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Should you add a consulting job on LinkedIn while unemployed?

Executive consultant
Executive consultant

Looking for your next executive role while out of work?

Like many others, you might be tempted to add a placeholder “consulting” role on LinkedIn – if only to escape the prompts that keep asking you for a current job.

However, there are ramifications for adding a consulting gig (real or imagined) to your LinkedIn Profile. Even if you’re truly consulting on the side as an interim executive, adding this job might not be to your benefit.

Before you add the title of Consultant during your executive job search, take stock of these best practices for deciding whether to use it on LinkedIn:

1 – Realize that a consulting job won’t cover for you.

Recruiters often see “consulting” as code for “unemployed.” This is especially true if your last several roles were traditional, upwardly mobile executive roles.

Showing a progression such as Operations Director, VP Operations, and COO, with “Consultant” trailing it, is a big tipoff that you’re casting about for something to do. Add dishonesty to the mix, and you can create a problem where none exists.

So if you’re trying to mask the fact that you’re out of work, don’t go there. Just let your last executive role hang in the balance and show the level of authority you're accustomed to holding.

2 – Decide whether your actual consulting gig aligns with your goal.

If you’re actually performing consulting services (even if you’re not being paid), then decide if it’s worth upending your executive track record to list this as your interim employment.

Here’s why: a consulting role unrelated to your primary career goal distorts your brand message and makes it look like your goal has changed.

For example, if you’ve been a CFO, and now you’re serving as an advisor during tax season, it might look like you’re opening up shop under using a CPA license. This is very distracting to employers seeking a CFO, and they might question why your Profile doesn't align with your CFO resume.

However, if your temp job is evaluating the business case for a switch to cloud technology, and your regular role is CIO, it can make sense to list yourself as a CIO or CEO advisor.

3 – Ensure what you add to LinkedIn fits your brand.

If you do opt to list your consulting employment on LinkedIn, find out if you can use the contracted employer’s details, such as the size of a project or the scope of your consulting budget.

If the company name is prominent (and they’ll let you show it), go back to Tip #2 and decide if the company brand makes sense for your career.

A Fortune 500 executive history, when combined with a consulting role at XYZ Small Company, won’t do much for your job search. Neither will a role at a large manufacturing company – if you’ve always worked in the entertainment industry.

4 – Add the consulting role only if you’ve been on the job for at least 6 months.

Showing a shorter job on LinkedIn, then continuing to look for a new executive role, will poison the minds of employers who think you’re job hopping.

Therefore, you’ll need to ensure the interim work will last long enough that it fits as a solid addition to your value message, while not rushing to show a gig that only lasted a few weeks.

In short, employers might see right through your use of a consulting job on LinkedIn – especially if you’re trying to cover up a period of executive unemployment.

Rather than confuse or turn off recruiters, it’s best to look at your consulting role with a critical eye to see if it fits your job search strategy – and sends the right message.

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