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How to crush it on LinkedIn...even after a career break

How to crush it on LinkedIn...even after a career break
Image: African American businesswoman holding baby
JGI / Getty Images/Blend Images

With more than 500 million members, 6.5 million job postings and now, even its own online classes (LinkedIn Learning), LinkedIn is a prolific resource for job seekers. LinkedIn offers a great way to network, keep current on industry news, showcase your accomplishments, publish and share articles and build your personal brand.

Oftentimes, it’s also the first place an employer will look for you. So if you’re considering a return to work, it’s time to embrace LinkedIn.

Katie Fogarty founded Reboot after a communications career that spanned Capitol Hill, television news and corporate America. She now helps people and companies create communication strategies and content. One of her specialties is helping individuals get noticed by transforming their professional identities on LinkedIn. Her company’s motto is “Get Discovered.” And the profiles she writes ensure that clients do just that.

Katie helped me transform my somewhat blah, out of date, mixed-up profile into this. And, here ‘s Katie’s LinkedIn profile.

Here is Katie’s advice for creating your best LinkedIn profile

Start with a great headline.

You need a strong headline that tells what you do. The headline, which is limited to 120 characters, should include key words that share your expertise and what you have to offer. It’s the most prominent part on your LinkedIn profile, and Katie says it needs to serve as a “quick and powerful elevator pitch.”

For example, a terrific headline for someone who worked in lobbying and has an MBA is: Government Relations & Business Operations | Strong Analytic, Writing & Management Ability | MBA

Or, for someone who worked in the executive suite, a strong headline could be something like: C-Level Operations & Management Support. You can always just keep it simple and add “pro” or “experienced,” to your title, depending on your experience. For example, “Experienced Sales Leader,” “Financial Services Pro” and Experienced Content Developer” are all headlines that jump off the page.

Let your “summary” tell your story.

The summary section should be a profile that tells your professional story and defines your personal brand. It should tell what sets you apart, what your “secret sauce” is. If you’re job hunting, it should focus on your past work and skills.

Summaries on LinkedIn – unlike a typical resume – tell a story and increasingly use the first person. The summary gives readers a chance to connect with a person’s personality and identify with their experience. This section is a critical component of your personal brand; summaries can have 2,000 characters.

“The new LinkedIn interface places increased importance on the first two lines of the summary which are now the only two lines seen without clicking through the drop down. Viewers can click through and read more. But since not all will, the first two lines should capture your value proposition directly and quickly,” advises Katie.

So…what do I focus on in my summary if I have not worked for a few/years or decades?

You need to identify your value to current employers. Think about what in your past work history (and current life) makes you marketable today. This is a combination of your expertise built in with your past work life and the steps you’ve taken to remain current, like continuing education, volunteer work and any new interests that fuel your pivot or return.

If you have been a full-time parent and out of the workforce for more than three years, Katie says you should identify some of your story around your recent years, whether it is volunteer work, child rearing or part-time work.


The experience section is where you have your traditional resume.

You want to capture the eye of a recruiter, so you will want to use keywords in your job titles to improve your SEO.

LinkedIn puts all experience descriptors into a drop down section which viewers need to click through to see. Many people don’t take the time to click through and read long descriptions. So, keep your job descriptions to one to three tightly written summary sentences, and for much older roles, no descriptors at all.

For each job, after the description, bullet list key accomplishments, and wherever possible, quantify results.

What about volunteering?

Work is work and if you’ve spent time at home in active volunteer roles, or you’ve added skills through continuing education, that information belongs on LinkedIn.

Hiring managers place value on volunteer work. Present a 360 degree picture of yourself. An employer in the medical or wellness industry will appreciate your success in running the annual fundraiser for your local hospital even if they are hiring you for an HR role.

Part time ‘mom’ jobs count also. If you've had sales roles for companies such as Stella & Dot or BeautyCounter, or if you've been moonlighting as a yoga instructor, get these roles on LinkedIn,” Katie told me.

Get a great, professional photo

Book a professional headshot for your LinkedIn profile. No selfies, blurry, cutesy or old photos. Take a look at some LinkedIn profile photos and see the difference a great photo makes.

Get connected

Once your profile is refreshed and ready to go, start connecting with people. It’s a great way to reach out to former colleagues and let them know you are looking for a job.

Add skills

A strong, robust skills section is critical to being discovered on LinkedIn by recruiters and hiring managers, industry leaders and your network. Skills are keyword rich, boost search metrics and allow you to earn endorsements from connections. LinkedIn allows for up to 50 skills, so make sure your competencies are represented.

Add recommendations

Ask former colleagues, employers or current friends for testimonials. Katie says to source your recommendations so that you wind up with a mix of people and employers who will endorse you for specific skill sets. She recommends using the top three skills in your skills section as the blueprint for your endorsement strategy.

It’s Easy. Really.

“It's time to dive into LinkedIn,” Katie says. “Women are wired to share. LinkedIn is the ultimate professional social network, and getting a profile up is free, simpler than you think and it will put a world of resources, contacts and people at your finger tips. LinkedIn is a true door opener. I promise!”

One final note

When you are updating your profile, make sure to adjust the privacy settings by disabling “sharing profile edits." This prevents your network from receiving messages each time you make a change.

Need Help?

Katie Fogarty can be reached at