If you’re gearing up to make a significant change in career paths, you probably already know that now is the time to be putting your best networking foot forward. And that includes how you’re presenting yourself on online networking platforms, like LinkedIn, too.
Any time you’re planning to change companies — but particularly if that change involves moving across industries — it’s essential that your network be aware of what your unique value proposition is and how it can specifically apply to the type of role you’re after. And if you’ve gotten overly comfortable with your elevator pitch after being in the same line of work so long, learning now to reframe that can be tricky.
That’s why Jane Heifetz, contributing editor to the Harvard Business Review, cautioned career changers against the temptation of creating an “everything under the sink” LinkedIn presence in an HBR guide she wrote. By failing to narrow down your experience and skill sets in a specific, relevant way, Heifetz says the end result often feels garbled and unfocused. Instead, she recommends that professionals on the cusp of a career change utilize their LinkedIn profile in the following five ways:
1. Ditch the auto-generated headline.
LinkedIn will auto-generate a headline for you consisting of your current job title. Erase that, and use those 120 characters to write something eye catching and relevant to your intended field instead.
“If I’m searching for someone like you on LinkedIn, my search results will reveal only your name and headline — and I could easily overlook you,” Heifetz wrote. “But if you write an irresistible headline, I’ll take the time to click to your entire profile.”
2. Tell a story in your summary.
Your summary is a potentially powerful opportunity to tell your professional story in a way that connects past experience to your intended new path.
“Tell a compelling story and write it in the first person,” she wrote. “Craft a cohesive narrative that pulls together what might otherwise appear to be fragmented pieces of your professional past. This will avoid leaving your profile reader wondering what the heck you’re trying to do now — or why you appear scattered and unfocused.”
3. Tailor your experience.
Once you’ve properly angled your headline and summary, it’s time to take the same approach to your profile’s experience section. Heifetz recommends continuing to write in first person, as well as honing in your accomplishments (not just your responsibilities).
“Highlight only the accomplishments most relevant to the new type of work you’re seeking,” she wrote. “Make those accomplishments concrete by noting the problem you solved, how, and the specific results you generated.”
4. Use the Recommendations feature wisely.
Heifetz advises taking a “less is more” approach here.
“Sparingly add recommendations to selected positions — the ones most relevant to the new type of work you’re seeking,” she wrote. “Invite one or two people to recommend you. And don’t hesitate to direct their testimonials; you’ll make it easier and faster for them, and more effective for you. Tell them exactly the type of positions you’re now targeting and the skills you’d like them to highlight.”
5. Finally, use images and content in a way that boosts relevancy in your new field.
Further cement your professional brand’s new direction by including eye-catching photos, articles, and media samples that strategically speak to your new path.
“As with any LinkedIn profile, use images and media samples to draw attention to your most impressive accomplishments,” she wrote. “Add them only to the positions you want your new profile readers to focus on.”
By taking an active approach to how your LinkedIn presence is curated, versus using the platform as a passive catchall of past experiences, you’ll be that much further ahead in pivoting your path to the one you want to be on.