Category Archives: Career Search

10 telltale signs that your LinkedIn profile reveals

There are times when I come across a LinkedIn profile that is strong and doesn’t need much revision. In some cases people had their profile written for them. They have the major sections covered, such as: Background image; Photo; Headline Summary; Experience; and Education.

linkedin-alone

At times like this, I focus on their overall LinkedIn campaign as revealed by their profile. Because when it comes down to it, their success hinges on more than just the content in their major sections.

Following is a discussion I would have with a client who has a strong LinkedIn profile, but needs help in other areas.

My client logs onto their LinkedIn account on my computer, so I have access to information visitors don’t. This way we’re not violating any LinkedIn rules. We’ll look at the typical profile sections, but I’m more interested in the telltale signs.

1. Photo properties

Before our session I noticed that I couldn’t see your photo. It’s an easy fix. On your profile you will click on your photo to enlarge it. Then click on Visibility at the bottom right. Earlier you had selected “Your Connections” as the people who could see your photo. You’ll switch it to “the Public,” so even someone who is not on LinkedIn can see your your photo.

This reveals that you’re guarded about your photo. And some people might think you’re hiding something. With your photo, you have nothing to hide.

2. Low connection number

Your number of connections is low. Even someone who’s not signed onto LinkedIn, or a member of LinkedIn, can see public profiles. They can see the information you want to share on your public profile. You show 289 connections. This is not good. You started your LinkedIn campaign three months ago when you got laid off.

A low number of connections reveals that you’re reluctant to connect with others. Visitors will question your ability to connect with other people, especially if your job will require it. It also shows that you don’t understand the purpose of online networking–developing and nurturing relationships.

3. Focused network

Your network should be focused, not comprised of people from multiple industries. By going to My Network and then All Filters, I can see the prevalent industries among your network, as well as the companies where you have the most connections.

This is encouraging, as it reveals a focused network. You need to keep building your focused network by connecting with people at your desired companies. I suggest you devise a personal invite template to keep on track.

4. Contact Info

On to Contact Info. Many people don’t know to look here, but for those who do, give them the information they need. Include your email address at the very least. Go to Privacy and Settings choose whether to make it visible to “Only Me,” 1st degree and 2nd degree connections, or anyone on LinkedIn.

By not making your email address public, reveals that you don’t want to be contacted. Big mistake. I suggest you also list your email address in your Summary at the end or even in the first line.

5. Dashboard area

Your Dashboard is only visible to you, and it shows you a lot of information. It shows that you only have 289 connections. Don’t be shocked to see only 300 Profile Views in the past 90 days, 10 Post Views on your most recent update, and 2 Search Appearances.

This reveals that, again, you’re not making enough effort to connect with others, and you’re not engaging with your network. Visitors will think you’re waiting for people to come to you.

6. Articles & Activity

This area of your profile is perhaps the most revealing. I don’t expect you to have any published posts; most job seekers don’t publish posts on LinkedIn, which I think is a shame. What’s more shameful is a low engagement. You have “Liked” a number of posts, as well as shared some articles without commenting on them.

This reveals a passive approach to engaging with your network. Commenting shows you’re interested in joining conversations.

7. Education section

Your Education section is strong. Many people fail to make use of the extras they can include in their Education section. Not you. You have all the basics: university, degree, field of study, and honorary designation. This is the information that impresses me:

  • Activities and Societies, Division 1A Swimming and editor of newspaper; and
  • Description: “For four semesters, I worked two jobs, totaling 15 hours, while taking an average of six classes per semester. In the summers between my Sophomore and Junior years, interned at Ernst and Young and Fidelity.”

The extras reveal your willingness to personalize your Education section, which many people don’t.

8. Volunteer experience

You volunteer developing and designing your child’s school’s website. You’re using new skills to do this. You’re using JavaScript, HTML/CSS, Photoshop, and bushing up on SEO. Additionally, you’re dedicating 20 hours a week to your child’s school.

