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How to Handle Career Breaks on Your LinkedIn Profile

Have you struggled with how to explain a gap in your employment on your LinkedIn profile page? Your profile is evaluated based on many factors, such as key words, current employment status, and career progression. There are proven strategies for displaying your history based on your overall history, length of break, number of breaks, and your current career goal. The following tips are based on common questions that we hear from our clients.

Short-term Gap

Short-term gaps occur for many reasons. It may be the result of a downsizing, relocation with spouse, or medical issue. Because the break is short (less than one year), the best strategy is to show years only on your LinkedIn profile. There is a drop-down menu, loaded with months. However, you are not required to select a month. You can enter years only. When you show years only, you must show it in that format consistently for all of your jobs.

Returning from a Long-term Career Break

If you took a multi-year break, planning a return to work can be over-whelming. It is best to be offensive rather than defensive by focusing on the value that you offer. Write a powerful summary statement, rich with keywords and specifics of past accomplishments. In your LinkedIn summary, write a brief line indicating that you elected to take a career hiatus and now you are prepared and eager to return to a challenging position.

Series of Breaks & Short-term Positions

It is common for individuals on a break to take periodic short-term jobs. This may include consulting stints and off-track part-time jobs. Remember that on LinkedIn it is more important to build your brand than it is to fill all spaces of time. If you worked in a position for three months that does not support your goal, it is alright to exclude it from LinkedIn. Long-term consulting, part-time, or off-track positions should be included. The key is to feature aspects of the position that relate to your career goal. There are exceptions and special situations. If you are unsure, ask us.

Volunteer Roles

Include meaningful, career-relevant, and significant volunteering positions in the Volunteering Experience section. Make note of top accomplishments (such as “Raised $212,000 over 2 years.”) in the description field. If you participated in a one-day fun run in which you raised $340, it is better to omit this from the Volunteering Experience section. Instead add that charity’s name in the Causes section.

Complete Your Profile

If you have been off the professional track for a while, carefully consider all of the things that you have done during your break. Be sure to fill all applicable categories of LinkedIn with experience that demonstrate the skills, knowledge, and connections that would be valuable in your target job.

UPDATE: LinkedIn has evolved over the past couple of years. For the most recent LinkedIn advice regarding career breaks, visit this new blog entry. Thanks!

If you have questions about your LinkedIn profile, please feel free to contact Tamara. She would be happy to answer your questions!

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