Did you know that there are currently more than four million Americans who are considered “long-term unemployed” … that is, they have been unemployed for 27 weeks or more? And many of them are older and well educated.
So what is stopping them from getting jobs? There are many, many reasons but if you are one of those age 40+ people looking for work – whether you were laid off or are just re-entering the workforce from time at home – there are some steps you can take to make sure your networking shines.
Younger workers have the benefit of understanding social media and being able to more quickly navigate those channels. But older workers have the benefit of a bigger network, not to mention “real” communication skills, and it’s vital to put those to work.
Here are some tips that, as an older job seeker, you should keep in mind as you navigate the networking maze.
1) Be on Social Media
The No. 1 place to start is LinkedIn. You must be on this network, and you must make sure that you are active, which means more than just having a stagnant profile. There are so many ways to interact with others on LinkedIn and help broaden your profile and your network. Join groups; follow companies; follow thought leaders; post interesting content; and comment on others’ content, either in your newsfeed or in groups, or both. You want to make sure that you are visible when someone checks your activity.
It’s smart to be on Twitter too. You don’t have to have thousands of followers, but you should have enough to show you’re connected. And, maybe even more importantly, make sure that you are following the right people. Twitter is the one network that isn’t reciprocal, meaning that others don’t have to follow you, just because you follow them. So you can follow CEOs, thought leaders and other luminaries in your industry. The goal is two-fold: to ensure you are up on all relevant news in your industry, and to have a continual stream of things to tweet to your followers – even if you just have a few. Showing that you are making the effort is the key.
2) Use a Professional Photo Across Mediums
Think you “look” old? Make sure the photo is taken by a professional photographer who will know how to use good lighting. Dress in flattering clothing, preferably a bright color, and pay attention to your hair and makeup. You might be tempted to use a photo of you in your younger years, but that would be a mistake since in a face-to-face meeting it will be apparent. Then they will wonder what else on your resume is exaggerated.
3) Contact Everyone You Have Worked With or For
A major benefit of social media is that it takes all the awkwardness out of this as everyone is looking for contacts. Connect with them on LinkedIn and check out their profile. See if they are still in the same industry or have contacts in common. This is when you start your networking conversations. Each contact is a potential gold mine of opportunities and the first step is just connecting!
4) Stay Active in Your Field
Do you need to brush up on your tech skills? Consider taking some training. Feel like you haven’t worked in a professional environment in a while? See if you can volunteer doing something you are good at. And always make sure to stay up on industry news to show you are still in the game. These are resume builders, conversation starters and ways to connect with others!
5) Impressions Matter in Face to Face Meetings
Do you fear your appearance is holding you back? Spend some time with a personal shopper or stylist who can help you dress your age, but in flattering ensembles. Even though it’s tempting to wear the clothes you already have, you don’t want your image to be one of the late 1990s. Fashion does count, as does well-groomed hair and makeup. Study other professionals you admire and see what you can emulate.
Being “older” can and should work in your favor. You have more experience and are likely more settled and less likely to relocate away from the job. And, you can write and talk, two traits that seem to be disappearing. You are probably more loyal than younger employees. Getting your foot in the door may be harder, but it is not impossible. Relying on strong networking skills and showing you are adaptable to today’s business norms are the keys to making yourself attractive to employers.
by Cathie Ericson