Tuesday, 13 May 2014

LinkedIn - an essential tool for your return to work

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).
LinkedIN itself offers free webinars to help people make the most of the site.
If you have any further questions that haven't been covered, please ask!

Posted by Katerina

We will be talking about practical steps to get back to work after a career break at Mumsnet Workfest on June 7th.  We hope to meet you there!


  1. LinkedIn is a powerful network, and your tips here are sound. There are so many people that are "on" LinkedIn, but have poor profiles and as a result wonder why LI does not work for them. Like any tool, it only works if you know how to use it.

    Like other networks, LI can be used passively or confidently. Having a complete profile is the first step, but a passive one.

    To start being confident and "put yourself out there" is the difference that makes the difference. I have coached many returning executives and find this is a common barrier.

    Join 3 types of groups
    Type 1) - where your peers are
    Type 2) - where hiring managers might be
    Type 3) - support groups that help to leverage LI - these include "Premium Job Search Group" run by LI and "pay it forward - improve your profile ranking"

    In type 1 groups you can learn what is happening
    In type 2 groups you can "show you know", by helping managers, answer their questions and demonstrate your competence
    In type 3 learn from others in a similar situation and leverage the most out of LinkedIn.

    Having a strong profile is the first step - not the last step!
    Great post thanks for sharing

    Coach & Director at RapidBI

  2. Thank you for highlighting the importance of raising your profile once you have created a strong profile using the first set of tips. In addition to these tips, make sure the that the key words being used by recruiters looking to fill your target roles are part of your LinkedIn profile. The reason you want to raise your profile is that you want to be at the top of searches that recruiters are doing for the roles you want. Mike Morrison mentions the "Team Mike - Pay It Forward - Improve Your Profile Ranking" group. I joined this group and followed the simple "pay it forward" steps of reviewing other people's profiles, commenting on the discussion thread, endorsing the skills of my first connections, and liking other people's comments. Other people are doing the same activity. My profile ranking increased significantly and several recruiters reached out to me about roles. It works!

  3. I completely endorse what Allison said. I recently relocated to the United States. Networking is important to landing a job. The group Team Mike - Pay It Forward has assisted me in raising my profile ranking. I am currently listed as #1 compared to professionals like myself. In addition, I have received unsolicited offers for consulting jobs since the increase in my profile. It really works!

  4. I appreciate these comments. They are very helpful for a ReLauncher. How do you recommend a ReLauncher handle the required "Company" section of the LinkedIn profile, and the current position section, when there is clearly a planned and purposeful career break? I worked for two Fortune 100 companies for almost ten years before taking a career break, but am ready to get back in my career field. I need to position the profile properly/accurately.

  5. Hi,

    This is a plea for us all to think about 'intersectionality'* when we give careers advice.

    I fully appreciate the excellent resource that WR has provided me, but the only thing I would add to this thread is that a photo may be the antithesis of 'vital' if there is a significant risk that a Returner is more likely to be discriminated against as a result.

    Photos benefit those who wish to make choices on looks rather than merit (as well as those whose looks satisfy certain requirements). We know that older women in particular can suffer in this way (and since none of us are getting younger, we might want to think about how this might affect us in the long run...).

    There are also risks for those who do not have 'usual suspect' features. I know that I have avoided having my CV 'filed in the bin' because, despite having 'foreign' parents, my name did not 'betray' my ethnic origin. Adding a photograph to my profile could be 'lethal' (as opposed to 'vital') and candidates such as myself should not be thought of as unprofessional if we choose not to include one. (NB: I do not think that WR is suggesting this, but others might be inclined to.)

    I have survived 12 years on LinkedIn without a photo and I will not be adding one any time soon, I'm afraid.


    *To find out more about intersectionality, see FT article from Dec 2016: https://www.ft.com/content/4fdc1354-a061-11e6-891e-abe238dee8e2. I would seriously encourage people to watch the TED talk linked within it from Oct 2016 as well (which is contains the most succinct description of intersectionality I have come across): https://www.ted.com/talks/kimberle_crenshaw_the_urgency_of_intersectionality


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