Yes, job seekers over 50 should continue to attend in-person industry meetings and networking events. But in the era of online resumes and social media, professional networking also means being proficient and active with a range of Internet and social networking tools—tools that most job hunters in their 20s and 30s find as simple and natural as walking down the street.
To be competitive, here’s what you need to do.
1. Have a current profile on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. The popular micro-blogging platforms LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are probably the most efficient way of making sure everyone you know knows that you are looking for a job, and can help spread the word. But don’t limit yourself to announcing your job search; use these tools to play up your professional expertise by answering questions and participating in groups relevant to your field.
- LinkedIn. “I used to look for jobs through recruiters, but now hiring companies contact me directly through LinkedIn,” says a Vibrant Nation member. “The larger your network, the more likely your name will come up in a search by prospective employers. They are more likely to hire you because they don’t have to pay a recruiter’s fee and they feel more confident in hiring someone they have found through networking.”
Mary Harvey, owner of a staffing and recruiting agency, uses LinkedIn to make business contacts and as a recruiting tool. “It allows me to meet and learn about people quickly,” she says. “LinkedIn can put you in touch with people who work in same business or industry, people who can help you professionally. You can join groups and conversations, and find out what’s going on in different cities in your industry. You meet people you wouldn’t have time to meet otherwise. It’s slower than Facebook, but compared to Facebook, more serious, businesslike people (i.e. the people I prefer to recruit) use LinkedIn.”
- Facebook. Facebook is similar to LinkedIn, but can feel much more social, depending on how you build your network. “It’s lifestyle networking vs. the business networking on LinkedIn,” says Mary Harvey. “You may find more personalities and talk about what movies to watch or books to read.” But the popularity of Facebook makes it a great tool for spreading the word about your job search.
- Twitter. “Twitter allows for very limited call-and-response actions,” says online entrepreneur and VN member BostonMargy. “It’s also being spammed to death by businesses that use it the wrong way.” Used right, however, Twitter can help you make valuable contacts in your field. “When using Twitter, try to connect with like minds who share your interests and passions,” says a Vibrant Nation member. “Try this link to help you find topics and their followers: http://www.squidoo.com/twttrlist/hq. TwttrList is an easy-to-use tool that helps you find a ‘Best of’ list of your favorite tweets on your favorite topics.”
2. Familiarize yourself with all of the various career portals available online. Examples are Monster, CareerBuilder, and DICE. These sites are not perfect, but they do contain good resources, advice and insight. “Beware of scam jobs posted on these sites,” warns a Vibrant Nation member. “The old cliche ‘if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is’ applies to jobs, too.”
3. Connect with trade sites in your field of interest. Do your research and find trade sites that specifically work with recruiters or employers within your areas of expertise and interest. Use the sites to connect with other professionals who may be willing to share tips about new opportunities regarding job openings or training in your area.
4. Blog. Blogging is a powerful way to brand and market yourself. “I recommend that everyone get a domain in your own name and start a WordPress blog,” says a Vibrant Nation member. “You may start writing about anything you want, but chances are you’ll find yourself going in the direction of your dreams and passions before long. In the meantime, you will have invested your time in some online real estate that, like most property, will gain value as it matures. In the meantime, you will be branding yourself.”
Looking for another reason to blog? For many women over 50, there’s powerful extra motivation: the desire to share what we know. “So many of us on Vibrant Nation have had rich careers,” says a Vibrant Nation member. “We have not only learned but also experienced so much in our lives that others, especially the younger generations, need and want to know. We need to get that information out.”
5. Keep your online presence professional. Proofread every word, sentence and all formatting on every piece of online content to ensure that you have presented yourself as a top professional. “Business is business, so don’t publish overly personal information, unprofessional links, photos, or comments online that a potential employer may see and find negative,” says a Vibrant Nation member. “Remember, many companies now use these sites to research a client prior to interviewing or making a final hiring decision.”