This reveals a good thing. You can add this experience to your Experience section–because you’re working 20 hours a week–which will bring your profile to All Star status.

9. Skills and Endorsements section

You’re allowed to list up to 50 skills, but you’ve only listed 20. When recruiters look at your profile, they want to see you have most of the top 10 skills they’are looking for. (This infographic shows a snapshot of what recruiters see when you apply for a position.)

Listing only 20 skills reveals a lack of effort in promoting yourself. As well, at least your top 15 skills should be endorsed. How do you do this? By endorsing others.

10. Recommendations

You have one professional recommendation from each position you held. You have also written recommendations; almost twice as many as you’ve received. Although recommendations used to hold more value, some recruiters will read what your supervisors have written about you. They’ll also read what you’ve written about others.

This reveals that you’re not shy about asking for recommendations. More importantly, you are a giver, as evident by writing recommendations for others.

11. Accomplishments

It’s too bad that this section is anchored in the basement, because it contains some great information. You’ve made good use of this section by listing your Projects, Publications, Certifications, and Honors & Awards. In your Summary you are wise to direct visitors to this section.

What this reveals is that you’ve completed your profile to the best of your ability. You described three major projects you worked on as the CFO of your previous company. Hopefully visitors will follow your instructions in your Summary to scroll down to this section.

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6 reasons to use Facebook; 6 reasons to use LinkedIn

I recently changed my Facebook photo from a casual shot of me sitting alone to one of me with my ankle-biting dog sitting on a rock (below). It’s temporary, but I like it. I have my temporary photo set to go back to my original one in a week..

bob with maisie

This is a cool feature that Facebook offers, automatically changing your photo back to the original one. It’s also cool that I can share a personal post like this, and…receive likes and comments on it.

There are other neat Facebook features which don’t apply to LinkedIn.

2. You can express your opinions with impunity.

I’m not one to express my political views, even though I’m gainfully employed, nor do I talk about religion. But I know I could on Facebook if I wanted.

Many of my Facebook friends are not shy about their political views, and that’s okay. If I don’t agree with their opinions, I scroll past them.

3. You can share photos of food and other stuff

Then there are wonderful photos of delicious food that one of my friends posts on a regular basis. They make me want to write to her and say, “When should I be over for dinner?”

Many people share photos of their kids–mixed feelings about the younger ones–playing lacrosse or football, attending proms, celebrating birthdays, and other sentimental situations

4. You can play games and other neat features

Occasionally I’ll participate in games or apps that tell you what famous character in history your personality resembles. Or what you will look like in fifty years. Pretty cool.

5. Groups on Facebook are livelier than LinkedIn groups

This is a sad testament to LinkedIn’s declining group participation. One Facebook group I like is Recruiters Online. Another is one that addresses issues in my home city. Be aware that Facebook members tend to speak their mind and don’t hold back on insulting others in the group.

6. You can get more personal with Message

I’ll reach more people through Messages on Facebook than I will on LinkedIn’s Messaging, which curiously copied Facebook’s form of one-on-one communication method. 

This is do in fact because I have intimate relationships with more people on Facebook than LinkedIn. Better put, I know people will respond quickly to my messages. I am not assured that my LinkedIn connections will check their accounts as much as Facebook members do.


People who know me would wonder, “Is this the Bob I know? He hates Facebook. He’s crazy about LinkedIn.” This is true; I dig LinkedIn, more so than Facebook. But it’s not true that I hate Facebook.


When LinkedIn is favorable

What I tell my workshop attendees is that Facebook allows me to let my hair down for the aforementioned reasons. I can be personal and not be afraid of getting off the “professional” track. The only people I have to worry about is my oldest daughter and my wife, who literally critique my every post. 

Bob CroppedIn fact, I refuse to allow myself to be professional. The photo you see above is one I have on my LinkedIn profile. It’s not the formal photo we saw on profiles when LinkedIn encouraged us to display one showing us dressed to the 9s. Now, we display photos that reflect our personality. 

