Lions, Tigers, and Bears, oh my! If fear makes you stay away from using social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, you are missing out on a consistently valuable relationship building opportunity.
“The social media” is out there, and it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. If you find yourself in need of a new social circle, a new outlook on life, a new client, or a new job, take a lesson from the ladies I interviewed who are examples of Baby Boomer women learning to use new technology for their benefit.
Negative stereotypes and generalizations lead the way in stories written about Generations Y, X, and Baby Boomers. As helpful as they can be for marketers who require segmented data, these statistics that (often) mislabel their target demographic are pushing away the very people they’re hoping to attract. Yes, there is a bit of irony in using the Baby Boomer moniker, but words don’t become negative until they are abused.
One reason I thought it necessary to interview these women was to present what needs to become the priority of recruiters and employers directly from the potential candidates themselves. Feedback is critical to the evolution of better strategies and systems for those seeking new hires. These women have the life experience to compare what was done then to what is being done now, offering worthy wisdom and insight.
@Data_Diva “didn’t have a ‘traditional’ career path, but I would say I’m transitioning from a Marketing Research Specialist path. For 17 years, I was the SME (subject matter expert) for a syndicated database that my company utilized to monitor a specific category across the Food/Drug/Mass class of trade and utilizing another supplier to monitor the Department Store/Specialty outlets. After my layoff, I found another position in a completely different industry; however, the position was also utilizing a syndicated database to monitor and track consumers in the financial industry. Alas, that position was also eliminated due to the financial free fall. I’ve been employed, but have been trying to get back into the marketing research arena for about 3 years now.” @Data_Diva was employed before she started using Social Media networking sites.
@Karen5Lund is returning to “what I’ve done most of my career after a digression necessitated by the weak job market.” Karen has been searching for a position for almost 1 year with “17 years [of experience] in non-profits; a little longer if you consider all administrative support roles. I’d been on LinkedIn a couple of years, including while I was employed. I joined Twitter during my unemployment, though.”
Eula Wilturner was “Sr. Executive Administrative Assistant at JCVI – Synthetic Biology Group. I have more than 10+ years in Executive level administrative support. I started using Social Media in December, 2010. I’ve been searching for the right position with the right company/organization (something that I could fit into well and I would truly like).”
What have you experienced that you didn’t account for?
Eula:I’ve experienced over the phone once your resume gets past the initial point of review, “What was your salary at your last position?” They will not go any further than that until it’s revealed.
@Data_Diva: Well, I think like everyone else in America, the recession. As valuable as my skill set is, I also know it’s viewed as not directly impacting the bottom line immediately. Unless you have a CEO/Person in Charge that recognizes the value of marketing research, it’s an area that is viewed as “not critical”.
@Karen5Lund: Dead silence. Even more than before, resumes and applications seem to disappear into a black hole without so much as an auto-reply or a “thank you but no thank you” e-mail a few weeks later.
What should recruiters and companies know about Baby Boomers who are looking for work?
Eula:Since I’m one of those Baby Boomers, I can say this: We have knowledge that comes along with age. We have integrity that comes along with personality. We are dependable because we know what we have committed to in the workforce. We have stamina as well as the younger generation. We want to not impede but to succeed in our endeavors. [Companies] can pretty much depend on us (Baby Boomers) and rest assured that we will take care of business, whatever the responsibility entails.
@Data_Diva:That all Baby Boomers shouldn’t be lumped together. Really look at us as individuals. Some of us are just as curious and interested in learning as any 25 year old. Plus, we have the experience to “know our lane”, so to speak. We know what our strengths and weaknesses are and are interested in contributing without necessarily reaching to be the CEO (but will take it and succeed if that’s where we’re needed). [Companies] are missing out on some real talent if they weed out Boomers who don’t necessarily meet the “what’s in” set of criteria without considering what it “really” takes to be successful in a job.
@Karen5Lund: I’m not sure I can speak for all Boomers, but I can speak for myself and for some others my age that I know. Also, I think there’s some difference between the older and younger Boomers. I’m in the younger group.
One thing I’ve noticed about my fellow Boomers is that our technology skills are all over the map. Nearly all of us have basic competence with e-mail, Internet, and word processing because we’ve needed it for our jobs. Many have spreadsheet and database skills. A few of us have gone well beyond basic competence and use things like social media, graphics and video software, etc. for enjoyment; but there are also many who learn only as much as they need and view anything done on a computer as “work” – not personal interest. Recruiters, in particular, would do well to ask a few questions and dig a little to learn about a Boomer-age candidate’s computer skills and willingness to learn new skills.
In many cases we are slow adopters not because we are afraid of new technologies but because we’ve seen too many Next Big Things turn into “huh? what?” in a short time. People who remember eight-track tapes, BetaMax and disc film might need a little convincing before they sink a lot of time, effort or money into the latest fad. (Marketers take note, too!) It’s not that we need more training than our younger counterparts; it’s that we want to know how this is going to make our work lives easier or our work more productive.
A similar diversity applies in non-technology skills and work habits. Especially among younger Boomers, we tend to straddle modern and more traditional workplace expectations. We started our careers in a much more hierarchical world. During our careers we’ve moved out of offices to cubicles, and are now seeing the cubicle walls come down to form more collaborative spaces. Some of us may be a little uncomfortable with less clearly defined roles, but I think experienced workers have a lot to share once we get used to a new work style.
The changes that have taken place in the past forty or fifty years have affected almost all parts of our lives. Contrary to the stereotype about people in middle age, we’re very flexible because we’ve had to be.
How has job searching changed? What do you do differently now versus the past?
Eula:The job search today is done on the computer more than looking in the news paper. One must socialize in the right circles (it’s called Networking) if you want support in finding something. Word of mouth is the best way to get your next project/job/interest going.
