LinkedIn has quickly become a “must” for any job search. Here are eight expert tips for moms using LinkedIn to job search.
When other moms find out that I ran recruiting at one of the largest companies in the area, and now work in talent development, this topic is sure to come up. I’m the mom of three- and four-year-olds and a career strategist. I love jobs. I love thinking about jobs, finding people jobs, connecting people to jobs, screening people in, screening people out—everything. I also know that as a recruiting trainer, I would often counsel recruiters to go looking for people who were re-entering the workforce.
I know that on the whole, moms are a great pool for recruiters to fish in: highly talented candidates who took a risk on themselves and stopped out for a few years to raise kids or care for elderly parents. The world of recruiting, being found, and getting a job has changed dramatically in the past five, three, two years. In fact, the whole game has changed with mass adoption of social media, web 2.0, and applicant tracking systems.
If you’ve made the choice to stay home with your kids, you may be intimidated by the new world of getting a job. Fear not! Pull up a seat here at my kitchen table (just wipe off the Goldfish crumbs), grab a cup of coffee, and ignore any crashes coming from the playroom. I’ve had conversations about using LinkedIn to job search zillions of times, and I’m here to help.
A Primer for Moms Using LinkedIn to Job Search
Years ago I was quoted in an interview on NPR saying that LinkedIn is the best thing to happen to recruiting, ever. I still believe that. In my opinion, LinkedIn replaces a lot of the old-fashioned recruiting work we used to do: networking, reading trade publications, calling people. LinkedIn is one big online networking event. It can be invaluable to you, but like any 10-year-old, what it was at two isn’t what it is now.
In order for LinkedIn to work for you, you have to know how to it works and how to work with it. Here are some tips.
If you don’t have a profile, create one now. Not sure where to start? First, make a list of 20 words that describe your next job. Next, get on LinkedIn and using keywords, search for someone who has your next dream job. Take a look at the LinkedIn profiles that come up. See how people in your intended career market themselves, describe their work and histories. By doing this, you not only see profiles you can model yours after, but you also see which profiles come up at the top when you use specific keywords. Remember to think like a recruiter when you are writing your profile. The keywords you jotted down to find your model profiles are also the ones that should be in your profile!
This brings me to my next point about using LinkedIn to job search…
I’ve been talking about keyword loading for years, and am convinced that I not only coined the phrase but the strategy as well, so of course I think this is some of the best advice around. After you have entered your experience and education onto your LinkedIn profile, scan for keywords. When a recruiter is searching LinkedIn profiles, s/he uses keywords to find likely matches. However, not all words related to your new job may exist organically in your experience descriptions. Here’s where keyword loading comes in.
Think of all the words that a recruiter might use to find someone for the specific role you want. Not sure your list is a good one? Take a look at some of the positions listed on LinkedIn, and make a note of words you see closer to the top of the description or those in multiple descriptions. You are looking for words about specific skills, methodologies, software packages, and the like. You’re not looking for “people person” or “excellent communication skills.” A recruiter is never, ever going to search on those words.
When you’ve gotten a list of 20 or so words that do not already appear in your resume, create a keywords section in your profile. Some people do this in the summary and some do it in one of the experience sections. To these 20 words, also add the names of companies that employ people working in your desired field. Remember, as a recruiter, I will often first look to rival companies for talent. While I may query “current employer” (one of the search categories available), I’m also just as likely to use the company’s name as a free-style search term.
Don’t have a lame professional headline or summary
Many people make the mistake of having their professional headline be their current job title. If you’ve been out of the workforce for a while, “Mother of two kids and two cats” isn’t going to cut it. In fact, even if you are currently employed, don’t waste this space on your title. Incorporating keywords or titles from your field, characterize yourself. For example, “Mechanical engineering professional with a passion for machine design” or “CPA with strong knowledge of SOX and GAAP.”
Many people use their professional headlines to advertise that they are “in transition” or “looking for a change.” I myself have never used that as a search term, but now that I’m thinking about it, that might be a good strategy for me when I’m searching for moms re-entering the workforce.