1. If you want to brand yourself, LinkedIn is the place to do it

Let’s be real, you can’t brand yourself on Facebook as a job seeker or business person as well as you can on LinkedIn. LinkedIn gives you a built-in audience for your branding. Most people on this platform understand its intended purpose. 

Your profile is the first opportunity to brand yourself, followed by developing a professional network, and engaging in an appropriate manner. To this point, your posts, shared articles, insightful advice is businesslike, not personal. 

2. Content on LinkedIn is more professional, and we like it

Some people on LinkedIn don’t get it; I don’t think they ever will. LinkedIn is for professional networking and curating relevant information. Occasionally the LinkedIn police will tell you, “More suited for Facebook” or “Send it to Facebook” or what I like to say, “I thought I was on LinkedIn, not Facebook.”

3. If you like to blog, LinkedIn has a platform for it

To a point, LinkedIn has a blogging feature that allows you to share your posts. The reach is greater than most blog platforms as long as you market your posts. If you don’t tag a hundred LinkedIn members when you post it, or write to them individually, your articles won’t see the light of day.

4. LinkedIn’s real value is its immense professional network

Even though Facebook is at least twice as large as LinkedIn, its members are more concerned about sharing photos of the food they’re eating, showing off their new grandchildren, bragging about their vacation in France. You get the idea.  

Those same people can use LinkedIn as a professional networking platform to generate leads for business and their job search. It’s all business, and LinkedIn’s members understand this…for the most part. The LinkedIn police are real.

5. Recruiters hang out on LinkedIn

Again, due to Facebook immensity, there are probably more recruiters on its platform than LinkedIn. However, the recruiters on LinkedIn are more serious about finding talent. They expect to find qualified talent on LinkedIn.

Job seekers on LinkedIn understand the value this platform offers. They are focused on networking with other job seekers, recruiters, and employees in companies for which they’d like to work.

6. LinkedIn is doing its best to catch up with Facebook

Facebook has more bells and whistles than LinkedIn, and that’s okay. For example, I’m fine with not having Facebook live. I have dabbled with sharing videos on LinkedIn, but this is a little clunky. 

LinkedIn is focusing on features that professionals require; those that don’t succeed are eliminated. Two features on the phone app which will probably be abandoned: one that allows you to find people who can be located in your area, another that allows you to dictate your messages. Both of these features aren’t taking hold. 


If you’re not on Facebook, join it

I used to bash Facebook in my LinkedIn workshops and blog posts. That’s until I joined Facebook. What I realized is that Facebook is great for us middle-age people (sadly true, younger folks are shunning Facebook). 

I hypothesize that people who get too personal on LinkedIn, aren’t on Facebook or haven’t embraced its purpose. If you are one of these people, I ask you to visualize this overstated analogy: being on LinkedIn is akin to attending a professional networking event; whereas being on Facebook is similar to going to a party. 

 

 

 

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3 reasons why your Articles & Activity section is important

When reviewing a client’s LinkedIn profile, I look at the typical sections: Summary, Experience, Educations, Skills, Volunteer, etc. I also look at one section of their profile that is very telling. Can you guess?

linkedin-alone

To stop the suspense, I’ll tell you. I look at their Articles & Activity section. I can tell from looking at this section whether they’ve been good or bad. More to the point, whether they’ve been engaging with their network, or simply spending very little time on LinkedIn. Below is an image of a profile of that has no Article & Activities section.

No Activity

This section lies between the Summary and Experience sections. What you see above tells you that this person has been dormant on LinkedIn. Here is a look at my Articles & Activity section.

Articles and activities

Showing engagement on LinkedIn will 1) encourage potential connections to invite you to their network, 2) impress recruiters with your knowledge and expertise, and 3) show you’re better than the average LinkedIn user.

