#OpenToWork is Open for Debate: Good Idea or Bad?


After speaking with University of Florida PR students recently, I received LinkedIn connection requests from several of them—primarily seniors who are anxiously focused on what they’ll be doing upon graduation. Many of their LinkedIn profile photos were framed with the #OpenToWork hashtag.

While nobody debates the critical role LinkedIn plays in a job search, not everyone agrees with the network’s #OpenToWork profile photo frame. Seems to make sense for students, but how does it portray professionals?

Does it make job seekers look desperate or will it help draw more eyes to your profile? I asked a wide range of PR leaders, job seekers and recruiters to offer their opinions on the increasingly popular profile feature.

Many recruiters and their clients say they prefer to focus initially on currently employed individuals before considering unemployed job seekers, so one recruiter describes #OpenToWork as a “red flag.” Veteran PR leader Rich Jernstedt agrees.

“I have always wanted the candidate who is busy, being paid well, and kept motivated by management based on the value of the professional to his/her current employer,” Rich explained. “So, #HireMe and #OpentoWork are turn offs.

“Relying on graphics announcing “I’m available” suggests I am not being that targeted or strategic in my search.” Instead, he says job seekers should adopt their own version of the agency ABC Rule (“Always Be Recruiting”) which he dubs ABL (“Always Be Looking”),” Rich says. He favors candidates who have networked or otherwise been resourceful enough to get a resume or message to the right person in the company who may be hiring.

Jeff Altheide, global managing director of PROI, a global network of independent agencies, sees more positive than negatives to the #OpenToWork approach.

“If I was looking for a new position I’d want to expose my search to as many potential employers as possible and I think posting yourself as available might extend the reach,” Jeff says. “Of course, I think this would be one step in many you should use. Personal networking and targeted, thoughtful outreach for positions that fit your interests and skill set would seem to still be very important, even in the hot job market we see currently.”    

Veteran consultant Jed Weiner isn’t looking for a full-time job, but he adds the frame to his profile photo. He makes it clear in the About section that he is available for freelance  and contract assignments.

Bottom line, Jed says the hashtag does no harm. “At a subconscious level, it might make people think about you in different ways so it’s has low risk, high reward potential.”

Korn Ferry recruiter Peter McDermott emphasizes this is a particularly good time to be looking for a new job.

“If you are active on LinkedIn and other platforms, and well-networked, then recruiters will not have any challenges finding you for the opportunity, whether or not you are openly broadcasting,” Peter notes. “If you are starting out or a mid-level professional, then you can diplomatically show you are open to new roles with a click of a button on LinkedIn (the “open to opportunities” feature) which will result in recruiter outreach.”

Peter cautions others to be more cautious. “If you are at a certain level where you are a public spokesperson for your organization, or a CCO advising a CEO, then your leadership most likely will not appreciate you advertising your search, as it could impact the reputation of the overall brand.”

Anna Ferko, the University of Florida senior PR major featured at the top of this post, feels it is important for her to differentiate herself from her peers when looking for job opportunities.

“In my conversations with my professors about looking for jobs, they encourage me to take advantage of resources like LinkedIn as much as possible,” Anna explains. “One recruiter advised me to use the #OpenToWork frame as a supplement to a strong profile.”

Anna said it can be a tricky feature because not all opportunities coming to her inbox are what she wants to do, but she finds it to be a good conversation starter with new connections. Anna hopes future conversations lead her to financial and tech communications opportunities in Boston or New York.

Consultant Fred Siegman, who owns the Serial Connector® trademark, agrees with Anna’s self-advocacy on LinkedIn:

“When looking for a job, you need to advocate for yourself. Two LinkedIn things to do, first, add the #OpenToWork frame to your profile and then, tell your story in the About section why you’re a great candidate for the job you want.”

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