Be Proactive: Addressing Gaps on Your LinkedIn Profile
A good sales person anticipates objections and addresses them head-on. The proleptic approach to your career break is wise. Your profile will be assessed automatically and by human readers. The criteria includes elements such as current status, keywords, complete profile, and the number of connections. If you are concerned about a break in your career, identify ways that you tackle the issue before it is an issue. Each person’s career is unique. However, these are a few general suggestions.
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 only the starting and ending year. When you show years only, show the dates in that format consistently for all jobs displayed.
Returning from a Long-term Career Break
If you took a multi-year break, it is better 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. If possible, include a community service or unpaid role in the experience section so that you have a “to present” date on your profile. Having a present position gives you an active status, which means you are eligible for “All Star” status. Also, if an employer is using “to present” in their search criteria, you will meet that requirement.
Series of Breaks & Short-term Projects
If you have a series of short-term positions with a few short-term breaks in between, be strategic about how you display it. You want to show cohesion. Develop a theme for this period. If you find a common thread for these short-term projects, create a freelance or consulting position. Within that position (text box) on LinkedIn, create a bullet for each major project or client. This clarifies the time period for the reader. In some cases, there is a series of jobs that ended due to a lay-off or perhaps you were trailing a spouse that was relocated three times in seven years. That would require a different strategy. There are exceptions and special situations. If you are unsure, feel free to write me.
Consider Volunteer and Unpaid Experience
Include meaningful, career-relevant, and significant volunteering positions in the Volunteering Experience section. Unpaid experience, such as internships, consulting, and civic projects, are excellent ways to fill a gap and showcase recent skills. Make note of top accomplishments. Examples could be: “Raised $154,000 via first-ever holiday gala” or "Established financial reporting system for start-up retail company." 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. If you planned the fun run, leading a committee over a six-month period to raise $90,000, that is significant and should be shown.
Complete Your Profile
If you have been on an extended career break, 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.
Each person’s career is unique so my advice to each individual may vary. There are exceptions too. For example, some candidates may be exclusively applying to return-to-work programs. A solid break from paid experience may be required to be a candidate for those programs. If you have questions about your LinkedIn profile, please feel free to contact me. I would be happy to answer your questions.