Keep visitors on your site

I am reluctant to visit and continue to read someone’s profile if I see no pulse. Am I necessarily concerned if the person doesn’t have any of their own articles to share? Not really. I realize some, or most, people don’t want to publish their original ideas.

According to one source, “only 1 million professionals have published post on LinkedIn.”

However, if I don’t at least see engagement, I know the person is not serious about LinkedIn. I’m not the only person who spends attention to my clients’ Articles & Activity section. Hiring authorities are also paying attention.

Impress recruiters with your knowledge

Close to 94% of recruiters use LinkedIn to find talent, so the more time they spend on your profile, the better. True they want to see your titles, employment history, years of employment, and education. This said, recruiters also want to see your activity because it tells them if you:

  • like or comment on articles you find of value to your network;
  • write original thoughts or ask illuminating questions;
  • share a insightful, tasteful quotes;
  • announce certifications you earned;
  • contribute to a growing discussion; or
  • post videos that are relevant to you occupation and industry.

These are merely a few examples of what a potential candidate could show as activities. I go into greater detail in a post on how to optimize your engagement on LinkedIn. I discuss the difference between being active and engaging.

For example, when you comment on someone’s post, it’s not enough to write, “Great post, Sarah. Thanks for sharing.” Instead explain why you enjoyed the post and, perhaps, politely write about what you disagreed with. In other words, put real thought into comments you share.

I strongly suggest that you write articles to share on LinkedIn, as this will show recruiters your expertise in your industry. I tell my clients that they’re still “experts” in their field. Being out of work doesn’t change that.

However, I understand the time, effort, and courage it takes to put yourself out there.

Show you’re better than most LinkedIn users

The source I cited above also claims that “an average user spends 17 minutes monthly on LinkedIn.” That’s pitiful. LinkedIn has the potential to increase your chances of getting a job significantly, but only if you put effort into your LinkedIn campaign.

This means more than optimizing your profile by filling out all selections and employing keywords. You also have to develop a focused network and engage with your connections, which will be apparent by looking at your Articles & Activity section.

You should be using LinkedIn at least four days a week, half an hour a day. Does this sound like a lot of time? Divide your day in two; spend 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes at night. But don’t just go to LinkedIn’s Jobs feature and look for jobs; practice some of the ways you can engage mentioned above.


Four days is the minimum amount of time I recommend to my clients. Ideally you should be using LinkedIn daily, maybe taking a day off during the week. What’s important is that your Articles & Activity section shows quality engagement, and hopefully articles that demonstrate your area of expertise.

The plight of the long-term unemployed; how to overcome it: part 2

In part one of this article, we looked at the plight of the long-term unemployed (LTU). Part two will look at five solutions for the LTU for finding work.

unemployed

Find a support system

Isolation is a symptom of long-term unemployment which is hard to overcome. One of the people who contributed to this article, Doug, described the support he received from family and friends, some friends he developed during his job search:

I am fortunate in that way. I also have a strong base of family and friends that kept me motivated. Many of these friends I never knew until I got laid off. I met them through job clubs and networking groups and consider myself lucky to have found them. They truly understood what I was going through.”

Ofer Sharone, a professor at the University of Massachusetts, created a program at MIT, which matches volunteer coaches with the LTU to provide them support and advice. One of the many benefits the members of the group receive is being with other LTU who are in the same situation.

Bob, interviewed by Sharone, stated, “When you’re let go, you get discouraged, frustrated, disappointed, feel like a failure,” but Bob explained that the support he received helped him recognize “the positive things that I’ve done in my career and has helped me see that focus, keeping me aligned with what I can offer an organization, rather than what it was that I wasn’t able to offer.”

Network

Most people understand the importance of networking, but many people are reluctant, if not terrified of doing it. For the LTU, networking outlets can lose their appeal, as the forums are attended by the same people. I’ve attended networking events as a visitor or presenter, where I’ve seen people who seem to have been there a year ago. This is not due to a lack of effort on their part. They may have been victims of the LTU stigma.

