Applying for a job after 50: Social media dos and don’ts

social media

Social media can be a great big free digital ‘billboard’ advertising your services.

That’s why businesses, big and small, use Facebook, Twitter and other platforms, and that’s why you should consider it too when looking for a job, says Tasmania-based Rupert French, an experienced employment counsellor and job search trainer who has been actively involved in helping job seekers for almost 40 years.

Rupert says being active on social media shows you are reasonably IT savvy and allays the fears of some employers that older job seekers may be digitally illiterate.

“However, make sure that everything you post on social media strengthens your brand. You may have heard stories of job applicants who were unsuccessful because of information that employers had found out about them through looking them up online,” says Rupert.

“And this can happen to anyone who posts stories or photos they wouldn’t want to see on the front page of the local newspaper.”

Below, Rupert shares his list of dos and don’ts for job seekers over 50 that will help make sure that what you post on social media strengthens your brand, and may boost the likelihood of you winning a job:

Do:

  • Be aware that different platforms are used in different ways and this affects what you might want to post, or how approachable people may be, on each one. Brands/ organisations/employers tend to be more homogenous across platforms, and interactions with official accounts on any platform are likely to be similarly received. Individuals, however, may be more willing and eager to connect professionally via LinkedIn or Twitter, than say, Facebook or Instagram, which tend to be more personal.
  • Be proactive about the privacy of your accounts. While it’s always a good idea to only post things you wouldn’t mind an employer seeing, you do have control over whether your social media accounts are private or even findable in a search engine like Google. If you have an existing social media account you’d prefer to keep to yourself, make sure that it has solid privacy settings. A quick google will tell you how to toggle these settings for various platforms.
  • Think strategically. Before creating an account on any particular platform, have a search for the types of people who work in your chosen field, to see which platforms they’re most represented on. Some fields, like finance, rely heavily on LinkedIn, while others, like academia or media, tend to be more active on Twitter. Picking the most commonly used platform for your field can help in growing your network faster and staying on top of developments.
  • Be aware of scams. Just as in all parts of life, social media has its share of those wishing to take advantage of others. If you receive a message from someone purporting to be a recruiter or employer, make sure you check out their profile to ensure it is legitimate. Signs of a scam could be poorly written messages, profiles with very little on them, profiles with very few or no other connections/accounts following them, or small typos in company account names, to name a few. Check that the sender’s address is authentic and not from some unknown country code. Many platforms will put a small blue ‘tick’ next to the account name of official company accounts or wellknown personalities.
  • Be active on the accounts you have. If you decide to create an account that will represent your professional persona (as opposed to a purely personal one for photos of brunches and grandchildren), make sure you keep it up-todate. Posting every day or every week is not necessary, but if a potential employer finds their way to your profile, you want them to get the most up-to-date information about you and see that you’re active. An account that hasn’t posted or shared anything for months on end will look dormant and won’t give the impression you’re after.

Don’t

  • Forget you can delete your account. If you give social media a try and don’t take to it, or take to one particular platform over another, remember that you can always delete any accounts you don’t wish to maintain. This can take some of the pressure off starting an account to see if it suits you!
  • Give any personal data over social media accounts. Most social media users are legitimate and above board, but there’s no harm in being alert.
  • Make it too much of a chore. You don’t have to set aside huge chunks of time for social media; it can be something you can check in on every morning for 5 minutes, or 10 minutes every week. Making it a manageable task increases the likelihood that you’ll keep it up.
  • Be discouraged if people don’t respond when you reach out. Depending on the platform, messages sent directly to a person you don’t know may be placed in a separate inbox for them to read. The upside of this is that it reduces spam mail sent to you, but the downside is that, depending on how often a person checks that ‘other’ inbox, messages to people outside your network may not be seen for a while. This applies particularly to the more personal social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook, and less so to the professionally skewed platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter, where new connections are par for the course.
  • Be afraid to try! Social media can be a wonderful tool in your job search, and there are few downsides to giving it a go. You might even find you enjoy the opportunities to stay abreast of developments in your field and connections to like-minded people the world over.

Rupert’s last word

Social media is a wonderful avenue for building your brand, displaying your expertise and making yourself known. It’s also great for finding out about organisations and the people who work there.

I certainly encourage you to use it as an integral part of your job search campaign; however, restrict your social media time to a maximum of one hour per day.

An average of one hour a day or five hours per week should normally give you sufficient time to properly carry out your social media drive.

Yes, it might vary from week to week and you do want to make sure that it’s effective — it is an important aspect of your job search enterprise — but being seen in the flesh, making contacts, meeting people, getting yourself known in person and not just online, that’s what finally wins you the job.

Getting out there and being proactive is more convincing to an employer than your social media presence.

  • The above is an edited extract from Rupert’s insightful new book, How to Get a Good Job After 50, in which he explains the hacks and tips that are most effective in overcoming ageism among prospective employers in order to land the job you want.