This post is written in response to a growing discussion on LinkedIn.
I get the question all the time in my LinkedIn workshops: “What’s the best way to let employers know I’m looking for work?” My answer has been somewhat noncommittal, but some of my clients want potential employer to know their status.
Here are five options, none of which are entirely optimal.
- Leave your most recent employer as current for a short period of time.
- Create your own “company.”
- End the tenure at your previous employer and address this in your Headline.
- End the tenure at your previous employer and explain your story in your Summary.
- List volunteer experience in the experience section.
There are problems with each tactic. After all, being out of work is … being out of work. And some ignorant employers still prefer to hire passive job seekers over job seekers who are actively looking for employment.
No matter how you spin it, employers will know the story. Let’s look at the potential solutions from worse to best:
Leave the employment date or…
5. Leave your previous position open
Of course, indicating you’re still employed when you’ve been laid off, let go, or have quit is dishonest. When job seekers ask me if they should do this, I tell them that, ideally, they should end their employment at a company a day after they lose their job.
That being said, pretending you’re still working for no more than three months is somewhat acceptable. Herein lies the problem: when a recruiter asks if you’re still at the company, you have to make up some story about how you haven’t gotten around to closing out the job. You’ll have to do some fancy dancing, and this may end the conversation immediately.
One could argue that at least you’ll have the opportunity to have a conversation with a recruiter or hiring manager. And that recruiter or manager might buy your tale.
4. Create your own ‘company’
While it is important to maintain All Star status and, thus, get more visits to your profile, you need to do so with style and a value add. I’ve seen profiles with “Unemployed” as the company name. How much value does this add to a person’s profile? None.
My colleague, Laura-Smith Proulx describes a solution in a post she wrote for www.job-hunt.org that let’s employers know you’re unemployed, while also demonstrating your value to employers. As she explains, “no current experience is a competitive disadvantage.”
A company name for Plant Engineer Supervisor would simply be: Plant Engineer Supervisor. This would show as current experience. The job title would be: Plant Engineer Supervisor Pursuing Opportunities in Manufacturing.
The description of said job needs to show your value. Laura provides a great description for the Plant Engineer Supervisor: “I offer a broad operations background, including Lean Six Sigma, team management, production supervision, and plant engineering skills.” You might also include a quote from a supervisor to demonstrate your expertise.
End the employment date
3. Tell employers in your Headline
Obviously, the worst thing you can write in your Headline is only “Unemployed,” “Seeking Next Opportunity,” or “Actively Looking for a Project Manager Position.” Any of these statements alone fail to express your value. Sure, they tell employers about your situation, but that’s about it.
Instead, show your value to the employer right out of the box: “I will increase your production flow 85% by utilizing Lean Six Sigma, Manufacturing experience, and proven leadership”
Keep in mind that space in your Headline is limited. You’re allowed 120 characters, so make the best use of it. The example above is 119 characters. Whew.
2. Tell your story in your Summary
Whether you want to inform people of your situation immediately, in the middle, or at the end, you need to be positive about your situation. Potential employers won’t be concerned about how you lost your job as much as they will about what you can do for them.
Writing the following sets a positive tone, “After three years of an exciting stint in IT in my previous company, I’m ready to take on new challenges. Read my profile on how I can help your company’s IT needs….” Of course your LinkedIn profile must be strong and support your desired occupation.
Doing actual work: volunteering, that is
1. The best way to cover the employment gap – volunteering in your field
A Forbes article suggests including volunteer work in the Experience section. I tend to agree. I can hear the critics bemoaning this practice—after all, it’s not paid employment! While this is true, volunteer work is exactly that—work. In some cases, you may even work harder than you would in paid employment.
If you are going to include volunteer work in your LinkedIn Experience section, be sure to make a note of it by writing “Volunteer Work” next to the position. Do not mislead potential employers into thinking it is paid employment. (Some pundits don’t believe indicating that it’s volunteer experience is necessary.)
The volunteer work you list should be substantial and relevant. For example, if you’re a web developer, spending 20 hours a week developing a nonprofit’s website is a great way to showcase your existing skills and the new ones you may be learning.
Another thing to note: You can include recommendations with your volunteer experience, but only if you list it in the Experience section of the profile. If you leave your volunteer work in the volunteer section, people will be precluded from sharing recommendations.
Then there’s LinkedIn’s Career Interests feature
For job seekers who are being pursued by recruiters who have access to LinkedIn’s recruiter premium account, this features allows them to see who is currently looking for work, whether employed or unemployed.
So, is it necessary to point out your unemployment status or falsify information on LinkedIn? Probably not. Covering an employment gap with volunteer experience is the best method, in my mind.
Which brings us to the topic of volunteering. I’ll save that for another post.
A version of this post originally appeared in recruiter.com.
Photo: Flickr, Tom Waterhouse