The quickest way to earn a job is by being referred to a position by someone who is known and trusted by the employer. This is easier said than done; and for someone who has been out of work for more than 27 weeks, finding people to refer them can be a tall order. It is, therefore, essential that the LTU are able to promote themselves to people who are in a position to recommend them.

David never gave up on networking the two years he was out of work. “My landing was through networking,” he said. “Someone knew someone looking for my skill set – more importantly, that someone specifically recommended me. That built up, eventually, to a full-time position that, alas, was a finite one.”

Create a powerful résumé and LinkedIn profile

While the aforementioned solutions are important, a well-crafted résumé and LinkedIn profile are paramount to avoiding the “black hole” syndrome. Foremost a résumé needs to be tailored to each position for which one applies.

Secondly, the résumé and LinkedIn profile have to express one’s value through measurable accomplishments. All too many LTU insist on listing duty statements that lack quantified results. They’re very proud of what they’ve done, but neglect to demonstrate how well they’ve performed their duties.

It’s important that the older (50 and over) LTU do not exceed 15 years of work experience on their resume for the mere fact that it ages them. The goal of the resume is to get them to the interview. Once there, they can sell the benefits they offer as older workers.

Lastly, the résumé must get past applicant tracking systems (ATS), which approximately 98% of large-sized companies are using, more than 60% of mid-sized companies employ, and some small companies are outsourcing.

Having a strong LinkedIn campaign is also a key requirement for the LTU. Some sources state that between 87-94% of recruiters use LinkedIn to find talent. Further, Approximately 40% of employers will immediately reject candidates if they don’t have a LinkedIn presence.

Perform well in interviews

As stated earlier, there is a bias against the long-term unemployed. Interviewers might be wondering why one has been out of work for six months. What’s wrong with them? Sharone acknowledges that in an interview this bias exists:

“We have age discrimination laws that reflect our belief that it is not okay for an employer to assume that just because you are 50-years-old, you’re not qualified or skilled anymore. I think the same thinking should drive policies that say we don’t think it’s a good idea for employers to make an assumption that just because you’ve been unemployed for six months, you’re not good or skilled.”

In all likelihood the LTU will be asked why they’ve been out of work for so long—many of my clients are asked this. A successful response to this question will rely on their honesty and conviction in their ability to succeed in the role they’ll be assuming. One of my clients, who had been out of work for more than two years, decided that saying she had retired was the best route to go.

Read this compilation of the stages of a successful interview.

Volunteer

As difficult as it may be to work for free, volunteering can be the best way to land a job. The reasons are simple: LTU are in a better place to network, they develop new skills, and it’s great fodder for their résumé.

What’s important when volunteering is to choose the right situation. Sure, volunteering at an animal shelter is great for the soul, but it isn’t the best place for a software engineer. A software engineer would be better off volunteering at an organization—most likely a nonprofit—where she can use and sharpen the skills she has. The best case scenario is finding a gig where one can learn new skills.

Treat yourself well

The final suggestion I have for the LTU is taking a break. Whereas some might think putting their job search in overdrive is the way to success, taking their foot of the gas pedal every once in awhile will help them maintain their sanity. My contributor, Doug, told me once when I asked how his week had gone that he took it off. My initial thought was, “The whole week?”

But it dawned on me that it was a good move on his part. The LTU can not underestimate the importance of physical and emotional wellness. Perhaps they should look at the job search more like a marathon than sprint. In the end, Doug landed a job. When it comes down to it, that’s the endgame.

This post originally appeared in Jobscan.co.

The plight of the long-term unemployed; how to overcome it: part 1

Most of the people I know have been unemployed at one point in their life. There’s a sense of despair that comes with losing one’s source of income. Perhaps more devastating is the emotional turmoil that comes with unemployment, which can include a combination of feelings, such as sadness, anger, self-doubt, fear, isolation, hopelessness, even depression.

unemployed

A special category of unemployment identifies people who’ve been out of work for 27 weeks or more. They’re referred to as long-term unemployed (LTU). The LTU experience the aforementioned symptoms at a more heightened level. I know this, because many of my clients are at this stage, some for a year or more.

