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When you’re between jobs, should you rewrite your LinkedIn headline? Should it specify that you’re open to new opportunities? In this post you’ll learn what to put in your LinkedIn headline when unemployed. I think you’ll be surprised.

Don’t rush to update your headline & profile after leaving your job.

If you left your old job a relatively short time ago (a few days, weeks or even months ago), it may not be wise to update your profile to show your departure.

Recruiters prefer candidates who are already employed, believing that currently employed workers are likely to be more up-to-date on their industry and skills. They may also think employed candidates, being less anxious to be hired, are more likely to be honest about themselves. Recruiters’ assumptions may be false, but their preference is well known.

Therefore, I suggest you postpone adding an ending date to your past job, and also leave your LinkedIn headline as it is.

Is this deceptive? We all know that people aren’t necessarily prompt about updating their profiles. All you’ve done is neglect to update. Of course, if you’re contacted by a recruiter, when the subject of your “current” job comes up, tell them honestly that the job has ended. Then provide a resume with the appropriate ending date.

I can guess what your next question might be.

“Thea, I understand your strategy, but if I lead recruiters to think I’m still employed, won’t they be disappointed when I tell them I’m not?”

Maybe a little, maybe not. The main point is that now they’re talking with you or looking at your resume, seeing your excellent qualifications, and you have a chance to impress them. If you put your unemployment up front in your profile, you may never come to their attention at all.

Now, what if you’ve already updated your headline and dates of employment? Can you put it back the way it was? That’s a bit risky. What if someone saw in your profile that you’d left your job, and then later saw that you’d changed your profile to show you were still there . . . what would they think?

And when you spoke to recruiters, you couldn’t honestly say you hadn’t updated your profile.

So if you’ve already updated your profile, consider re-updating it as follows.

The smarter way to update your LinkedIn headline when unemployed.

The following method is more forthcoming, while still being good for your LinkedIn search rankings.

As an example, let’s say you’ve been working as a technical program manager. That occupational label still applies to you, whether you’re currently employed or not. So if you’re seeking the same type of role again, write a headline that includes that designation.

Important Tip: Your target job title is often the #1 most valuable keyword/key phrase in job search communications.

Your headline should ideally include other important keywords you’ve seen in job postings, and probably a key selling point or two as well. For example:

Technical Program Manager  |  Driving End-to-end Execution of Complex Projects  |  Team Leadership  |  Cloud Infrastructures  |  Known for building a culture of alignment & robust communication.

Should you include something like “open to opportunities”? Not in the headline, because doing so will only emphasize that you’re unemployed. It’s also unnecessary, because recruiters don’t hesitate to reach out to “passive candidates,” those who aren’t actively looking.

What if you want to move into a new type of work? Let’s say you’ve been a program manager but now you want to move into product management, and you have some experience doing that within your past roles. You might start your headline with something like “Program/Product Manager” or “Technology Professional with Product Management Experience.”

Next, you would edit your experience section, adding an ending date to your previous role. You’d then click the “+” as if you were creating a new job entry. But instead of adding a job, you’d write a keyword-rich entry to show off who you are professionally. In the Title field, you’d write something similar but not identical to your professional headline. In the Company field you’d enter something about your industry and/or past companies, such as “Telecomms experience with QRScomm and TUVnet.” Word this carefully, as I did, to avoid implying that you currently work at either of those companies. That way you’re not being deceptive.

For a start date, enter the year (and month, optionally) when you left your last role, and check the box marked “I currently work here” so the date will show up as ” – Present.” In the Description of the role, you can specify what you’re looking for in your next role, although it’s not the place to mention requirements about workplace culture and so on. For now, your goal is to get recruiters to reach out. In my post, “How to Update Your LinkedIn Profile When You’re Unemployed,”  I offer additional tips.

The great thing about this approach is what it does for your LinkedIn search rankings. If recruiters set up a LinkedIn search for people currently employed as Technical Program Manager, your profile would turn up in the list of results. The fact that their search criteria were set up to find current program managers isn’t necessarily an obstacle. If the candidate’s qualifications looked good, they’d very likely interview the person anyway.

With this approach, recruiters reading your profile will see that you’re unemployed, but the important thing is they’ll be reading your profile.

Now that you know what to put in your LinkedIn headline when unemployed, you may want to read my post, “How to Talk about Being Unemployed (and Still Get a Job).” And remember, whatever job search challenges you’re facing, there’s a best way to handle them. Keep reading this blog, and consider contacting me for a free consultation about how I can help.