DEAR READERS: Have you ever thought about changing careers? Not just going to a different company but a total career makeover? It's not an unusual situation, but it can pose challenges during the job search. How can someone who wants to completely change careers — teacher to marketing professional or retail manager to chef, for example — tailor their LinkedIn profile to give them the best shot at getting interviews for positions in a new career field?
Career coach Carlota Zimmerman has helped many clients tackle this task, and she has some advice for anyone embarking on a job search in a new profession.
"The first thing to understand is that LinkedIn is all about perception, so you want to present yourself as a professional invested in your field," Zimmerman says. "If you are changing said field, a good place to start would be to look up people on LinkedIn who already are in your desired industry and note what buzz terms, what types of profile photos they use — make note of everything."
With those notes in hand, focus on building a LinkedIn profile that will generate interest. Industry pros say there are several ways to tackle that task.
Hone the headline
The headline is the first thing people will see when they click on your profile, so make it a good one, says Alicia Mitchell, founder of Spark Resumes.
"The headline should be used to show what types of positions interest a job seeker and give the reader a glimpse into who they are or would like to be as a professional," she says.
"That teacher who wants to transition to marketing, for example, could write, 'Aspiring marketer ready to educate your future customers,' while the retail manager hankering for a food-service career could post 'Evolving chef prepared for your kitchen,'" Mitchell suggests. "In the summary section of the LinkedIn profile, you go into more detail about why you want to make the shift in your career."
Fine-tune your photo
That old saying "A picture is worth a thousand words" applies here, according to Zimmerman, who suggests putting "a powerful profile and backscreen photo" on your LinkedIn profile.
"Last year, I helped a vet client of mine, who was transitioning from the military to the private sector, land a great job, simply because we put up a new backscreen photo — the image behind the profile photo that all too many leave blue. The new images caught the attention of a good headhunter, and the rest is history," she says.
That advice comes from Helen Godfrey, a certified career counselor with The Authentic Path.
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"In the LinkedIn summary, you can be a little bit more chatty than in a resume," says Godfrey, who stresses that career changers should find a way to explain how their background has prepared them for the role they're seeking.
"Think about the other tasks you enjoyed in your last role and how you might use those skills now — connect the dots for the reader," Godfrey says.
Really use your profile
"If you're transitioning, share links to the business/industry, books, movies, conferences you're attending," says Zimmerman, who also stresses the important role social media can play. "Use smart hashtags; LinkedIn will help you there. Make your feed interesting so that people who don't even know you start following you because you seem to know what's going on."
How can you do that?
"Write smart, concise and relevant pieces on what you do know, what you're learning," Zimmerman explains. "Share your passion with me. Let me see that you're passionate and engaged in what you're doing, or even trying to do, and I'll be intrigued."
Expand your experience
There are so many opportunities to get at least cursory experience in areas you might be lacking in; take them, says Debra Boggs, co-founder of D&S Professional Coaching.
"Complete courses or certifications to gain industry-specific knowledge," Boggs suggests.
Volunteer opportunities also can provide hands-on experience.
"Are you transitioning to social-media management, cybersecurity, software development? Find organizations that would be willing to let you do projects for them to gain experience," Boggs says. "Then, list this work in detail on your resume and LinkedIn profile to increase relevant keywords and hands-on experience."
Kathleen Furore is a Chicago-based writer and editor. You can email her your career questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.