According to the latest Labor of Bureau of Statistics (LBS) report, the unemployment rate in October, 2018, for individuals out of work 15-26 weeks was 14 percent of all people out of work. For individuals unemployed 27 weeks and more it was almost doubled at 22.5 percent.

But this doesn’t tell the whole story. The “real unemployment rate” or U-6 is a more accurate assessment of people who are out of work. It says that if the employment rate is 4%, for instance, the accurate amount of people out of work is more than double that. People who are no longer receiving unemployment benefits are counted among the U-6 rate, among others.

Struggles of the long-term unemployed

Ofer Sharone is a professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. His research focuses on career transitions, work and unemployment. He is also the founder of the Institute of Career Transition (ICT) at the Sloan School of Management, MIT, which focuses on helping individuals traverse the road of long-term unemployment.

Sharone conducted interviews of the LTU. Following are the concerns of the people Sharone interviewed.

One person Sharone interviewed, Arnold, described the job search as a black hole, where he would send his applications to employers and never hear from them. This is not uncommon with the LTU who want to hear something from employers, even if it’s a rejection.

Sharone explains, “This void leaves it up to job seekers to interpret the reasons for their labor market difficulties, which frequently results in highly individualized accounts.”

Deborah talked about the loss of identity: “. . . This is a fairly major yardstick that we all put against ourselves, our employment. We define ourselves partly by what we do. Right now I’ve had the rug pulled out from under me in terms of how I identify myself…”

Most people who lose their job feel embarrassed, humiliated, and ashamed as Ruth, stated: “I don’t want to contact people, my friends. I’m embarrassed. I’m humiliated. I feel like a loser. And I don’t want to call anyone, I just don’t want to talk to anybody.”

In writing this post, I reached out to six people, asking them to describe their experience of being unemployed for longer than a year. Two people responded. I imagined the other four people didn’t respond because they didn’t want to relive their experience, not because they didn’t have the time.

One person who contributed, Doug, expressed: “I get my strength and rejuvenation from helping others. During this period [of unemployment], I was the one that needed help and support.  It was new to me and hard to accept. I would be lying if I said I never got down or discouraged. You don’t necessarily want a ‘pity party,’ but sometimes you just want to be left alone to let your thoughts and emotions marinate.”

Another person, David, wrote: If I can capture my feelings in simple words they would be despair, desperation, and disbelief. Despair at having to draw down savings and even my 401K to survive. Desperation at watching my retirement vanish. And disbelief that a skilled person with years of experience and strong accomplishments was passed over time and again.”

Many believe there is a correlation between age and long-term unemployment. David wrote: “I suspect ageism played a role, as did the bias many hiring managers have for people who are out of work. Despite the deep crash starting in 2007, too many employers still believe that if you have no job, especially if you’ve not had one for a while, there must be something wrong with you.” I believe David is correct on all counts.


Next read about solutions on how to overcome long-term unemployment.

This post originally appeared on Jobscan’s blog.

5 ways on LinkedIn to let employers know you’re unemployed

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.

question-mark-jpg3

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

It’s okay to connect with strangers on LinkedIn

“That’s weird. I can’t connect with strangers,” my daughter said. “Look, I’m at a coffee shop. I gotta go.” And then there was phone silence.

Networking2

This is three days after she made me proud by joining LinkedIn; I imagine because her career advisor suggested she should. So, more than a post addressed at my daughter; I’m reaching out to the college career advisor who suggested my daughter join LinkedIn.

First, I need to say, “Thank you very much.” And, second, you also should tell my daughter that it’s okay to connect with strangers on LinkedIn. It’s not “weird.”

Let me amend this statement. It’s okay to connect with the right strangers.

I get the same skepticism—which my daughter conveyed—from my older clients, but in different words. They tell me they feel “uncomfortable” asking people to join their paltry network of 80 LinkedIn members.

