In a related blog post I told the story of Jane from California, a 56-year-old woman who is looking to return to permanent work after raising her two children. Initially I asked her to send me three things: her resume, Linkedin profile and a “60 second elevator speech” that describes her professional experience and the kind of work she is pursuing at this life stage.
Understandably, I immediately received only Jane’s resume and Linkedin profile. The 60-second elevator speech is a difficult and critical task that takes more time to draft and refine. I decided first to zero in on Jane’s Linkedin profile, since so much recruiting is now done on this social media site. Any networking contact or potential employer Jane encounters will immediately go to her Linkedin profile, so it’s very important to get it in the best possible shape right away.
These are the key points that I gave Jane to help her strengthen her Linkedin profile:
PHOTO: The Linkedin profile photo does not require a professional photographer—but it must be high quality. Jane’s photo looks more like it belongs in a family photo album. It’s important to look professional, approachable and personable. And for any candidate over 50, it’s important to convey the energy and enthusiasm you will have to get the job done. A note on what to wear in the photo: a tailored blouse or dress, a conservative sweater, simple jewelry—anything that looks understated, professional and polished. Business suit not required.
HEADLINE: Jane’s headline is a simple statement of the volunteer job she currently holds (PTA President), not a compelling headline about her overall skills and experience. She has 120 characters to describe who she is and what she has to offer. The headline also is how she will be found by potential employers, so it needs to have some searchable terms.
Jane’s headline could be something like:
Online/Print Writer/Editor: PBS, Nat’l Geo Bylines; Led Editorial Process @ City, Club, Tech, Reputation & Education Pubs
The headline is the sum total of Jane’s career and expertise—not just a statement of what she is doing now.
SUMMARY: The summary is the one place where you can tell an interesting first-person story about your work and life. To write this, imagine you are sitting next to someone at a fabulous dinner party who says “tell me about you”. Jane’s summary is dry and lifeless—it needs her personality, her professional passions, insights to how she started her career, how it evolved and where she is headed now. And, because there are many gaps in Jane’s resume since she had children, she has to make it very clear that through her volunteer roles, freelance work and shorter duration positions she has continued to develop and refine her writing and editing skills. (See the story that I tell in my Linkedin profile as an example.)
EXPERIENCE: Most recently Jane has had volunteer roles, and I advise returning professional women to elevate and recast this resume time period as “Non-Profit Leadership”. This Linkedin section can then be a catch-all section for several major volunteer roles over a multiple year span—describing key high-profile initiatives, results achieved and skills Jane has capitalized on again and again. It’s important to show the size and scope of responsibilities—not just “PTA chair”, the “metrics” that show you led 20 committees, 100 volunteers, 25 annual events and managed a budget of X.
RECOMMENDATIONS: The Linkedin search algorithms give preference to “complete” and robust profiles. A complete profile includes recommendations from several people (currently Jane has none) who have worked with you in a professional or high-level volunteer setting. This often means digging up old professional contacts who can vouch for the quality of your work. The key is to guide the person who will provide the recommendation—highlighting key points you’d like them to address.
SKILLS: The skills area is another way to “complete” your Linkedin profile. Jane has a few, but she needs a lot more to come up higher in search rankings. Like the recommendations, she needs to reach out to many people she has worked with in the past to see if they would be willing to endorse her for certain skills—primarily the writing and editing she is looking to continue. One good tactic is to endorse many of your Linkedin contacts—and, in turn, they will probably endorse you.
VOLUNTEER EXPERIENCE AND CAUSES: Currently Jane has a very long resume (three pages, and the maximum should be two) that lists a lot of volunteer experience. This is the Linkedin area where she can move a lot of that experience—not necessarily listing all the roles she played, dates and projects she worked on, but showing the breadth of her interests and commitment to giving back and making a difference.
Next up: The resume, which is topic #2 in this blog series following “Jane’s Journey Back to Work”. —KAS