Adults are doing it. Using online social networking sites, that is.
Two-thirds of adult internet users now say they use a social networking site like MySpace, Facebook or LinkedIn, more than double the percentage that reported social networking site usage in 2008, according to a new survey released Friday by the Pew Research Center.
And for the first time in Pew Internet surveys it means that half of all adults use social networking sites. Among the Boomer-aged segment of Internet users ages 50-64, social networking site usage on a typical day grew a significant 60 percent from 20 percent to 32 percent. “Many Baby Boomers are beginning to make a trip to the social media pool part of their daily routine,” Mary Madden, Senior Research Specialist and co-author of the report, says.
If you’re one of the many older Americans working, or planning to work, into your 60s for the extra income boost and to keep shoveling cash into your retirement funds, you should be one of the new acolytes. If not, get aboard.The rise is driven by all ethnic and age groups, but women stand out as the most avid users, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Seven out of 10 women said they used the social media sites, compared to six in 10 men.
For 50-plus workers, technology can be a stumbling block to finding a job. Many employers are dubious about whether older workers are at ease using Internet tools. Moreover, most job searches nowadays are via the Internet – yep, social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and most recently, Google + have transformed how you job hunt.
As I note in Too Old for The Job? 5 Strategies For 55+ Job Hunters, you must be comfortable with computers and basic programs, navigating the web, e-mail, and mobile technology.
There’s a view out there that once you cross over the big 50, you resist learning new technology. Not cool. For those of you who are looking to switch into a new career or build a small business, it’s even more important to prove them wrong.
To help you steer through the latest landscape, here are six social media moves.
1. Become a LinkedIn member. I view LinkedIn as the social media tool for every job seeker. For companies, it’s where they go these days when they have a job to fill. For you, it’s a fast way to build a far-reaching professional network. And in a harsh job market, networking rules. I can’t lay its importance on thick enough. Stay active on it. Join alumni and industry groups. Try connecting to a few new people each day.
As I wrote in this post– Want an Unbeatable Résumé? Read These Tips from a Top Recruiter, LinkedIn actually does help people in their job searches. It’s easy to create a profile and begin linking to new contacts. You can update regularly and get recommendations from colleagues, previous bosses, and clients. You can research companies and individuals you want to target, connect with former associates, and let them know you are looking for new opportunities.
To help you get rolling, LinkedIn has a Learning Center that offers a new-user guide and clear directions for creating a profile. There are special guides to help a myriad of users from small businesses to entrepreneurs, job seekers, students, and nonprofits. For a good tutorial on getting started, read my colleague’s Susan Adams’ post Make LinkedIn Help You Find A Job.
LinkedIn also has an ‘Apply Now’ button in the Jobs section that makes it easier for you to connect with companies that have open positions. From any job listing, click on the button that appears in the top right corner, and it will zap your LinkedIn profile and contact information to that business. You can also send along a cover letter and resume, too.
2. Try SimplyHired’s ‘Who Do I Know?’ tool. When you use the job-board search engine SimplyHired to do a job search, the tool — called Who Do I Know? — hooks up the results with your Facebook and LinkedIn connections who currently work at the hiring company, worked there in the past, or are connected to a person who is employed there. To set up the tool, you give SimplyHired permission to grab data from your Facebook and LinkedIn accounts.
3. Sign up for a Twitter account. I am a Twitter fan for a bunch of reasons, but one selling point is there’s no need for a personal introduction or recommendation like you need with LinkedIn. You can get the scoop on people just by following their tweets and share ideas and tips with other job seekers and pros. Plus, you’re constantly expanding your network. (You don’t have to follow everyone who follows you-choose those who interest you.) I chat daily with Twitter friends whom I’ve never met, or worked with, but we share ideas and information, send private messages. We help each other out. In my case, they might suggest sources for stories I’m reporting, or point me toward research on a topic.
5. Tap into virtual job fairs. It’s all there online, company recruiters, experts, and so forth. The American Jobs Conference, a day-long career fair, took place July 19 on Twitter and included a session on job searches for midlevel workers or people changing careers. Dan Schawbel, a Forbes contributor, held a session on What Is My Personal Brand & Why Do I Need One? MBA Internationalheld a month-long virtual career fair in April sponsored by Duke Fuqua School of Business, The University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, Yale, and others. Attending employers included:Alcoa, Lilly, and Microsoft. You can find virtual job events like these by doing a Google search.4. Participate in online job real time chats.Check out Twitter chats like #jobhuntchat, one of the largest regular chat groups on Twitter dedicated to job search, and #careerchat. You can find information about employment trends, firms that are hiring and network with recruiters and other job seekers. Several conversations are running at the same time, so hone in on the one that’s up your alley. Sometimes sponsors post transcripts. For example, I did an AARP, Your Life Calling one with Jane Pauley for career changers. If you missed it, you can read it here.
6. Join Facebook. It’s not just for your kids. In my opinion, the site gets a bad rap from people being dumb enough to post embarrassing pictures and write inane comments. But if you set your privacy settings properly, and highlight your work experience and education on your profile, the site has lots to offer. It’s OK to list your hobbies and comment or post articles you find interesting, but keep it tasteful. Think of it as a way to let people learn a little about you. It can open doors to great conversations in a job interview, too. Plus, you are, wait for it, building your network often with people who know you from high school and college. Trust me, they can turn out to be great sources when you’re job hunting. You never know where you might get an introduction to a potential employer, or hear of a job opening.
Bottom line: Using social media helps waylay “older worker” concerns employers may have about you. If you’re using LinkedIn and are on Twitter, have a web site, or a blog even, it’s darn hard to make a case that you are a Luddite.