The short answer I give them is the idea of being on LinkedIn is to develop a network and to use it to gain assistance, as well as help others.

Then they’ll ask me, in effect, why anyone would want to connect with them. To answer their question, I explain that the power of LinkedIn is joining like-minded people. Regardless of the employment situation, my clients are still part of the workforce.

Still reluctant to connect with LinkedIn members?

I tell my clients that they should imagine themselves at an in-person networking event. They’re there because they want to meet people who can provide advice and, perhaps, information that could lead to their next gig.

Then I say there are two scenarios. The first is that they speak to as many people they feel comfortable with. They have a great time getting to know these people; it’s liberating. They’ll develop relationships with some of them; with others they won’t.

The second scenario is somewhat different. Instead of deciding to meet new people, they stand in a corner of the room and wait for people to approach them. As well, they put their heads down avoiding making eye contact. They will not develop relationships with any of them.

There are rules, though

1. Chose the right people to connect with

This is one of the rules I preach often. Know who your students will benefit from, and how they can help their new connections. Stress it’s a two-way street.

The first people your students should invite to their network are their classmates, people who are studying the same major. Engineering majors connect with engineering majors, English Lit. majors connect with English Lit. majors and so on.

Next they should connect with other majors. Bio Chemistry majors can connect with Physic majors. Psychology majors may want to be really crazy and connect with Math majors.

Next connect with students at other schools. Tell them to send invites to students at local schools, at first. There are many schools in the Boston area, so an Early Childhood Education major could connect with the like at other universities in the area.

The huge victories are connecting with the alumni of their school. These are the people who are able to help your students when they graduate from university. A business major needs to reach out to higher level employed alumni, announcing themselves as college students who would like to join their network. The best LinkedIn tool for finding alumni is “See Alumni.

This tool allows students to search for their classmates and alumni by these classifications:

  • What they are skilled at
  • What they studied
  • What they do
  • Where they work
  • Where they live

2. Know how invite LinkedIn users to their network

Students can’t just click the connect button on the profile of the intended connection, and then hit “Send Now.” Instead they must send a personalized invite. Many students probably wonder what they should write in their invite.

Have them write a generic message or two or three that fit the situation. Here are a few they can store on their desktop and modify to fit the situation.


To classmates

Hi (name). I’ve just joined LinkedIn and because we’re in the same major, would like to add you to my network. Perhaps we can learn from each other how to navigate this valuable platform.

(Student’s name)


To professors

Dear (Professor’s name)

I enjoy/ed your class and learned a great deal about (topic). I hope you don’t find this too bold, but I would like to connect with you on LinkedIn so we can stay in touch with each other. By the way, I encourage my classmates to take your class. That’s how much I enjoy/ed it.

(Student’s name)


To alumni

Dear (Name)

I’m a student at (school) and am starting to build my network. I see that you studied the same topic that I did. One of my objectives is to create focused online relationships. I understand how busy you must be. It would be great to connect and help each other when the time arises.

By the way, you and my mother worked at Dell at the same time. She’s working at IBM now.

(Student name)

3. Follow up with their new connections

What separates people who know how to use LinkedIn and those who don’t is following up with their connections. Students can’t simply invite someone to their network and leave it at that. After sending the proper invite, and being accepted, students should send a short note thanking their new connection for accepting their invite. This can facilitate more conversation.

I warn against accepting any invitation. If a student gets the “weird” feeling, it is not an invite to accept. I haven’t discussed this step with my daughter yet, but I’ll make sure that the stranger and she have a commonality, such as they are studying the same major, or have the same career goal, or simply attend the same school.


Really our jobs are not much different, dear college career advisor. We both have to help our clients get over the “weird” feeling of connecting with strangers. Tell them that other LinkedIn members are on the platform to meet people like our clients. Also tell them they should reach out to like-minded people, and that there are rules. College students understand rules.