Managing a planned break from the workforce on your LinkedIn profile.
LinkedIn is a great way to share your professional online presence. It’s important to keep it up to date, even if you are taking an intentional break from the world of work. Sometimes it can be hard to know how and when to share this information. Below you will find advice around these types of situations.
LinkedIn is all about the workplace, so you never want to share too much personal information. Examples of too much detail would be sharing about a major health issue of your own or a loved one and trying to start a family or becoming pregnant. These types of situations may keep you out of work for an extended period. You need to be careful about putting this type of information out there because it may be used against you by a future employer.
Some personal information that shouldn’t hurt your employment prospects down the road might be planning to move your geographic location, taking a break from work to attend school, or taking a sabbatical. These types of activities might make you more marketable to a potential employer down the road.
If you will only be away for a brief amount of time, I would not go into too much detail on your plans. A few months away from work is just a blip in the bigger scheme of your career. However, if you plan to be away for longer and you don’t plan to jump back into the job market right away, you can choose to share a little more about your circumstances.
The About section on your profile is a free form field which allows lots of space (2600 characters) to explain more about what you do and what motivates you. This can be a good section to utilize if you are having to explain time away from work. Without giving too much personal information, you can share what you have been doing while out of the workforce. If appropriate, you can address your reasons for leaving or returning to the workforce.
The Experience section is another place on your profile to address a gap. In this section, you will have to fill in the fields of Employer, Dates and Title. Even though these are the set fields, you can be creative with what you include. Even though this section implies it should be filled in with W-2 type work, there are many people who fill this section in with other types of experiences. You can include an entry that lists volunteering or consulting to show your current status. Beware of adding an entry that says you are “consulting” with few details to back it up. It may look disingenuous.
In some cases, it may make more sense to mention a gap after it has happened. For example, I took off a year to travel the Asian Pacific Rim in 2003. At that time, I did not include my travels on my LinkedIn profile. I feared my next employer would worry when I might plan to take off again. However, after many years, I decided to add an entry in my Experience section that accounted for that span of time. From September 2003 to October 2004, I have listed my employer as World Traveler and my title as Global Sabbatical. Having that on my profile allows people to see that my life experience has included learning about worldwide cultures. This has been helpful when working with global professionals and multinational organizations.
Whatever your reason for taking time away from the workforce, give some thought as to how you will reflect this on your profile to lay the foundation for when you plan to return to work.