The professional headline on LinkedIn is the line that shows up directly below your name. For example, here’s mine:
One of the most common questions I get about the professional headline, from people who are looking for a new job, is: what do I put here? Do I put the title I used to have, or do I put that I’m open to new opportunities (or any of the dozen other ways to say that)?
For a while, my answer was to focus on your value. What do you bring to the table? That is what you should put there. The reason I said this is because the professional headline is one of the first branding impressions that someone can get about you, and in some cases, it’s the ONLY branding impression they might see of you on LinkedIn. Don’t be too generic or vague… have a solid branding statement that accurately depicts your strengths now, and where you are headed.
Then, I heard about a friend’s husband who changed his professional headline to show that he was a consultant (I think that is what he did). He immediately had a very interesting reaction: people congratulated him for this big step in his career. He did this so that he could “fill a gap on his resume.” This is why a lot of job seekers become quote-consultants-unquote. The unintended impact of changing from “looking for work” to “consultant” is that his friends essentially said “great job, now you have landed, and I don’t have to worry about helping you anymore :)” He quickly realized what he did and changed his professional headline back.
The argument for putting “I’m looking” is that it let’s people know you are open, and could even use some help (networking introductions, referrals, etc.). It also tells recruiters and hiring managers that you are available immediately, and don’t have to tie up the same loose ends that someone in a job would have to tie up.
The argument for NOT putting “I’m looking” is that it might make you look like used material, and worse, that recruiters and decision-makers might discriminate against you because you are not employed. This is a real thing, but I think that since 2006, it’s gotten a lot better (since so many people were out of work). My argument, especially in the early days, has been to focus on what you bring to the table (your skills, passions, etc.), not on your employment status.
Note: Do not put your past title… unless (a) it is the exact same title that you are looking for next, and (b) really, and simply, communicates what your brand is.
So, those are the two sides…. what do you think? What should someone put in their professional headline, if they are unemployed, or looking for a new job?