If you’re a mom who chose to leave your full-time career and focus on raising your children, the decision wasn’t easy or made lightly. But you knew it was the right choice for that time and for your kids. Now the kids are getting older and more independent, thanks to your hands-on parenting, and they need a bit less of your time and focus. And you’re ready to go back to work. How to begin? One great option: Start with LinkedIn.
LinkedIn has become one of the most important places for people to find jobs and for companies to find new employees. With 414 million members, it’s how HR managers and recruiters obtain leads, and where you can build a presence and let the corporate market know the type of job you are seeking.
Using LinkedIn successfully requires both art and science, and the site can be a little intimidating to beginners. Here are four tips for presenting your best face there.
1. Create an Impressive Work History
Welcome to 2016—your resume is now your LinkedIn profile. In fact, you should spend as much time polishing your profile as you spent working on your resume in the past. First, fill in the experience fields with your past full-time work experience. Make sure to include not only responsibilities but also accomplishments and milestones from that time.
Next, add in your most recent experience. While you are out of the paid work force, were you still “working”? What activities were you involved in during those years? PTA committee chair? Local community advocate? Work is work, even if you did not get a paycheck. Make sure these are included on your LinkedIn page as positions held and responsibilities noted. "I was out of the full-time workforce for 10 years, but I was still very busy doing volunteer and consulting work, says Nancy Maynard, a project manager and marketer for ProResource. “I was able to show that experience on LinkedIn, so prospective employers could appreciate all the skills I acquired.”
After you’ve completed work history, write your LinkedIn summary, which will serve as your cover letter to prospective employers. When writing your summary, you should almost forget about your past experience. Instead, think about the position you would like today. Highlight experience that demonstrates why you would be good in that position. If you get stuck, you may find talking with a friend or working with a writer can help you find the right tone and narrative.
The work marketplace has changed drastically over the past decade, and opportunities for flexible work hours—full-time and part-time, from home and in the office—and demand for smart and experienced professionals abound. LinkedIn is a good place to find opportunities.
2. Reactivate Your Network
Since you’ve been out of the workplace, you may have not stayed up-to-date with your professional network. Now’s the time to reactivate it. LinkedIn is a natural way to reconnect with colleagues.
Start connecting by sending “connect requests” to colleagues. Do not import your entire contact list into LinkedIn (as the site suggests). Rather, choose individuals with whom you want to connect and send personal connect requests. LinkedIn will offer you default language for connecting. Again, do not use it. Take the time to write a short note to each person, something as simple as “Hi. So good to see your profile on LinkedIn. Can we connect?” is much better than “I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn” (the default message).
Next, get recommendations from people you worked with previously. They can include your bosses, co-workers, people who reported to you or vendors—anyone familiar with the work you used to do. You may not feel comfortable asking someone for a recommendation if you haven’t touched base with them for awhile. So, you can start by writing a recommendation for them. This will get you back in front of them, and they will be thinking of possibly recommending you.
You can also reach out to them via email or phone, and ask if they would be willing to give you a LinkedIn recommendation. You can even draft a recommendation for them to review, in order to make the process even easier for them.
This process will not only improve your LinkedIn Profile and tout your experience, but it will also let those writing a recommendation for you know that you are seeking a new position.
3. Be Findable
And get people excited about hiring you. How? It is not as daunting as you might think. You want potential employers to know you are looking. By rewriting your work experience, and receiving recommendations, you’re halfway there.
You want people whom you previously worked with, volunteered with, even competed with to know you exist! Start by endorsing people. It is easy to do on LinkedIn, and takes very little time. Once you endorse someone, they may endorse you back.
Also, when you visit a LinkedIn profile, let people see that you reviewed it. In your Settings, choose Privacy, and then choose Profile Viewing Options and opt for Your Name and Headline. This option means that people can see that you’re engaged and active on the site. It’s also a non-intrusive way of saying “Remember Me?”
Next, under the profile tab (next to the Home tab) on your LinkedIn Profile, the drop down box will let you click on “Who’s Viewed your Profile.” That will show you everyone who has visited your profile recently.
4. Make Your Profile Stand Out
You want to make your profile as visually appealing as possible. First and most importantly, add a photo. So many people avoid this step because they want the greatest photo ever. However, not having a photo on your profile states that you are not serious. Remember that you can always change your photo later.
Next, add a header graphic to the top of your profile. As you edit your profile, at the top and middle of the page (above your photo), there is an option to edit your background. Here you can add an image to compliment your profile.
Finally, add graphic elements—logos, pictures—where appropriate in your profile. And, make sure to upload any work samples, case studies, videos or other media that illustrates your work accomplishments and enhances your professional story.
Now you’re ready to job search. You will be showing your best profile to HR managers and recruiters who are looking for individuals with your exact skill set. That wasn’t too intimidating, was it?
Judy Schramm, a mom of five sons, is CEO of ProResource, a social media marketing agency that specializes in helping executives build their personal brand on LinkedIn. Many of the members of her team are “MBA Moms”—women who have recently returned to the workforce.