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What should your LinkedIn title be?

(MoneyWatch) Dear Evil HR Lady,

My temporary position will be ending in a month, and I'm trying to apply to the most relevant jobs out there, temp or perm. My question is this: When the job wraps, do I keep my current title on LinkedIn or change it to something goofy like "seeking an exciting new opportunity!" I wouldn't think it was a big deal but several companies I am applying to are using an "Apply with LinkedIn" option so I can't help but think they are checking, and I don't want to misrepresent myself.

Personally, I hate the "seeking an exciting new opportunity!" headline, although it does make it abundantly clear that you are looking for a new job. Other people may love it.

There is no super big secret for what your LinkedIn headline should be, as recruiters have vastly different ideas about what is good and what is bad. However, there is one very important thing that (I think) all recruiters and hiring managers will agree on: Your LinkedIn headline/title needs to be honest.

While you're still employed writing, "Jane Doe, Accountant with Acme Inc" is fine. After you leave that job you can have "Jane Doe, Accountant" and not be lying, as you are an accountant even if you're not currently working as one. Leaving the company name up, though, makes it look like you're trying to be dishonest.

Now, is it expected that you'll update your LinkedIn profile immediately when your job ends? Not generally, but as you are actively seeking a job, having an up to date LinkedIn profile is critical in today's environment. Most jobs are found through networking and LinkedIn is a tool that helps with that. (It's not the only tool, and don't expect it to find a job for you.) So, if you are both unemployed and actively job seeking, we kind of expect that your profile will be up to date. (Not having one isn't a career killer, but having one and having it out of date is a bad thing.)

Recruiters and hiring managers alike will look at your profile. They'll look at your title. They'll look at your connections. They'll look at your picture (so please, no cleavage shots, pets or -- shudder -- children!) in your picture. (Caveat, if you're a veterinarian or something, I guess a picture with a cute puppy couldn't hurt, but everyone else, this is your LinkedIn Profile, not Fluffy's.)

Personally, for the currently unemployed, I'm a fan of a general description of what you do and what you're looking for. "Experienced Tax Accountant," "HR Professional adept at leading people and developing teams," or "Retail Executive." They don't point to specific title or company, but make it clear what area you are looking for.

So, yes, keep your LinkedIn title up to date. Be honest in what you are doing and good luck with the job search.

For further reading:
How to work with a recruiter on LinkedIn
Job hunting secret: The recruiter is not on your side
Should work for the family biz be on your resume?

Have a workplace dilemma? Send your questions to

Photo courtesy of Flickr user KirrilyRobert.

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