I breathed a giant sigh of relief. My resume and cover letter were finally tailored toward the position that would soon become my first job after a long career pause.
But there was one more thing I had to do. It had been nagging at me for weeks. My LinkedIn profile needed some serious updating.
Feeling panicky, I wondered about how I would account for the last several years during my career pause? Did my part-time and volunteer experience even count? If so, where and how would I include them on my profile?!
I spent time a significant amount of time updating my LinkedIn profile. But it was worth it. Several days after I applied for the job, the hiring manager viewed my profile and even added me as a contact!
Although writing a strong LinkedIn profile is not rocket science, there are definitely some mistakes you want to avoid as a returning mom.
Read below for the top 10 mistakes for moms returning to work and how to avoid them:
See related: Resume Tips for Moms Returning to Work
LinkedIn Mistake for Moms Returning to Work #1
If your resume highlights your background in sales and marketing, but your LinkedIn profile showcases your culinary-related accomplishments, a red flag can be raised by a potential hiring manager or recruiter.
It’s important for your resume and your LinkedIn profile to be mostly congruent.
Even if you are changing career paths, it’s important to highlight similar skills and accomplishments on both your resume and your LinkedIn profile.
For example, let’s say you worked as a teacher prior to your career pause. Upon re-entering the workforce, you decide you want to pursue a new career path in corporate training.
In your LinkedIn headline, you can use titles like “educator,” “trainer,” or “instructor.” These nouns do two things: they highlight your former background in teaching, and also your current career goal of becoming a corporate trainer.
The “About” section is the perfect place for you to describe your history in and passion for teaching and educating. You can also highlight your current goal of corporate training and make a connection between your skills in teaching, training, and curriculum development.
Research job postings in your targeted field to learn about keywords and skills to include in your profile as well as your resume.
See related: The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Resume
Try and resist the urge to copy and paste your resume into your LinkedIn profile.
I know it’s tempting. Especially after spending hours upon hours updating your resume and cover letter. The last thing you want to do is update one.more.thing.
I get it. I’ve been there!
But trust me, putting a little time into updating your profile goes a long way!
Put yourself in the place of a recruiter. Why would they even check a candidate’s LinkedIn profile if all it did was repeat information from their resume? There are so many ways you can make yourself stand out among the crowd of candidates through your LinkedIn profile.
One way is to tell stories related to current or past jobs. Don’t be afraid to use the first person, and show a little personality!
“I was initially hired at XYZ Company to do back office sales. After six months, I got an itch to take on more responsibility and asked my supervisor if I could shadow sales associates in my off time. Over the next year I continued to work hard as a sales assistant, while shadowing the sales team. Within a year and a half I was promoted to a sales associate.”
See related: How to Find a Flexible Job With Kids at Home
LinkedIn Mistake for Moms Returning to Work #3
One of the most common mistakes I see returning moms make is creating a LinkedIn account. And then that’s it.
Once you set up your LinkedIn account, recruiters won’t find you unless you take some important steps to let them know you’re there.
The first thing you can do is let recruiters know you are open to new opportunities. You can find this feature under your name and title, under “Show recruiters you’re open to work.” There are two settings you can choose: one lets you alert your entire LinkedIn network that you’re searching and the other which only shows your status to recruiters.
Another important step is to build your contact list. Start by inviting friends and former or current colleagues. You can also add people with whom you volunteer.
One of the fastest and easiest ways to build your network is to join groups on LinkedIn, including alumni groups as well as groups that are targeted to your current or desired field.
Once you’re in a group, fight the urge to be a wallflower. You can share relevant articles and news and comment on others’ posts. This demonstrates to a future employer that you are well connected and up to date on trends in your targeted industry.
LinkedIn Mistake #4
Are you afraid of being judged because you have an employment gap? Don’t let your fear or insecurities stop you from creating a robust LinkedIn profile.
Volunteer experience is perfectly legit and you can include it just as you would a “regular” job. Part-time, freelance, or contract work also counts as work experience and can be highlighted in the “Experience” section of your profile.
Even if you didn’t work at all, you still have a lot to brag about! You can also highlight coursework, training, or certification.
For example, let’s say you are applying for positions in healthcare. During your career pause you took extensive CPR and First Aid Training courses. These skills can be highlighted in the Skills & Endorsements section of your LinkedIn profile.
See related: Three Simple Tips to Avoid Age Discrimination
LinkedIn Mistake for Moms Returning to Work #5
Lack of endorsements
Just because you have been officially out of the paid workforce does not mean you don’t have people in your corner. You have lots of advocates who can and will vouch for you.
LinkedIn endorsements can come from former or current supervisors or colleagues, and can also come from contacts from volunteer work, contract gigs, or even training and professional development programs.
