50+ job seeker? Tweet your way to a new career
Most older job hunters are comfortable with basic business technology— computers, the Web, email and smart phones. But we still have some Luddites out there – you know who you are – trying to squeak by, hoping to finish their working years without getting fluent in technology.
That’s especially true of social media tools like LinkedIn and Twitter, which can play a big role in helping job hunters find new work in a hard-times economy.
“The first time I looked at Twitter, I thought ‘what is this thing?’,” says Lee Silverstein, who is transitioning to a new career at age 50, following 29 years in management jobs with major department stores — most recently Macy’s, where he focused on training and leadership development.
“When I started the blog, I saw that I did have something to say, and I started sharing my thoughts,” he says. In a short time, Silverstein has built an audience of 600 followers for his tweets and blog posts on leadership development and mentoring. “It’s about making yourself findable,” he says. “Just sitting and going through the job boards won’t get you where you want to be. You’ve got to give people a reason to discover you.”
In a tough job market, it’s hard to overstate the importance of networking, differentiating yourself and highlighting the value you can bring to an employer. Social media platforms offer some important means to those ends through sharing expertise and making new connections. But older job hunters can be at a competitive disadvantage.
“I dont think it’s a factor of age alone – it’s a comfort level using the tools,” says Miriam Salpeter, a job search and social media coach, and author of Social Networking for Career Success: Using Online Tools to Create a Personal Brand. “People who don’t enjoy social media don’t want to feel they will be sucked in, and tied down by it all the time. And with Twitter, some just don’t think they can communicate a full thought in 140 characters. I find that it helps to have targets and goals to use these things well.”
Sharing expertise can be as simple as sharing a link to a relevant article or webpage alongside your own comment, or answering a question in a LinkedIn forum.
But at a more basic level, using social media can help you to get past doubts hiring managers may have about you as an older applicant. “If you are using LinkedIn, have a blog and you’re on Twitter, it’s going to be hard for people to assume that you can’t learn new things,” Salpeter says.
Silverstein – a coaching client of Salpeter’s – agrees. “There’s a perception out there that once you hit a certain age you give up on technology. People over 50 looking to transition into a new career or grow a business need to shake that off. Take the time to make yourself relevant.”
Salpeter views LinkedIn as the “must have” tool for every job seeker, but Twitter is her favorite platform – mainly because its networking features aren’t built around personal introductions or recommendations. “It’s so open,” she says. “You find out things about people, mentors and colleagues without needing an introduction. “You don’t need an intermediary to find out what people are doing.
Salpeter likes to tie it all together via a “social resume” – a personal website with your name in the domain name that showcases expertise and hubs together all your social media profiles. (See Lee Silverstein’s site for an example.)
She also encourages job hunters to jump into Twitter chats to share ideas and tips with other job hunters and experts, and to expand networks. A current favorite is the hashtag #jobhuntchat, one of the largest regular chat groups on Twitter devoted to job search. The group convenes every Monday evening at 10p.m. EST.
Salpeter cautions job seekers that social media won’t necessarily produce immediate results. “It’s not an overnight endeavor,” she says. “But sometimes it just takes one person to land a job.”