To get a job in your 50s, maintain friendships in your 40s
This headline from Phyllis Korkki’s article in the NYT in September 2015 grabbed, then annoyed me, for two reasons. One, it assumes that only 50 year olds are looking for work. What about people in their sixties or seventies? Aren’t some of them seeking encore careers? The second reason the headline bothered me is the non-solution it offered.
Korkki redeemed herself by reviewing research on why it takes older job seekers (50+) longer on average—almost up to 11 weeks longer—than it does for any other age group to find new work. Although some might legitimately claim age discrimination, more often, it’s that older people do not create and maintain the breadth of relationships that younger people do.
“Researchers found that older people on average have smaller social networks than younger people…. This is not necessarily bad — as we age, many of us find that the quality of our relationships is more important than the quantity. But in the job search process, the number of connections we maintain in our professional and personal networks is often critical.”
This assessment reminded me of our recent ECO (Encore Connect Online) Byte (a 75-minute online workshop) on The Essence of Working Online. Critical elements of online work that we identified in the session including knowing how to work in groups and using social networks to grow contacts and tribe(s). We started by looking at LinkedIn.
Gwen Moran at NextAvenue praises LinkedIn as the “most professionally focused social network.” She encourages “setting up a full profile … with work experience that is relevant to the job you’re seeking, but not anything more than 20 years old.” One’s “profile should include your education, awards and recommendations from people who have done business with you.” Moran reports that “profiles done thoroughly are 40 times more likely to get job offers than ones that are not.”
We agree that you should use all the powers of LinkedIn to network to increase visibility and opportunity for yourself. Here’s how:
- create a knockout profile on LinkedIn.
- build your personal network by going through your top-of-mind friends to link with first, look at your contact lists (wherever they might be; does anyone still use a Rolodex?) to recall former colleagues, and then reach out to friends of friends. LinkedIn will help expand your reach by suggesting people you might know based on your first- and second-degree circles of contacts.
- reach out to LinkedIn’s influencers—people held in high regard for their expertise who write articles for LinkedIn. Start to follow these influencers, learn from what they have to say, “like” and comment on their articles. Sometimes your witty comments—pro or con—will lead to sustained dialogue with the authors and others who follow them.
- write and publish your own perspective in articles on LinkedIn as well as link to valuable posts that your followers can access through your updates. Always provide value with what you publish or link to.
- learn from what others are doing on LinkedIn with their profile, links to videos, podcasts, and articles they are publishing on LinkedIn and elsewhere.
LinkedIn is also a premiere network for joining or starting groups. Use the search field or affiliations of people you respect to see which of their LinkedIn groups focus on your interests. Join them to participate in discussions hosted by group members. If some of these turn out to be noise, your choice is to skim the headlines or leave the group. Other times, LinkedIn groups can help accelerate your learning, and quality and quantity of relationships. Groups also have another potential: seeding tribes.
Speaking of tribes, does everyone know what a tribe is? In our ECO Byte, we deferred to Seth Godin, author of Tribes, to define tribe: A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. He pointed out that “A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.” Communication happens easily within a social network such as Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter. A tribe might further rely on team chat tools such as Slack or instant messaging to stay closely connected or interact regularly on Skype, Zoom, or Adobe Connect.
Godin advocates for tribes with leaders and memberships in multiple tribes because “Tribes make our lives better. And leading a tribe is the best life of all.” Others agree that finding or building a tribe leads to various payoffs. These include better health (Lissa Rankin), think-tank assistance (Bernadette Noll), and a support system (Kara Benz), among others.
What is it that you would like to do with a committed group of people? And how do you get started?
Naming a shared passion could be the first step. Allison J. Sieber submitted this funny <2-minute video to an international contest on “What’s Your Story?” on using the internet to find her tribe of tango dancers.
I found many tips for starting a tribe (now in the WLS Diigo library). The list that resonated with me most came from Bernadette Noll at the Huffington Post. She relayed how her tribe of seven women sustained their creativity at work and sanity during their years of early parenting with babies and small children. Eight years later, the women acknowledged the vitality of their group group saying that it “continues to be so instrumental to all of us, personally and professionally.” You can find her list of ten tips here.
One last thing…this post started with Korkki’s article on why older workers take longer to find new jobs, then mentioned online networks and tribes to gather trusted associates who can help with job searches along with learning, creating, and supporting one another. We know that older workers do not have social networks comparable in size to those of younger people. One reason for this discrepancy is that older workers are not using social networks online such as LinkedIn as much as younger people do, BUT SHOULD. Why? Because another Jobvite survey cited recently in the blog Career Things Related showed that 40% of positions are filled by employee referrals yet these constitute only seven percent of the applications generated.
Clearly, it is still whom you know, who knows and appreciates your unique blend of knowledge, skills, and abilities, who can best help you with your job search. Best wishes for happy networking and job finding!