Mark Miller

Many older Americans need to keep working well into their 50s and 60s to supplement income and boost long-term retirement resources. But job hunting can be a huge challenge -- and not only because the economy is weak.

More many older workers, technology is a barrier to finding employment. Many employers are skeptical about the technology savviness of 50-plus workers--and the starting point for most job searches these days is the Internet--specifically, social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter.

In a tough job market, it's hard to overstate the importance of networking, differentiating yourself and highlighting the value you can bring to an employer. Social media platforms offer some important means to those ends through sharing expertise and making new connections. But older job hunters can be at a competitive disadvantage.

"The first time I looked at Twitter, I thought, 'what is this thing?'" says Lee Silverstein, who's transitioning to a new career at age 50, following 29 years in management jobs with major department stores, most recently Macy's, where he focused on training and leadership development.

Silverstein didn't think of himself as a writer with something to say online, but he jumped in anyway with a blog and Twitter account.

"When I started the blog, I saw that I did have something to say, and I started sharing my thoughts," he says. In a short time, Silverstein has built an audience of 600 followers for his tweets and blog posts on leadership development and mentoring. "It's about making yourself findable," he says. "Just sitting and going through the job boards won't get you where you want to be. You've got to give people a reason to discover you."

Age isn't the only factor hampering older job hunters, says Miriam Salpeter, a job search and social media coach, and author of "Social Networking for Career Success: Using Online Tools to Create a Personal Brand." "It's about a comfort level using the tools. People who don't enjoy social media don't want to feel they will be sucked in, and tied down by it all the time. And with Twitter, some just don't think they can communicate a full thought in 140 characters. I find that it helps to have targets and goals to use these things well."

Sharing expertise can be as simple as sharing a link to a relevant article or webpage alongside your own comment, or answering a question in a LinkedIn forum.

But at a more basic level, using social media can help you to get past doubts hiring managers may have about you as an older applicant. "If you are using LinkedIn, have a blog and you're on Twitter, it's going to be hard for people to assume that you can't learn new things," Salpeter says.

Silverstein -- a coaching client of Salpeter's -- agrees. "There's a perception out there that once you hit a certain age you give up on technology. People over 50 looking to transition into a new career or grow a business need to shake that off. Take the time to make yourself relevant."

Salpeter views LinkedIn as the "must have" tool for every job seeker, but Twitter is her favorite platform -- mainly because its networking features aren't built around personal introductions or recommendations. "It's so open," she says. "You find out things about people, mentors and colleagues without needing an introduction. "You don't need an intermediary to find out what people are doing.

Salpeter likes to tie it all together via a "social resume" -- a personal website with your name in the domain name that showcases expertise and hubs together all your social media profiles (See Lee Silverstein's site for an example:

Salpeter also encourages job hunters to jump into Twitter chats to share ideas and tips with other job hunters and experts, and to expand networks. A current favorite is the hashtag #jobhuntchat, one of the largest regular chat groups on Twitter devoted to job search. The group convenes every Monday at 10 p.m. EST.

Salpeter cautions job seekers that social media won't necessarily produce immediate results. "It's not an overnight endeavor," she says. "But sometimes it just takes one person to land a job."

Available at Great on the Job






How Social Media Can Help 50-Plus Workers Find Jobs