When you are openly job-searching, LinkedIn is a fantastic platform to set out your stall. Your network is there and recruiters too, actively searching for talent in your field. It makes sense to claim your profile and use it to your advantage.

A key element of your LinkedIn profile is your headline, which appears in search results alongside your name, photo, location, and industry. At its best, this 120-character descriptive field will entice the reader to visit your profile and find out more. At it’s worst, it will tell them nothing, or nothing of interest, causing them to scroll on by.

Obviously, you should make the most of the opportunity your headline presents to nail your first impression but, when you are openly job-seeking, should you use it to indicate your availability for opportunities?

Some LinkedIn members do use their headline to state exactly this. They use phrases like:

>> Looking for / open to / available for / seeking / considering new opportunities / roles

>> Actively seeking work / employment / a new role / the next challenge

>> Currently in transition

>> Exploring new options

>> Looking for work / a new role / a job

>> Available for work / employment / permanent and contract opportunities

Let me present some arguments for and against this approach.

In support of this tactic:

>> If you don’t tell your network and recruiters you are available, how will they know?

>> Some recruiters do search for active candidates who are ‘seeking’ or ‘available’ along with relevant keywords as a way to source available talent.

On the other hand:

>> Using these phrases eats into your 120-character headline allocation, space you can use to present keywords or to share the benefit you can deliver, if hired.

>> Such wording can make you appear vulnerable and even desperate, especially if your ‘actively seeking’ headline hangs around LinkedIn for a while.

As I see it, the main problem with these phrases is that in isolation, without any context, they just aren’t meaningful to your target reader. They convey nothing, other than the fact you don’t currently have a job. You may think that your summary and experience sections give the required context but, remember, they don’t show up in search results and, unless your headline hooks your target, these sections will never get seen.

Going back to the stall analogy, it’s the equivalent of having ‘Buy here!’, ‘Buy now!’ signs all over your produce. ‘Available today!’, the placards might say. But what are they selling? Wouldn’t a more effective sales tactic be to focus on the quality of the offering? ‘Mouth-watering juicy peaches!’ ‘Sweet cherries here!’ Rather than focusing on your employment status (Unemployed/Available), shouldn’t you use this space to sell your value proposition to your next employer?

To be effective, these words should be paired with phrasing that tells who you are, where you are heading, and what you plan to do there. The following 120-character headlines combine both, telling the reader more about the candidate and what they want to do:

PRINCE2 Project Manager Seeking New Challenge | Keen to Support Timely, Quality Delivery of IT Transformation Programmes

Executive MBA Graduate, XYZ Business School | Seeking a Challenging Internship with a Leading Financial Services Company

These formulas may help to get you started:

>> (add target role title) ready to (add benefit you deliver) for (company or client descriptor)

>> (add target role title) now ready for my next (add functions / skills) role

>> (add target role title) who (solves what problem) for (who) | Seeking new opportunities

>> Career Target: (add target role title) | (add keywords)

Of course, you don’t have to advertise your availability in a headline. You could opt to use every one of those 120 characters to promote your offering.

Alternatives to announcing your job search in your headline

A call-to-action in your summary

An alternative (or supplement) to the ‘availability’ headline is to add a line to your summary, indicating your readiness for new opportunities. This could be along the lines of:

I would be interested to connect if you are a career changer in need of an interview-winning CV. Call me on (add number) to find out more.

Your current position

When your last bona fide role has well and truly ended, you may feel the need to add a new role to LinkedIn, to maintain your ‘all-star’ profile status and/or to communicate your availability.

If your last job ended recently, you could simply add an end date and leave your recent employment history as that, without raising too many eyebrows. Being in-between jobs is part of life, it happens. However, as time progresses you may wish to fill the gap.

You can add a current job entry to LinkedIn even when you haven’t secured the next role as such.

If you are freelancing, working on a consultancy basis, or completing a series of short-term contracts whilst job-seeking, you can group recent experiences under a single role entry. Assuming that your work reflects your target, use the space to highlight your suitability for your target job, using relevant keywords and demonstrating the kind of results you hope to deliver in a more permanent role.

Even if you are not currently in any kind of employment, you can add a new entry under experience to explain your current status. Avoid lengthy explanations that highlight the negative or words like unemployed or redundant, for example. Instead, use your current position to increase your LinkedIn searchability. Use the space to pitch your offering in terms of your target.

In your title field, you could use one of the following approaches:

>> Seeking (add role title)

>> Career Target: (add role title)

>> Aspiring (add role title)

>> Freelance (add role title)

>> (add role title) in transition

>> Seeking a position with a (add descriptor of target company)

In your company name field, you could use one of the following approaches:

>> Freelance

>> Self-Employed

>> Seeking New Opportunities

Beware of filling both company name and title fields in with ‘seeking new opportunities’. If you forget to amend your headline, LinkedIn would then autofill it with ‘seeking opportunities at seeking opportunities’ – not terribly inspiring. In fact, make sure not to present an auto-filled LinkedIn headline, it isn’t the best use of this premium space.

I’d recommend keeping a tab on how long your placeholder job entry remains. Adjust your privacy settings to avoid LinkedIn publically congratulating you on your one-year work anniversary at ‘Seeking new opportunities’, for example.

Over to you

Whether you share your employment status in your LinkedIn headline is a personal choice, and you have to do what feels right to you. Whatever you decide, make the most of this 120-character opportunity to share who you are, where you are heading, and the benefit you can deliver once in that role. Your headline can project you forward, showcasing you for your next role when it has yet to materialise.