5 Steps for Older Workers to Succeed in the Job Hunt

September 26, 2012

Editor’s Note: According to recent data from the Employee Benefit Research Institute, 70% of workers said they expected to work for pay in retirement in 2012. So we invited AARP's Job Expert Kerry Hannon, a nationally recognized authority on career transitions and retirement, to give us some job hunting tips.

If you’re a seasoned professional who’s looking for work, you’re not alone. In a recent retirement survey from Wells Fargo, three-fourths of respondents stated that they plan on working past age 65.

My friend Bill, 54, who currently has a part-time gig, but has been aggressively looking for a full-time job for months, called to tell me he had heard of the “perfect” job at a great company. Problem was, he wasn’t sure he knew anyone working there who might be able to get his virtual resume noticed. “Without a real connection, it’s like sending a message in a bottle, or shooting an arrow in the air,” he told me.

He used his LinkedIn account to run a search and see if he knew anyone at the firm. Bingo. He did. He sent a quick email to his connection asking for help. Within a half-hour, he received a note back, and got the ball rolling.

LinkedIn has resulted in some leads for me, and lots of other job seekers. It's pretty cool to get approached for work from someone you don't know, but somehow are connected to.

Most professional job searches these days are at least started on the Internet. Yes, the big job boards are worth trolling, but if you’re a serious job hunter, you need more information than just a job posting—you need to dig deeper to research and network before you blindly shoot off a resume. And that’s where online networking sites can step up your game.

I’m a big fan of online networking sites. They make it easier for recruiters to learn about you, and for you to learn about their companies – both essential ingredients to landing a job. For workers over 50, an online presence is also a way to show potential employers that you’re not intimidated by technology – something they’re wary of when considering an older worker for a job today.

As I write in my new book, AARP’s Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Happy and Healthy … And Pays the Bills, if you’ve recently lost your job, or aren’t at ease with online networking, learning the new rules of job hunting can take some ramping up, but do it. Here are five simple steps to get you started.

1. Use a professional e-mail address. Include your full name, such as johndoe@email.com. Send this e-mail to your contacts and tell them of your new job status. Be bold, and ask them to keep you in mind if they hear of any openings, or know someone you should reach out to for advice.

2. Join LinkedIn. Build a complete profile with a professional headshot and your work experience, education, volunteer experience, causes, patents, publications, certifications, languages and applications. If you already have a profile, give it a facelift.

LinkedIn is hands-down my business site. I view my profile there as my working resume. You should, too.

  • It lets anyone who wants to know about your background, skills, awards, interests, and so on, see it all in a straightforward format that you can tweak easily.
  • Don’t be bashful about listing your volunteer activities. If you’ve been out of work for any stretch of time, hopefully, you’ve kept busy doing just that. In fact, four in ten professionals that LinkedIn surveyed stated that when they evaluate candidates, they consider volunteer work equally as valuable as paid work experience.

3. Network. On LinkedIn, search for people you know and invite them to connect with you. You will also receive recommendations of people you might know based on your profile information. Ask colleagues for LinkedIn Recommendations. Join your alumni, peer and industry groups for more networking and to stay abreast of job openings. For example, AARP has launched a new, free service called Work Reimagined. AARP’s Work Reimagined leverages LinkedIn’s API to help job hunters find information and job openings. Sign up for customized job alert postings in your field of interest.

Tip: Write a personal note when you ask someone to connect with you. It’s friendly way to remind someone of how you know one another.

4. Start a Twitter account. Follow people or companies where you might want to interview. For your username, use your actual name or a shortened form. Include a bio – where you live and what kind of work you do. It has to be short and to the point — only 140 characters.

By following tweets, you can get the scoop on people you may wind up interviewing with and stay on top of a potential employer’s news. You can also share ideas and tips with other job seekers. Plus, you’re expanding your network.

5. Don’t be a wallflower. Participate in online job real-time chats and comment in industry group discussions. You can find information about employment trends and firms that are hiring and network with recruiters and other job seekers.