Updated: Jun 21, 2021
If you’re a mum returning to work after taking a career break, then you need to be on LinkedIn. Don't miss out on a great way to find jobs, network and get back to work. Intimidated by LinkedIn? This 10-step guide shows you how to set up and put together a professional profile to be proud of
Written by Dr Emma Waltham | Maternity Returners Expert
Why Use LinkedIn?
LinkedIn is one of the most effective (and free) ways for women returners to find jobs, increase their network and raise their profile. It can feel intimidating when you’ve been out of the workplace so long, but if you don’t take that step and get out there on LinkedIn, you are really putting yourself at a disadvantage.
Still need convincing?
Over 24 million people are on LinkedIn in the UK.
Hundreds of recruiters search LinkedIn every day to find people who match the jobs they have open.
Many jobs are never advertised on job boards or through agencies, but are only promoted on LinkedIn or found through word-of-mouth.
All of which make this networking platform so important.
"It can feel intimidating when you’ve been out of the workplace so long, but if you don’t take that step and get out there on LinkedIn, you are really putting yourself at a disadvantage"
Now you know the benefits to having a LinkedIn profile, follow my actionable step-by-step guide to producing your profile. You'll soon have a presence on the platform that you'll be happy with and that will help you with your job search.
1. Sign up to LinkedIn
You might have a pre-kids profile that is gathering dust. If so, blow off the cobwebs and remind yourself what it says, or, if you don’t have one, sign up. It’s easy to get started, just follow the steps to set up a basic profile. This is all many people do, but it’s worth investing more time and continuing to work through the steps below to make your profile stand out.
If you have a profile already, adjust the privacy settings if necessary, so your network can’t see your changes until you are ready to go with your edited profile. You can do this by going to the privacy settings and choosing ‘How others see your LinkedIn activity’. Then, spend an hour or so looking at other people’s profiles to get a feel for how people use and promote themselves on LinkedIn.
2. Include a Photo
You need a photo. No excuses. Profiles with photos are much, much more likely to be viewed and are so much more engaging. This isn’t the time to be coy. Use a professional shot, not your wedding photo or holiday snap. Don’t include the children or the dog. If you don’t have a good enough photo, ask a friend to take one of you, or consider getting one done by a photographer who does publicity shots.
"Spend an hour looking at other people’s profiles to get a feel for how people use and promote themselves on LinkedIn"
3. The Headline Counts
Now on to the headline. This really matters so it needs to have impact (no pressure). Summarise yourself succinctly but make sure you’ve got all the keywords, as LinkedIn will look at this description when people are searching, eg ‘Experienced Executive PA and Project Manager’ or ‘Certified Marketing and Communications Professional’.
Now you’re gearing up to get a job, don’t describe yourself as ‘stay-at-home-mum’. Instead, pick something that reflects the professional you want to be once your job search is successful. You could also say here that you are looking for a new role, eg ‘Experience Marketing Professional Seeking New Role’.
"It’s worth investing more time and continuing to work through the steps below to make your profile stand out"
4. Write a Summary
The summary section is next and needs to work hard for you, as it’s the first section of the profile that people will read, before deciding whether to read more. Focus this on what you’ve already accomplished and what you want to do next.
Examples would be:
I am a B2C marketing professional who loves to spearhead successful brand and product launches using evidence-based strategies. CIM accredited, I have extensive expertise in repositioning and rebranding projects gained at major blue-chips. After taking a maternity career break I am now seeking a role as a Marketing Manager in a dynamic environment.
HR Manager with over 10 years’ experience in learning and development, who has worked across a wide range of sectors. CIPD qualified, with expertise in talent acquisition, acquisitions and mergers, cultural change and leadership coaching. Now looking for a new opportunity as a HR professional following a planned career break to take care of my children.
5. Work Experience & Skills
List out your jobs now. If you’ve included your career break in your summary you may not need to include it here, but if you decide to, just keep it short and to the point, with dates and something like ‘Planned Career Break’ as the title.
Next, add in your skills. Make sure you include the key words that you think recruiters will be looking for, when searching for someone with your expertise. To make it easier, LinkedIn gives you a picklist to choose from, such as ‘public speaking’, ‘workshop facilitation’ or ‘emotional intelligence’. You can choose those that apply.
The next step takes a bit more work: ask people who know you to give you endorsements for your skills. Offer to do the same in return. This will really help you rise to the top in searches so it’s worth doing. It might take a while, just chip away at it a little at a time.
While you’re working on your endorsements, also start to network. This is usually the most intimidating part of using LinkedIn for women returners. When you’ve been on a career break, you can feel like you don’t belong on LinkedIn as you’ve been away from the workplace for a while.
Don’t let this hold you back. Remember millions of people are on platform in the UK, and you need to be there too. They are all on LinkedIn to network and just like you, they want to make connections and promote themselves. People you haven’t been in touch with for a while will be interested to hear from you. You don’t need to hide – get out there and say hello!
When you’re actively job hunting, it’s a good use of time to spend 20 minutes a day using LinkedIn to network. Connect with ex-colleagues, friends and family. Look at your contacts’ contacts and ask them to refer you to people that are of interest. Research people and companies that are your peers, or that you would like to work with and comment and share their posts. Get yourself out there!
"When you’re actively job hunting, it’s a good use of time to spend 20 minutes a day using LinkedIn to network"
8. Join Groups
There are many LinkedIn groups, which are just like Facebook groups. To find them, put a subject of interest in the search box, eg HR and press return. Just below the search box, you can see ‘More’, click on that to bring up groups.
Participating in groups can help you get up to back up speed on your sector, its trends and ‘tribe’. You can also use them to position yourself as an expert and raise your profile.
Now your profile is set up, and you’re growing your endorsements and network. You’re on LinkedIn! The next step is to proactively contribute to your groups, share articles you’ve found (or written) and comment on posts. This helps people notice you and increase your chance of being spotted by a recruiter. If you apply for jobs, it also adds to your credibility, as recruiters look at LinkedIn profiles of applicants and will see that you’re someone who clearly knows and is interested in the sector, even though you’re on a break.
10. Look for Jobs
Roles are advertised on LinkedIn and you can easily apply using the platform. You can search for jobs and also for organisations you’re interested in working for. Take a look at their employees to see what kind of roles they have and see if they are advertising any current vacancies on their website or LinkedIn page. There is an option in the LinkedIn settings to let employers know that you are looking for a job. Go to ‘Privacy’, then ‘Job Seeking Preferences’ to switch this on.
Yeah, you’ve worked your way through these ten steps you have a LinkedIn profile to be proud of and that shows potential employers that you are ready for a new opportunity. They can see that you have taken a career break but are now ready to return. You know how to build up endorsements and include the keywords that will make sure you are found in searches. You understand how networking and joining groups can help you raise your profile. Most importantly, you know how to search and apply for jobs on LinkedIn. You are back in the game.