Build a Strong LinkedIn Profile to Make a Career Change (Without Risking Your Current Job)

Making a career change isn't easy. You know that LinkedIn is important, but it can be overwhelming if you don't know where to start. Here is how you can use LinkedIn to make that career change faster.

Why LinkedIn Matters

To really understand how to use LinkedIn in your job search, it is important to first understand why it matters.  97% of recruiters report using LinkedIn every single day in their jobs to find candidates for their open positions. However, only about 37% of job seekers report using LinkedIn in their job search. So, there is a huge opportunity when you use LinkedIn properly.

Most recruiters use LinkedIn as a resume database to find candidates that can't be open about their search. This means that they sort and filter people based on the information in their profiles. The software that recruiters use to manage those open jobs does the same thing.

The other big way that LinkedIn matters in your job search is that people will use it to look you up at some point during the hiring process. That means that people will be looking at your profile, your activity, and your connections - even if you don't apply to the job through LinkedIn. So, you need to put your best foot forward at all times online.  LinkedIn is not just another social media platform.

Define Your Audience

To land in the new career, you will need to think about your audience. Thinking about where you want to land will make it easier for you to build a profile for the people who will be reading it.

You may already know where you want to go next, but not everyone does when they start on a career change journey. So, focus on the skills that you want to use in the new field. And, think about the new industry where you would like to land. Keeping in mind where you want to go is key to writing a strong LinkedIn profile for your career change.

Do it Right and It Won't Cost Your Job

After you identify where you want to go next, you will need to rewrite your LinkedIn profile to better reflect who you are and what you want. This can mean that you are leaving behind your past. This could cause some red flags where you are currently working if you aren't careful.

However, the average person still isn't on LinkedIn that much or on your profile. There are certainly exceptions to that rule, but the average person is still on LinkedIn for less than 30 minutes a month. And, most of that time is spent skimming the entire platform - not other people's profiles.

Studies repeatedly show that your typical connections (non-recruiters) are only going to the profiles of their connections when they get a notice of a new job or are curious what you have been up to (after seeing a post). So, updating your profile the right way can prevent inadvertent redirect to your profile.

Before you go any further, make sure to do the following:

  • Turn off the updates on your current job (it's a simple button at the top of your current professional experience entry)
  • Set your jobseeking preferences visibility to "Recruiters Only" to stop the #OpentoWork frame on your profile photo

Keyword Driven Headline

The LinkedIn headline has a default system setting of your current job title and company name. You will want to move away from the LinkedIn headline default to be seen as relevant in other careers.

There are 120 characters in the headline section. Career changers should build their headline around the skills that they want to emphasize. Remember your audience in selecting the right keywords to emphasize your skills in the LinkedIn headline.

This LinkedIn headline is more important than most people realize. Your LinkedIn headline, profile photo, and background photo are visible to everyone across LinkedIn. It is what recruiters and hiring managers will see in their search results BEFORE they decide to click into your profile. So, this is where you need to hook their attention to invite them to click on your LinkedIn profile.

Here is an example of just how big of an impact can be to showcase your skills:

Prior Headline: Account Manager at Acme Corporation

Customized Headline: Revenue Generation l Key Accounts l Business Development l Customer Experience l Territory Development l Growth Strategy

Reframe Your About Section

The next step to building a strong LinkedIn profile to make a career change is to write a summary that is relevant to your new field.  The summary is an important part of your profile because it's one of the first things that a recruiter or hiring manager will see on your LinkedIn profile.

The about section is an opportunity for you to really sell yourself and your skills. This is where you need to be clear, concise, and interesting. Remember, you only have 2600 characters to make an impact.

Here are a few tips for writing your about section:

  • Start with a bang. Use the first sentence to grab attention and make an impact. There are only a few sentences that show up without having to click more. So, you must get your point across right away.
  • Write in the first person
  • Use keywords throughout your summary that are relevant to your skills and experience
  • Be clear about who you are and your strengths
  • Remove the jargon of your old industry and career
  • Include relevant achievements including numbers or other data when appropriate.
  • Highlight your skills, experience, and accomplishments
  • Include some bullet points to draw attention to the items that make you stand out.
  • Proofread! Check for grammar and spelling mistakes

Describe Your Professional Experience

The next step to write a profile that will make it possible to switch careers is to include a description of each of your positions on your LinkedIn profile. This means that you will need to write the experience section in a way that is clearly relevant to what you want to do next.

There is a 2,000 character limit to describe each of your past jobs. You will want to use as many of these characters as appropriate to appear qualified to make the switch.

You can do this with the following tips:

  • Make the first sentence count. Most people won't click the "See more" if they make it down this far on your profile. You have to make the reader want to click the further description.
  • Use keywords. Think about the relevant concepts for the industries or field that you are now targeting to use the right keywords.
  • Use the dropdowns. You will maximize your visibility to recruiters that use the system to find and filter candidates if you stick t the dropdowns in selecting your job title and company name.

Include Your Volunteering

Being a volunteer is a great way to give back. Being a volunteer can also make it easier to network and to build the skills that you need to change careers.

Make sure to include your volunteer contributions in the right section. This will not go in the professional experience section. Instead, it will go in the Volunteer section.

Much like the jobs section, you will want to provide a description of what you do as a volunteer, provide a description of your accomplishments, and to include related skills that can help with your career switch.

Update Your Skills

The next step to change your career is to review all of the skills on your LinkedIn profile. This means combing through the skills and being intentional about what is on your profile and what must go.

This part of your profile plays a big role in your job search. First, the recruiters that have access to LinkedIn Recruiter will see analytics about your fit for their job based on the skills on your profile. So, if you are missing a skill, it appears to the systems that you are unqualified.

Second, this skills section can also be captured by the employers' applicant tracking system (ATS). This program can be set up to capture the skills on your LinkedIn profile as the skills for their candidate database. Again, you can be viewed as unqualified for jobs if there are skills missing or that aren't related to your new path.

This means that you should take the time to pick the right skills for your new path. You will want to select the ones that reflect your expertise and related knowledge.

Influencers, Companies, Groups

Moving towards your dream job means that you will need to show genuine interest in the new field. You can do this by following companies and influencers. This will make you appear committed to the new field. The influencers can also provide some great advice on the targeted industries through their articles and ongoing contributions to the platform.

Make sure to also join some groups on LinkedIn. This will make networking easier. Joining groups will make it easier for you to connect with people that are in the field or profession that you are seeking. You could also leverage these groups to identify people that you can reach out to with personalized messages to learn more or to ask for advice.

Build and Engage Your Network

Now that you have a strong LinkedIn profile you should put it to work to land in the new career. This means building your professional network in the new industry or profession. Create connections, ask for advice, and start networking to land in your new career faster!