Whether you’re job hunting or exploring part-time contract work, LinkedIn is the place to be for professional networking.
I think of a LinkedIn profile as a living, breathing résumé that you can update easily to showcase your decades of know-how and talent with photos, articles, presentations and more. Your profile highlights your talents in a deeper, more personal way than a one-page paper résumé can ever do.
LinkedIn is also the place to find connections who can give you the inside scoop on a job opening or make an introduction for you. You can dig up information on companies and positions that interest you and do some quiet sleuthing about people who’ll be interviewing you.
In short, an active presence on LinkedIn is nonnegotiable for older job seekers. Not being there, in fact, could kill your chances for a job. It means you’re viewed as yesterday’s candidate.
So when you’re searching for a job, make sure you’ve got a profile — and then go on to leverage three cool new features that LinkedIn has rolled out in recent months.
This connects members across the network for mentorship and practical advice on everything from changing careers to how to ask for a raise. “More than 80 percent of professionals on LinkedIn have stated they either want to have a mentor or be one to others. But knowing where to start can be the trickiest part,” says Catherine Fisher, LinkedIn’s career expert.
The concept has a twofold appeal for boomers. “You can give advice to younger workers in areas where they might be struggling, such as developing stronger leadership or better communication skills,” notes Jayne Mattson, senior vice president of Keystone Associates, a career management firm in Boston.
You can also get advice, from those members of Generation X and Y. “Since later-stage career professionals will be working for younger managers, knowing how to interview with them, what skills are in high demand [in your area of expertise] … will enhance your search,” Mattson says.
If you’re eyeing an encore career change, the "Career Advice" feature is a way to tap someone in the target field to learn more. Many people will be flattered by your interest in what they do, even if the relationship is virtual. They’ll love to talk about their careers and share their stories.
To get started, go to the dashboard on your LinkedIn profile and find the "Career Advice" hub. From there, enter the type of advice you’re looking to give or receive, and the site will instantly recommend members based on what you’ve specified.
• First, "Career Advice" is still in its rollout phase, and only a small number of matches may pop up for you. Of the three that were suggested to me, none seemed quite right for the kind of advice I was after. And there’s no guarantee that the note you send to a potential match will be answered, so it can be a bit of a dance to get the party started.
• Second, keep in mind that the person at the other end will probably not be a professional job coach. “Connections who do not have a true stake in your career could provide insight and advice that help you, but they could also confuse you,” cautions John O’Connor, a coach with CareerPro Inc., based in Raleigh, N.C.
With this feature, LinkedIn sends you each month a list of skills that are trending among people who have your same job title. The idea is that you might add the skills to your profile. This is a great way to show you’re in the game — a persistent bias that employers have against older applicants is that their skills are not up to date. “All job seekers, especially later-stage career professionals, need to identify the skills that are ‘in demand’ in their profession,” Mattson explains.
This feature can also help potential employers find you. “If you’re on the hunt for a new job, highlighting your skills and keeping your skills refreshed on your LinkedIn profile is a great way to help you be discovered in a search,” Fisher says. “Members with five or more skills on their profile are found up to 27 times more in recruiter searches.”
You can also click on the skill in the notification to find companies hiring people with that skill. And the site suggests LinkedIn Learning courses if you need to brush up.
A commonsense word of caution: Make sure you actually have any particular skill that you add. The proof will be in the pudding.
Video from your phone
I’ve long suggested that older job seekers add videos to their profiles if videos are common in the field they’re exploring. A good video can set you apart from the crowd, show your experience and even build a bond with prospective employers before they meet you. Plus, it’s another way to show that you’re at ease with technology.
Employers will find a video particularly valuable if you’re applying for a job where you’d be in the spotlight — sales, public speaking, tourism or fundraising, for instance. “Video is a powerful way to show your personality in an authentic, visual way, and it’s being shared 20 times more than other content types on LinkedIn,” Fisher says.
Now the LinkedIn mobile app lets you post videos from your phone or tablet. Look for the share box and tap the video icon. Record a new video or upload an existing one. “Keep it concise — 30 seconds to two minutes does the trick in most cases,” Fisher advises.
You don’t need to appear in the video yourself, notes Susan P. Joyce, an online job search expert. Using software such as Camtasia or just the video app on your device, you could make a short video that, for example, illustrates a flower bed you designed or a piece of furniture you built.
One big proviso: Don’t do videos on a whim. If yours is fuzzy and poorly lit, and you ramble or look unprofessional, it can be a serious turnoff. You never want someone to look at it and utter, “So what?” You want that person to instantly say, “Aha — here’s who we want for the job.”
If you’re uncertain about your skills with a camera, consider hiring a professional videographer to help create a video or review one you’ve made.
Bonus LinkedIn tip:
Referrals are the single best way to land a job these days. And the best referrals usually come from your network. At this stage of your career, large numbers of contacts are one asset you probably have, so use it to your advantage in your job search. One of LinkedIn’s bedrock features is ease of tapping into your network and expanding it with new connections.
Use it. After all, as I always say, networking is just one letter away from “not working.”
Kerry Hannon, AARP jobs expert, is the author of Great Jobs for Everyone 50 +: Finding Work that Keeps You Happy and Healthy … and Pays the Bills, Getting the Job You Want After 50 for Dummies, Love Your Job and What’s Next? Finding Your Passion and Your Dream Job in Your Forties, Fifties and Beyond.