While many aspects of job hunting are pretty black-and-white, and you’ll find a strong consensus out there about the right and wrong ways to do certain things, I always love to call attention to those career-related issues that are “on the fence” and where a fair amount of gray area exists, even among experts.

One such issue that fits this profile is the question of whether or not somebody should actively publicize their unemployment status on social networking websites.  Should you insert a phrase like “Project Manager Looking for Work” in your LinkedIn profile headline, for example, or simply say “Project Manager” instead and let your audience (employers and recruiters, ideally) reach out to you if they’re interested in finding out more about your availability?

As I said, there’s some pretty solid debate taking place on this matter, some of which you’ll find discussed here on a recent LinkedIn Answers thread.  At the present time, 16 people (many of whom are career coaching or recruiting professionals) have weighed in on this question and offered their opinion as to whether it hurts or helps a candidate’s image to announce their job-hunting status openly in the social networking universe.  The jury is pretty divided.  I’d estimate about two-thirds of the respondents recommend that a person trumpet their employment status publicly via their profile.  As one contributor puts it, if you’re unemployed, “you need to shout from the rooftops that you are out of work, need a job, and need help.”  On the flip side, another contributor argues that “Advertising that your brand is ‘looking for work’ weakens your brand image tremendously. Contrary to what others have posted, recruiters and many hiring managers do not want unemployed job seeker candidates.”

And then there are the folks, like me, who are fairly neutral on the issue and can appreciate the arguments for both sides.  This view was summed up by one respondent as: “This

[issue] is certainly a catch-22.  On one hand if you don’t let people know, then you may miss opportunities.  On the other hand, if you spend too much time or advertise your needs too heavily, then people will be reluctant to contact you.”

So at the end of the day, what’s the answer?  Should you deck out your profile with lots of “hire me, I’ve available!” statements or keep your cards close to your chest?  Clearly there’s no unanimous answer to this question, even among people who advise job hunters for a living.  My own personal view, however, is that it probably DOES make sense to announce your availability on your profile if 1) you’re unemployed and not searching confidentially; and 2) you do so in a way that is interesting, engaging, and positive.

On this latter point, for example, I wouldn’t advise a person to add something boring and desperate-sounding to their profile like “Looking for work” or “Seeking next opportunity.”   To me, these types of stock phrases instantly trigger undesirable impressions/emotions and would probably hurt a candidate’s marketability.  Additionally, they instantly reinforce the notion that a person isn’t very creative or goal-oriented in their approach to finding their next assignment.  At minimum, apply some creative copywriting skills and say something with a little more flair like “CFO Seeking to Join Growth-Oriented Consumer Products Firm” or “Account Executive for Hire w/ Pacific NW Territory Management Expertise” or “Recruiting Manager for Hire: Let Me Find You Some Rock Stars!”  Jazz it up a little.  And if you really want to go all-in, don’t just change your LinkedIn Headline, but add a few sentences to your Summary section, as well, describing your ideal employer and the type of role you’re targeting.  Or even consider sending frequent blurbs out to your network via the “Network Updates” box on the Home page of LinkedIn, keeping people posted on your job search goals and progress.

Those are my thoughts on the matter.  What are yours?  Wait, wait, don’t tell me.  Instead, since this seems like a great question for my next Career Poll, stay tuned for another post in just a few minutes, where you can cast your vote on the matter…