Remember that your LinkedIn profile is NOT your resume
The LinkedIn profile isn’t your resume. Unlike your resume, you don’t have to list every. single. job you’ve ever had. You don’t have to use passive voice. You don’t have to be so formal. Your profile can show your personality. Let me rephrase that: it SHOULD show your personality. After I find a bunch of profiles through keywords, I’ll scan the profiles looking for candidates I can woo to my jobs. However, I will say that I am more attracted to profiles that are professional but not stuffy and boring.
Look at your privacy settings and understand what they are
One of the great things about LinkedIn is that you can turn off and on various elements that impact your searchability. I love that settings are so easy to find (Accounts & Settings > Privacy & Settings) and so easy to understand. You’ll have to make some decisions about how much information you want to be public. Think carefully about what you want out there and searchable, not just on LinkedIn, but in the larger cyberspace world—there’s no right answer for everyone. You have to set the levels where it works for you. I show only my experience, headline, summary, and picture. You may want to show more or less.
To LION or not to LION? That is the question
One of the fundamental decisions you will have to make about your profile is if you are going to be a LinkedIn Open Networker (get it—LION). Are you going to connect with everyone who wants to connect with you? Will you connect to people you don’t know? Your kid’s music teacher? The dad who sits next to you at basketball games? The woman you met at that birthday party that one time? Philosophies on this differ and you really want to think about it.
On one hand, the more people you have connections to, the easier it is for recruiters to find you. On the other hand, one of the best uses of LinkedIn is to pass along recommendations and introductions through your network. Would you be comfortable having someone in your network you could not or would not recommend? It’s up to you and you can change your settings at any time. See which one feels better to you and go with that for a while.
LinkedIn groups—get into them
One of the best strategies for being found is to join LinkedIn groups. We’ve heard this for years and years. LinkedIn has made it much easier to belong to and participate in professional groups. You are permitted to join 50 groups, and I’d suggest you make the most of it.
Are you an industrial designer? Look for LinkedIn groups about industrial design. Join them and participate. Comment on blogs, suggest postings, answer questions posted there. When I look for candidates, I often go FIRST to groups to find people interested in the field. Groups may also have jobs (under job discussions) that are not advertised anywhere else. Again, when you join a group, make sure you read and understand the settings—it’s important in terms of who can contact you.
The mom section
This is the question that I get way at the end of any conversation on this topic. Some people will ask me if they should explain why they’ve been out of the marketplace/have a gap in their experience/aren’t working now. Others feel strongly that the work they’ve done as a volunteer, trustee, room mom, or PTO president is worthy of mention. I tend to advise that you not state specifically on your LinkedIn profile that you’ve been at home raising your kids for the past several years. It’s none of anybody’s business what you have been doing, and it is not really relevant to your ability to do a job.
Time and time and time again, I hear people say that their work “doesn’t count,” because it wasn’t paid/full-time/in corporate America. Do not sell your volunteer experiences short if you have contributed in a meaningful and sustained way. Skills are honed in every position—volunteer or not. If you’ve developed skills while being out of the traditional workforce, by all means include them in your experience section. As a mom, I expect it. As a recruiter, I look for it. I know how hard it is to the run the Little League or the Girl Scout cookie sale or the drama club. I want YOU to value it enough to put it in your profile. Don’t make the recruiter guess at the skills—list them out just like any other job. I did, however, see a SAHM who listed her mom job on her resume and included things like “nutrition planning and delivery” and “educational development” under her tasks. I would not advise that. At all.
Take the plunge and start using LinkedIn to job search
Re-entering the workforce after being home can be scary. Well, not CAN BE scary, IS scary. The great news is that since you’ve been gone, there’s this great new website that will do a good bit of your networking for you. With good care and feeding of your profile, you will increase your chances of being found by the ideal recruiter at the ideal company—perhaps right in the middle of “Dinosaur Train.”
The first step to re-entering the workforce is right at your fingertips, so start using LinkedIn to job search. Get your LinkedIn profile up there and be found! I look forward to seeing you there.