It can sometimes feel awkward reaching out to folks to ask for an endorsement or to act as a reference for you. My advice is to keep your network as active as possible while you are out of the workforce.
Post relevant articles to your network. Ask a former colleague out for coffee (or even a virtual coffee catch-up). Ask how they’re doing before you jump into how they can help you.
You can also offer to write friends and colleagues an endorsement which will hopefully encourage them to do the same for you!
See related: Top Networking Tips for Moms Returning to Work
Make sure your summary is complete and captures three things: where you’ve been professionally, where you want to go next (i.e. your current career goal), and what makes you shine. All three elements should be related and tell a succinct narrative about who you are and where your greatest passions and strengths lie.
If you’re suffering from writer’s block, use the “People” search function in LinkedIn. Browse profiles of professionals in your targeted industry to get ideas of what to write and how to write it.
Include your education, as well as training and certification because recruiters often do keyword searches. You want to make sure your profile has relevant skills and qualifications.
If you have employment gaps, you’re not alone! There are several ways you can handle gaps on LinkedIn:
- Only include years in your work history. LinkedIn does not require you to list years and months.
- Ignore the gap. However, if you choose to leave a big hole in your profile or work history, you are letting the recruiter or hiring manager decide why you have a gap. The story they make up will most likely not be positive. They might assume you’re lazy, or you couldn’t handle pressure, or worse.
- Address the gap head-on. You can include a title like “Full-Time Parent” or “Cared for Terminally Ill Family Member” or “Full-Time MBA Student.”
If you address the gap I strongly suggest including a paragraph or two underneath, describing what you did during this time. You can mention classes, certification, or skills acquired. You want to make it clear that you were working on or toward something.
Don’t be apologetic. Own your gap! Demonstrate that what you were doing was and is important.
You can also highlight relevant, transferable skills that that you acquired during the pause that pertain to the field in which you are applying. For example, maybe while you were caring for your mother you took coursework in mental health and wellness. You can highlight skills like communication, problem-solving, and crisis management. All these skills are extremely relevant in many fields.
LinkedIn Mistake for Moms Returning to Work #7
Make sure to list your desired industry throughout your profile. There should be no doubt as to which field you are targeting. A recruiter won’t necessarily know you are targeting a certain type of job unless you spell it out.
If you are confused about the type of job you want, your profile will show it.
Take time before you update your LinkedIn profile to figure out your next career move. You can use LinkedIn to research jobs and even people doing those jobs. Use the “search” function of LinkedIn to view profiles of professionals in career fields of interest.
See related: Considering a Career Change? Ask Yourself These Three Questions First!
LinkedIn Mistake #8
Like your resume, your LinkedIn profile is a marketing tool. You can’t assume recruiters and hiring managers are going to automatically pick up on your awesomeness. You know you’re awesome. I know you’re awesome. But how do you convey this in your LinkedIn profile? You can do this several ways:
- Highlight your accomplishments instead of your job duties in your experience & skills sections (including quantifying achievements whenever possible)
- Include links to your website, blog, as well as accolades, awards, and / or relevant projects
- Get endorsements!!
See related: Biggest Interview Mistakes for Moms Returning to Work
LinkedIn Mistake for Moms Returning to Work #9
Misrepresenting your background
Try to resist the urge to over-explain employment gaps or over-exaggerate your experience or accomplishments.
For example, if you worked at a company for seven months, I would not recommend you put on your profile that you worked there a year. You might not think anyone will find out about these little exaggerations. But trust me. Things can and do come back to haunt you.
It’s a very small world. I once had an interview and halfway through I was talking about a past job I had held. The hiring manager asked me if I knew someone who worked there. I said “yes, she’s a great friend of mine!” He said, “oh, because she is also one my wife’s best friends!”
Now imagine if I had lied about saying we were friends. The hiring manager wound up calling my former colleague / friend immediately after the interview to ask about me. Everything checked out of course because I had been honest. But what if I had lied or stretched the truth? I wound up getting the job, but it could have easily gone the other way.
Aaaaaand the final mistake: Not being on LinkedIn
There are a million excuses you can use. You’re too old, too busy, too cool, too inundated by technology, etc. etc. The truth is, studies show that 95% of recruiters use LinkedIn to find, source, and hire candidates!
See related: Top Virtual Interview Tips 2020
It takes time and effort to build your LinkedIn profile.
But the good news is, creating a profile is free and it does not need to be perfect in order for you to start applying for jobs. I will repeat: your LinkedIn profile doesn’t need to be perfect.
You can tweak and add information over time.
At the very least, you want to have a professional looking photo, an updated, targeted headline with relevant keywords, a well-written “about” section, and at least 2-3 recent jobs listed with several relevant accomplishments highlighted for each.
You can build your contacts and network over time. Start asking for LinkedIn recommendations before and during your career pause, as well as throughout your entire career!