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7 changes to make to your LinkedIn profile if you’ve been laid off

Think twice about the mass update, and other advice from career coaching experts.

7 changes to make to your LinkedIn profile if you’ve been laid off
[Photo: Kon Karampelas/Unsplash]

When Alejna Kalavik got a calendar invitation from a senior-level executive for a meeting with HR in 15 minutes on May 11, she had a good idea of what was about to happen. Her role as a senior account executive at a New York City-based public relations agency entailed working mostly with travel clients, and, though the company had been checking in regularly with its employees and communicating steps they were taking to avoid layoffs, as the pandemic continued, it became an inevitable that they would have to let some team members go.

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“It was kind of shocking [to receive the invite], but it makes sense,” says Kalavik. “You have to rip the Band-Aid off; there was no sugarcoating it.”

The brief meeting confirmed her suspicions. That Monday was her last day on the job. By the following morning, her company email address had already been shut down, so Kalavik logged into LinkedIn and began shaping up her profile, which she’d neglected for the last year or so.

Polishing your online presence on the professional networking site is something all professionals who’ve been laid off or furloughed should be doing right now, experts say. But what’s the proper way to do this, and should you be broadcasting to the world that you’ve lost your job? Here’s what you should do:

Update your headline

This is the first step toward optimizing your profile when you’re in between roles, as it shows up on everything you do, including when you comment on other posts. Don’t waste this valuable real estate on “Seeking a New Opportunity,” however. “I see a lot of people doing this, but the problem is that it takes up a lot of characters—and you only have 120, including spaces,” explains Debra Boggs, cofounder of D&S Professional Coaching, a company that offers job search coaching for top-level executives. Instead, it’s better to add keywords for what you actually do. The ideal format for a LinkedIn headline is a few words about what you do, followed by the value that you bring, says Boggs.

A few examples:

  • Talent Acquisition Recruiter Enabling Nursing & Allied Health Programs to Attract, Recruit & Retain Top Educators
  • Global Professional Services Leader ► Driving excellence in enterprise software service delivery while decreasing cost
  • Executive Resume Writer | LinkedIn Profile Optimizer ► Helping clients stand out in the modern job market!

Add a quality headshot

Having a professional-looking photo on your profile is a must. According to LinkedIn, members with a photo receive 21 times more profile views and nine times more connection requests than those without. A headshot is your chance to make a first impression with recruiters, says Boggs. If you don’t have one, take a photo for LinkedIn with intention, even if you’re doing it at home—i.e., put on an outfit that would be appropriate for the job you’d like to have, and have a family member snap some options (or use a self-timer). Now is not the time to crop yourself out of an old photo taken at a wedding, says Boggs. “You want [your profile photo] to represent you the way you’d walk into a live interview,” she adds.

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Think carefully before mass posting

We’ve all seen the posts from those in our own networks announcing their own layoffs recently, but making a big public announcement may not be the smartest move, depending on the tone you take. “I don’t suggest wearing some sort of ‘COVID woe-is-me’ badge,” says Erin Hatzikostas, former corporate CEO who’s now the founder of b Authentic inc, a company offering leadership and career coaching. “Everyone recognizes that these are tough times. Hiring managers could surmise that COVID is a factor in you looking for your next opportunity; however, placing this front and center may be seen as an excuse.”

Send personal messages

Rather than posting publicly, you may want to consider strategically sending personal messages to people in your network who are in the best position to help, says Boggs. “This not only gives you a chance to check with everyone one on one, but also to ask for something specific,” she adds. For example, you could attach your résumé and let them know the type of new role you’re looking for. Be mindful, however, of what they may be going through; if you work in the same industry, check to make sure they haven’t been laid off as well before asking for help. (If that ends up being the case, ask how you can both help support each other at this time, says Boggs.)

Quantify your experience

Rather than simply having your job title and dates listed at a company, think of each position as a mini story, says Hatzikostas. Tell a little about what the company does, what you were hired to do, the scope of your work, and your accomplishments. If you’re in sales and marketing, these can be easier to quantify (i.e., increasing sales or lead generation). If your job isn’t as easy to report in numbers, consider other accomplishments, says Boggs. For example, did you help to save costs, improve a process, or establish a new way of doing business that had a positive impact? “The biggest thing is to show what you did and how you added value, rather than a list of responsibilities,” Boggs adds.

You can also use this section to communicate what you want to showcase for your next position. For example, Kalavik says she’s focused on highlighting her skills in campaign management, leadership, and writing as she looks to pivot to a communications role in the environmental awareness space. “Those are my key strengths I’m trying to communicate with every connection, and I want to make sure my job descriptions and experience line up with that as well.”

Don’t add a new role right away

The biggest mistake Boggs has seen professionals make on LinkedIn after being laid off is immediately adding in a placeholder under the Experience section to show that they’re doing something (i.e., a consulting role). However, that can dilute the work you did at your last official job, she adds, because it’s the first thing people will see under your experience. “There’s no reason to hide a layoff. It’s completely out of your control,” says Boggs. Add the end date of your most recent employment and leave it at that.

Show you’re open to new opportunities

Under your Intro section, click the box that says, “Show recruiters you’re open to job opportunities.” This is the way to scream from the mountain tops, “I’m available!” says Hatzikostas. You can update this section to show the job titles, job locations, and job types you’re interested in, and select whether only recruiters can see this information, or anyone on LinkedIn.

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The About section is another spot to state you’re available for new opportunities. It can also help you stand out from the pack. “This section is not about you—it’s about them,” says Hatzikostas. “Think of [it] as the place where you tell potential employers just how amazing you’re going to make their life.”

Increase your connections

Now is an excellent time to build up your connections, so be sure you’ve connected with everyone at your most recent company, past vendors and clients, or anyone else you’ve worked with in the professional realm, says Boggs. The more connections you have in common with a person, the higher you’ll come up in their searches—so keep building your network, especially within your own industry. One caveat: “It’s always good to send a message when you send a connection request,” says Boggs, “otherwise it comes off spammy.”

What if you’ve been furloughed?

If you’re expecting to go back to your job eventually, there’s no reason to make an announcement on LinkedIn or update your profile in a way that shows you’ve been furloughed, says Boggs—though you can certainly continue your job search by optimizing your LinkedIn profile to help recruiters find you.

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