@Data_Diva: The biggest change has been just walking into a place and applying for a job. I’ve adapted to the new technology and tried to make my resume and relevant online profiles match what companies seek these days; but, I’ve also witnessed plenty of folk in my age range who are totally lost and don’t understand why they can’t just apply to the manager or HR office. So I’d say the biggest change has been making yourself standout online in what (despite what HR pros will tell you) has become a cookie-cutter job-hunting world.
@Karen5Lund: [The] job search is very different than when I first graduated from college. I actually got my first non-profit job through a print ad in the New York Times! (Gosh, that makes me sound old. I’m not that old, really.) Then several years later I sent out resumes via fax from my home computer to find my next job. Technology has changed interviewing, too, which doesn’t get as much attention as the rise of online job boards and such. “Please tell me about your company?” used to be an acceptable question for a candidate to ask, but no more. Researching an organization prior to an interview is expected, and candidates are also expected to ask deeper questions because of it. Fortunately the Internet has given us tools to know a lot about a potential employer before we ever set foot in their office.
Do social media networking tools make it easier to find work?
Eula: I don’t think it makes it easier to find work. I do think that social media networking helps in a very big way, because you can reach out to more people/companies/associations, etc. through social media networking tools such as computer mail/pictures/chatting/and believe it or not, radio.
@Data_Diva:I don’t know if the SM tools have made it easier, but they do give you an additional relationship that you can use. I tend to be a little more particular in that I don’t ask everyone on my Twitter feed to join me on LinkedIn or Facebook. Sometimes with everyone applying for the same job through the same channels, a personal relationship with someone who is employed or knows someone at your target company is the little boost you need to get away from the pack. In my opinion, the relationships have shifted from the neighbor that you know works at a company to someone who’s linked in to someone at the company — same game different tools.
@Karen5Lund:I’m not sure that social media in itself makes job search easier, but it’s definitely part of the tools available for researching potential employers. I have not found a job through my online network, and I don’t know anyone who has; though, I’m sure it happens and will likely happen more often in the future. But, a candidate can learn a lot about a company’s culture through its website, blog, and social media. If there’s a downside, it’s that there are so many channels available now that it can be difficult to know where to look. Social media is also a very good way to promote yourself. Having a blog and/or participating in networking sites like LinkedIn or industry-related sites will help a candidate as, increasingly, recruiters and HR departments Google them.
The second reason I thought it necessary to interview these women was to pass on their wisdom to Generations X and Y.
What should younger generations of women know about using these tools to network, build relationships, and strengthen their careers?
Eula: I think the younger generation of women should definitely learn all of the tools of networking (each and every one of them). That is one of the best tools happening today for building any relationships (good/bad) but let’s stick with good. Through the tools of networking, women can get advice and suggestions critical to their participation in the electronic era. [They also get] constructive criticism to better and strengthen their message(s).
@Data_Diva:Use them, use them, and oh yeah use them. Be active. It doesn’t mean you have to run a blog (although it does not hurt), but you have to be comfortable with the tools. Be careful about crossing the line between professional sharing and personal TMI (Too Much Information). As much as you’d like to say, I drank a whole bottle of wine last night, you might want to keep that between you and your “true” friends (regardless of what Facebook will lead you to believe, everyone is NOT your friend). I’m a strong proponent of two identifies online — “professional” and “all of me”. I’m not ashamed of “all of me” but given how SM has become such an important part of recruiting and screening (no matter how unfair I think it is) potential employers can get the wrong idea from your night of Hot Mess TV watching or hanging with your friends. It hit home for me when I was called on the carpet for something that I just tweeted in the moment. The company wasn’t identified and no names were ever used but the powers that be said it could be construed as something “against the company” and from my perspective I was just bored. Regardless of how open-minded recruiters and/or HR pros think they are, my experience has been they want you to be “on” all the time, which is a conflict with how I perceive SM — it’s my account and I’ll tweet what I want to. Until I hit the lottery, the two identities are a necessary evil.
@Karen5Lund:Start now! Because online social networks didn’t exist when I graduated college, I lost touch with a lot of classmates as we got jobs, moved, and/or started families. I would advise college students to join LinkedIn in their junior or senior year and start connecting with friends, classmates and faculty. (Be selective about friends and classmates; connect with those you know and respect, and keep the party animals on Facebook only.) Do it before you graduate – especially when connecting with faculty, it’s doubtful they’ll remember you well if you invite them a year or two after graduation.
When I worked in the Department of Career Services at a college a few years ago we told the Digital Media Arts majors they needed portfolios. Perhaps everyone needs something like an informal portfolio. It could be a blog related to your major or other interests, or a site like SlideShare or Box.net where you can upload papers and presentations from class projects. It may or may not help directly in your job search, but if you do need it someday, it will be nice to have everything together and accessible.
I had an interview recently in which the recruiter asked about my writing skills. She hadn’t requested a writing sample or mentioned it in the phone interview, so when I sent her a thank you e-mail after the in-person interview I included a link to my blog. There! She can read as little or as much as she wishes of my writing, as it was all ready and waiting.
Of course it should go without saying, but some people need a reminder: you need to be extremely professional in your online behavior. I don’t mean you can’t have fun and joke around, but don’t put anything online that you wouldn’t want a potential employer to find. Just look at some companies that have gotten into trouble for what the public perceived as insensitive posts on Twitter. The online world is very public, whether you want it to be or not. Be aware and learn to use it to your benefit.
Now, it’s your turn. What insights would you share with younger generations of women in social media?
The inspiration for this post came from Marjorie Clayman, @MargieClayman, who was inspired to create a 7 part series on Women in Social Media. Read about the source of the inspiration, and keep an eye out for more posts in this series over on Margie’s blog.
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