The realities of the job market for boomers aren’t pretty: More than 2 million people over 55 are currently unemployed, and the average older worker has been out of work for 52.4 weeks, compared to just 35.6 weeks for those under 55. Part of this may be due to age discrimination, as some hiring managers assume that older workers aren’t as energetic or tech savvy as younger workers, and thus aren’t as inclined to hire them.
This, of course, makes it increasingly important for older workers to project a youthful presence. To help workers create this image online, SmartMoney.com asked Nicole Williams, the connection director for LinkedIn, to share some tips on what older workers should do to make their LinkedIn profile as compelling as possible to employers and help combat older worker stereotypes. Here’s what she told us:
- Use the right photo It’s important to use a photo that shows energy, youth and modernity, but the photo must be current. To show energy, make sure you’re smiling in the photo and are sitting up straight with your shoulders back; to show modernity and youth, make sure your haircut and color are current (hit up the salon before the picture for some highlights and a modern cut, if need be), as well as your makeup and outfit. If you aren’t sure about this, go to a department store and ask the salesperson to help you pick out an outfit or makeup that are very “now.” But don’t use a photo that’s ten years old, she says. “If you get the interview from this photo, the employer may feel mislead when she sees you in person,” Williams says. “This could hurt you.”
- Make sure you have at least 50 connections If you don’t have many connections, it’s going to make a potential employer feel like you just joined the network — which might signal that you’re not that tech savvy. So, work on connecting with at least 50 of your old coworkers or associates as soon as you can. Plus, once you hit 50 connections, LinkedIn will start giving you secondary and tertiary suggestions of people you should connect with, Williams says, so that will help you build up your network of potential business contacts more quickly.
- Get the right kind of recommendations When you ask old colleagues to give you recommendations on LinkedIn, see if they will stress things that can help combat older-worker stereotypes that the hiring manager might have. Maybe the colleague can highlight the fact that you have a lot of energy, saying something like “she is always enthusiastic about taking on new projects,” or highlight your tech skills, she says.
Of course, your LinkedIn profile is only part of the job application process, which should also include things like networking and finessing your resume.