietly, inexpensively and without lots of administration. They rely on their networks to do this as they view their own contacts as reliable and credible sources of talented candidates.
Five ways to build your networks
To access the hidden job market and circumvent unhelpful headhunters you need to get networking. Networking doesn’t simply consist of walking into a room full of strangers and introducing yourself. More broadly, networking provides you with opportunities to connect with people who have similar interests, talents and concerns that you have. Through your engagement with them you will have opportunities to learn about potential roles and to talk about your own search. Ways to start making these contacts include joining any of the following:
- Membership organisations that match your professional interests. Networks exist for people with interests ranging from hedge funds to horticulture, oil engineering to oriental languages. These organisations commonly have informative newsletters, speaker events and training opportunities
- Relevant LinkedIn groups where you can initiate or contribute to discussions. In this way, you’ll learn more about the issues that are current, raise your profile in the group and gain openings to contact people directly
- Alumni groups. All universities and business schools and many employers and secondary schools have these in place, as they recognise the value of a long-term relationship with you. Many of these groups actively encourage members to talk to each other for employment advice
- Professional associations. If you have a professional qualification, your accrediting body will also have a useful network as well as offering other career support
- Informal networks. Aside from these formal routes, you can make valuable connections through broadening or taking a more active role in social or community activities – a community group, a volunteer organisation, a school parent body, a religious community. We rarely know who our local networks are connected to and the ‘hidden jobs’ they might know about.
As you build these connections, remember to talk to them about your background and what you are looking for, so that they will be able to help you. For your networking to be effective you have to be clear and convincing about the role you are seeking. See our previous post on Telling your Story if you are unsure how to do this.
For more advice on networking, see our previous posts
Do I really have to network?
Top tips for enjoyable networking
LinkedIn – an essential tool for your return to work
Posted by Katerina
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).
putting your return to work plans on hold until the autumn. After all, nobody recruits during July and
August, do they? While recruitment does
tail off during these months, there are plenty of things you can do to help you
move closer to your return, so that you are better prepared when autumn comes
around. Your summer holiday can provide
an ideal time for reflection, organising and testing out your skills. You might not be able to make use of all
these tips: it will depend what stage you have reached in your thinking and
preparation, but there are some that everyone could start. But don’t think of these activities as homework! You need to make the most of the opportunity to relax and have fun, so that you feel restored and ready for the next steps in your plan.
- Create a network chart – while waiting to board
never too early to start creating your network chart. I recommend you divide your chart into three
categories on which you list everyone you can think of: people who are easy to
call directly; people to whom you need an introduction; people you’d love to
meet but don’t know. When adding names
to the chart remember people from different phases of your life: your past – your
school and university classmates as well as former employers, colleagues and
employees; your present – other parents (if you have children at school) and
people you meet through your voluntary work, hobbies or religious activity; your
future – members of alumni networks and professional associations that you could
join as well as people you’d possibly like to meet. After the summer break, we’ll be continuing
our series of posts about networking so you’ll be able to make full use of the
chart you have created. Keep adding to
this chart as you think of more people and as you start to connect, long after
- Get clearer about what you might do next – on your
to think about what to do next is to think back to a work role (or part of a role) that you found
fulfilling and reflect on what made it so.
Was it a group of like-minded colleagues? An expression of your
creativity? Your own intellectual or personal growth? Your ability to make a
difference to others? Your experience of freedom and independence? Whatever gave you fulfillment then will be
related to your deep values and will still be of great importance to you in the
future. These elements will need to be
present in what you choose to do next, to give you the motivation to search
for it. Time spent reflecting on your
values and the things you find fulfilling can also provide clues about what you
might like to do next. You might discover
elements of a previous role that you can craft into a new one, you might
develop a business idea or you might realise that you want to retrain in
something which has previously interested you.
- Practise your story – over drinks
again, provides a low risk way to practice telling your story, if you have created
one. It gives you an opportunity to test
out a new answer to the dreaded question of ‘what do you do?’ It might even lead to a networking opening,
as I discovered when telling my story to the father of a family with whom my
family had shared a hot, dusty and uncomfortable beach buggy ride. He turned out to be a partner in a big four
accounting firm and after the holiday introduced me to his head of HR, a great
addition to my network.
- Start to fill in your LinkedIn entry – when you are home
ready to return: it can bring you to the attention of prospective employers,
build your profile through the groups you join, alert you to advertised roles
and provide an additional way to network.
You can build it in steps, section by section and keep refining it as
you go, so working on it can easily be fitted into short gaps in your day. If you have developed a story (and tested it
out on holiday) you can put this as your Summary. Using your networking chart you can start to
build your connections. You can explore
the groups and join the ones that look interesting. If you do a section a week,
by the end of the summer you could have a complete entry.