By Rachelle Lappinen
When I ask stay-at-home moms if they are on LinkedIn, I often here "no."
When I ask "Why not?" They often they tell me that it is not for them.
In their minds, LinkedIn is for professional networking, for people working and people looking to work.
However, many stay-at-home-moms plan to return to the workforce at some point in the future.
A recent study in Harvard Business Review found that these moms are half as likely to land a job interview as moms who were laid off.
As more than 70% of jobs are found through networking -- the loss of professional networks greatly reduces a stay-at-home mom's chance of finding a job.
As internet growth explodes, recruiters are relying more and more on finding talent via LinkedIn. Mothers who intend to return to the workforce must be present and active on LinkedIn.
Think of LinkedIn as your online resume. What you will need for "All Star" status:
According to LinkedIn, Profiles with photos are viewed 21 times more often than those without photos -- the difference between being visible and invisible in search results..
This is NOT your Facebook picture! Do not use a picture on a beach or with a glass of wine in your hand.
Choose a simple head and shoulders picture with good lighting. Professionally taken photos are preferred, but a good profile picture taken with a Smartphone could do nicely as well.
Pictures with your children do not tell the story of your being ready to return to the workforce. Additionally, be sure the picture is a recent photo - not from 10 years ago.
Bottom line: Iinclude a photo or most recruiters will not even bother to view your profile. For more details, read Why You Need a Photo on Your LinkedIn Profile (written by a recruiter).
Choose (and be endorsed) for at least 5 of your Skills (you can have up to 50 in your Profile). These are a major search criteria for recruiters -- very important and useful, but easy to ignore.
See Secret to Powerful LinkedIn Profile SEO: Leverage Skills & Endorsements for more information.
Experience should include all of your work history and volunteer experience (usually not beyond 20 years in the past)- use all these organizations, companies - to build your keywords and SEO and build your connections.
List these experiences as you would any summer or part-time job and elaborate on the skills you acquired and the accomplishments made. Unlike the resume, LinkedIn does not limit you on space.
Taking care of children is indeed work. In the experience section, you also may choose to include a mom section. Recent research has found that women have a better chance of landing a job if they are upfront and share the fact that their gap in employment is due to taking time off to raise children.
LinkedIn gives you more room to sell yourself than a traditional resume. Express yourself!
Think of it as a cover letter. Written in first person ("I am" vs. "She is"), the About section lets you voice your personality. Filling out this section can help you stand out from other people with similar education, skills, and experience.
For more help, read 5 Secrets ot a Knockout LinkedIn Profile Summary.
Be sure to include listings for all degrees and certificates earned, including the schools you attended, even if you did not complete your degree.
In this section, you can state that the degree is "in progress" and include a listing of courses completed. Including each educational institution helps build your network, as you become found and more closely connected to other LinkedIn members from the same schools.
Read Hidden LinkedIn Networking Power Tool: Education for details.
This helps recruiters by letting them know what industry you have experience in, and also helps you be found via SEO. The postal code lets employers and recruiters know you are within driving distance.
If you are planning to relocate, use the postal code of where you are planning to move, so that employers from that location will see that you are a local for them.
This is the "tagline" that is visible with your photo whenever your name appears inside of LinkedIn -- in search results, in LinkedIn Groups, etc..
This is one of the most important sections of your profile for SEO, and one of the most viewed by recruiters. If you do not customize your headline, LinkedIn will auto fill it with your most recent position.
Don't use "Mother of two kids" -- instead use keywords or titles. Remember Steven Covey's Habit - "begin with the end in mind" and use a headline that matches the job you want.
For more details, read Fast Formula for a Powerful LinkedIn Professional Headline.
The real power of LinkedIn is how it can help you connect and build your network.
One mother I know discovered that the hiring manager of a company she was applying to, was the wife of her daughter's baseball coach. This gave her an inside chance to have her resume reviewed, over hundreds of other applicants.
Connect with former colleagues, college classmates, and supervisors, but don't stop there.
Here is a list to help you get started:
Get a notebook, and write down everyone you know. Then search for them on LinkedIn, and connect (when you are sure you have found the right person - see the value of the picture?).
The power of LinkedIn, is that it allows you to see who your connections are connected with.
Groups are a great place on LinkedIn to connect with other people in your industry, to learn, and to contribute to industry discussions. LinkedIn allows you to join up to 50 Groups. Join groups related to your field or personal interest.
Similar to Groups, LinkedIn's Alumni section will allow you to find fellow alumni and filter for alumni who live in a certain area, work in your industry, for your target employers, etc. Following companies and joining alumni groups from your past companies also allows you to be closer connected with past co-workers.
Read LinkedIn Networking Power Tool: Education for details.
Don't skip this powerful part of LinkedIn. On Facebook, your friends and family have a pretty good idea of what you are up to.
A post on LinkedIn does the same -- only in a professional way, when used appropriately.
Don't confused Facebook with LinkedIn! Focus on sharing, liking, and commenting professionally. In general, stay positive and focused on professional topics (not the broken washing machine or your son's first day of school).
Share how you just volunteered for the Boys and Girls Club 5K race or a blog post you wrote (or found, writen by someone else) illustrating your industry knowledge.
LinkedIn has even given all members the ability to write long posts or blogs. Take advantage of this, to increase your visibility, credibility, and SEO.
Read How to Leverage LinkedIn Status Updates for Your Job Search (written by a recruiter) for more information.
LinkedIn is essential today! As the workforce and job search have changed so dramatically in the past decade, LinkedIn needs to be a polished tool in your job search toolbox. It is critical to stay connected and for recruiters and hiring managers to be able to find you online. Be sure to stay current and active -- doing so will increase your chances of landing your next job.
By day, Rachelle Lappinen, working mother of two, serves as a college and career advisor for GEAR UP. When Rachelle is not writing her blog or advising her students, she enjoys camping and going to the theater with her children. Follow Rachelle on Twitter at @RLappinen, connect with her on LinkedIn, and follow her blog SolutionsByRachelle.