While it can be difficult for employed professionals to juggle their current position with a job search, unemployed professionals face a struggle all their own: presenting themselves as desirable candidates against their employed competition. Most companies don’t actively discriminate against unemployed talent, but long stretches of unemployment do raise red flags in a hiring manager’s eyes—and even short periods can raise questions such as, Was this person let go from their position? If so, why? If they voluntarily left, why didn’t they wait until they had another opportunity lined up?
Of course, not all situations are the same. Professionals can find themselves unemployed for a variety of reasons, but one thing they all have in common is the need to attract and impress employers to land a new position. LinkedIn is a great tool for this, but while it’s important to communicate that you’re in the market for a new job, there are a few terms you shouldn’t use, especially as your title:
- “Unemployed.” Try as we might, it’s hard to pull the negative undertones from this word. Labeling yourself as unemployed communicates to employers that that’s how you see yourself, and that’s how they’ll see you—when your LinkedIn should be communicating that you’re an active professional and thought leader in your field. Your work history will communicate that you’re unemployed when employers see no current position, so there’s no need to highlight it.
- “Actively seeking,” “pursuing opportunities,” etc. Using terms like this is often well-intentioned—employers have to know we’re looking in order to consider us as candidates, right?—but highlighting your job search at the top of your profile can make you look desperate. While you’re not working, it might be a good idea to supplement your career with other work, whether that be freelance, volunteer work, or entrepreneurship; this can help keep you relevant and show employers that you’re still engaged in your industry, and as a result, you’ll have something more enticing to describe yourself with.
- “Job seeker.” Again, how you portray yourself on your LinkedIn speaks to how you view yourself as well as how employers are likely to view you. You’re more than just a job seeker—you’re a professional in your field who happens to be open to new opportunities, and it’s best to start portraying yourself like one. If you only label yourself as a job seeker, so will recruiters—and the title “job seeker” can overshadow some of your most attractive and employable qualities.
So, if these terms are off the proverbial table, what should you use? Try creating a title that encompasses what you do as a whole. In fact, this is helpful for those who aren’t unemployed, as well; it’s more effective to use a title that describes your personal brand, and therefore alerts employers to what it is you’re capable of, rather than echoing your current work experience by using that title alone. This can help you more effectively communicate not only what you want to do, but what you’re qualified to do, without using broad terms like those listed above. One example of this is The Execu|Search Group’s own Heather Cianchetti, who uses “Creative & Digital Talent Matchmaker” as her LinkedIn title over her position title as Director of the Creative & Digital division.
Furthermore, if you have a certification, use it in your title. For example, “Certified Public Accountant” sounds much more impressive, and is much more specific, than simply “Accounting Professional.” Just be sure to keep your title to the point and don’t get too creative with words: employers still have to be able to find you via LinkedIn search functions, and the best way is through common keywords.