Over 50? Here's How to Beat the 'Old Timer' Stereotype in Your Job Search

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Job seekers over 50 face some negative assumptions about their capabilities that sometimes make them appear to be less than ideal potential employees. These assumptions may make finding a job more challenging. Fortunately, the assumptions can be proven to be incorrect - IF older job seekers take appropriate countermeasures.

The Stereotypes

A study published in 2012 showed that employers have these concerns about older workers:
  • Less motivated than younger workers.
  • Less willing to participate in training than younger workers.
  • More resistant to change than younger workers.

While the research also showed that those assumptions were usually wrong, employers are probably still making those wrong assumptions. So prove that those assumptions don't apply to you.

LinkedIn Helps Beat Those Stereotypes

In early 2014, MIT Professor Ofer Sharone's Institute for Career Transitions studied job seekers over 50 who had been unemployed for more than six months, technically known as "long-term unemployed," a status that currently applies to 3 million Americans. This is what Professor Sharone's study showed:

"Our data shows that long-term unemployed workers, and particularly those over fifty, are generally comfortable using technology EXCEPT when it comes to navigating social media and social networking. Unfortunately, we also know that employers are increasingly relying on these technologies, like LinkedIn, in hiring."

Used poorly (as though it were Facebook), LinkedIn may cause damage. But, not participating effectively in LinkedIn is a bigger mistake.

Three major forms of damage that results from lack of LinkedIn participation:

1. Opportunities missed. LinkedIn's number one source of revenue is their LinkedIn Recruiter service. Recruiters purchase these special services and access to full public profiles, consistently generating more than half of LinkedIn's substantial revenue!

2. Credibility damaged. When most employers (80% or more in some surveys) use a search engine to validate what a job applicant provides on a job application or in the resume submitted, a job seeker who doesn't have a solid LinkedIn Profile loses credibility.

3. Lack of understanding demonstrated. By being missing in the most important business network, you seem to be showing a lack of understanding of online networking, marketing, and communicating - very important for most businesses, nonprofits, and even governments today.

When you can't be found on LinkedIn - with a good, solid profile - you have stamped "out-of-date" on your forehead, proving you don't understand how to operate successfully in today's business environment.

Prove You Are Up-to-Date

Demonstrate that you can learn new things and don't resist change. Prove those assumptions wrong, and increase the opportunity you will be found.

1. Create a "complete" LinkedIn Profile (with your photo!).

Start with your resume and build up from there so that your LinkedIn Profile is complete. Focus on highlighting your accomplishments, as well as your skills, experience, and education. And, don't forget the headshot photo! Without that photo, your Profile will be ignored, and people who know you won't recognize you.

2. Grow your list of connections.

You want to have at least 100 connections, and more connections are better. Track down current and former colleagues and classmates, friends and neighbors, customers and suppliers, and other people you know. Add the people you "meet" in LinkedIn Groups who seem to be good people to be connected with. The more connections you have, the more visible you are in LinkedIn.

3. Participate in the LinkedIn Groups appropriate for your profession and location.

This is where the real networking happens. Over 2 million Groups exist on LinkedIn, and LinkedIn members may belong to 50 of them. Take advantage of that! For example, if you are a nurse, check the LinkedIn Groups for nurses, for healthcare professionals, for people who work in emergency rooms (or whatever your specialty might be), the network for nurses in your city or state, and other Groups relevant to you and your job. Share the latest news you find about your profession with the Group. And, read the interesting Discussions from other Group members, commenting appropriately (pretend your new boss is reading everything you contribute) -- learning, sharing, and meeting others. Groups are easy to join, and very easy to leave.

Bottom Line

Most importantly, being a LinkedIn member demonstrates that you are not an "old fogie" (whatever that is) while making you visible to millions of recruiters. This doesn't mean spending hours a day at the LinkedIn site, but it does mean spending at least half an hour a week. You can do it, and it will pay off

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