How to Represent Your Unique Career Path on Your LinkedIn Profile [SLIDESHARE]

April 17, 2014


Most career paths today are not linear—people hold temporary roles, take on new roles within the same company, take time off, have gaps of unemployment, and even change industries altogether. Our career paths are not meant to be simple, and the truth is, some of our most trying career (and life) moments can teach us the most.

Wherever your personal career journey has taken you, it’s important to figure out how to communicate that story to a potential employer. Here’s how to represent the following scenarios on your LinkedIn Profile:

Learning how to handle these alternative employment scenarios on your LinkedIn Profile will bolster your confidence, attract attention from hiring managers, and lead to more interviews for the jobs you want.

Career changes

It’s common to develop new interests throughout the course of your career, and the secret to successfully doing so is learning how to articulate your rationale to hiring managers. Steve Levy, Principal at The Recruiting Inferno, believes humor can help. He says, “Hiring Managers have to realize that most people make career swerves. Talking about those non-linear paths with humor and insight is my style.” Steve helped Nick D’Antonio, a LinkedIn member, re-write his resume to reflect his change of heart about law school. Take a look at how Nick handles this directional shift on his LinkedIn Profile:

This approach isn’t for everyone, but it matches Nick personality and demonstrates the resiliency through uncertainty.

Long-term unemployment

It’s becoming more common for hiring managers to address long-term unemployment periods during the hiring process, so it’s wise to be prepared to address it openly and honestly.

Sharyn Lauby, President of ITM Group, observed that successful candidates with long-term gaps list out the activities they pursued during their unemployment periods in a similar way as employment positions. If you list volunteer activities, remember to include your accomplishments just as you would with any job.

Consider this example from a senior Human Resources executive who experienced a long-term unemployment period:

Focus on the skills, responsibilities, and experiences you had during your volunteer activities, and present them in a way that translates to the workplace.

At-home periods (Parenting, illness, or family member care)   

We are more than our careers, and many people make the decision to take time off from work to raise their families. It’s a personal decision that most employers and hiring managers understand. Here’s one way to represent your stay-at-home period:

Representing a personal illness or family member care is trickier, and HR advice is mixed. Some HR experts recommend never discussing healthcare issues, in case your health issues impact the hiring decision, but some people prefer to be honest. One approach is to label periods of health-related unemployment as sabbaticals, which suggests that the time off was planned but does not give a direct cause for the break.

If you do decide you want to disclose the reason for your medical leave, here’s one way to address it directly:

If you decide to disclose family leave, one option is keep your profile optimized with your most recent title in the title section, and then write a few indicate that you are taking interim assignments while on family leave.

Part-time positions

Part-time employment is a common scenario, and it’s best to be straightforward when addressing it on your LinkedIn Profile.

The example below is by someone who worked full-time at a company in a staff-level marketing role, but was promoted into a part-time manager role because there was no need for a full-time marketing manager.

The employee treated this promotion like any other promotion, while also directly calling out that it was part-time.

Temp-to-hire scenarios     

Landing a temporary position is a great way to work towards a full-time role within a company. If you are converted to a full-time hire, be proud! Make sure to indicate that you transitioned into a direct hire position from your temporary role. The employee below used a bullet point to call out his transition from a temporary manager to full-time.

Your career path is as unique as you are, and you should never feel pressure to conform to a standard career progression. By effectively positioning your non-linear career path on your LinkedIn Profile, you will catch the eye of hiring managers and set a clearer understanding of what you’ve accomplished in your career.