Social Media Can Boost Your Encore Job Search

Miriam Salpeter

In this economy, it helps to have a competitive edge when looking for an encore career. Over the past few years, social media has not only become a way to communicate and connect with others, but it has also become a means to catapult one’s career.

Miriam Salpeter, author of Social Networking for Career Success, gives encore career seekers insight into the often overwhelming social media space. Salpeter, a job search and social media coach, explains social media while providing examples you can apply in your own encore career search.

Salpeter’s expertise about social media has been highlighted in U.S. News & World Report, and CNN named her as a “top 10 tweeter you should be following.” Here, she answers some common questions from encore career seekers.

Q: There are a lot of social networking sites out there. Which one should job seekers try first? Why?

A: The most important site for anyone wishing to build an online network is LinkedIn. Since the site's focus is purely professional, it's become a go-to place to expand your network, look for answers to questions and source talent.

LinkedIn is often touted as a potential "replacement" for job boards, but it isn't only for job seekers. LinkedIn offers all the key elements of a social network:

It helps you connect with new people and keep track of contacts. It's difficult to keep in touch with people we meet via various activities, meetings, conferences, etc. Even if you keep business cards or use smart phone apps to collect contact information, people constantly change jobs. Connecting via LinkedIn helps you keep up with people, no matter where they may end up down the road, since presumably, they'll update their LinkedIn profiles. It's nice to be able to rely on a well-formed, professional network when it comes time to look for a job, start a business or hire someone new.

It offers easy ways to learn new things. LinkedIn Signal allows you to see updates from your immediate or expanded network, or information shared by company or industry, location, time, university or any combination of those search parameters. This gives you access to updates from people who are not in your network. LinkedIn Today gives a snapshot of trending news pertinent to particular industries or topics. It's a great way to find out what people in your field are thinking about and sharing.

It provides a great platform to share expertise and expand your brand. LinkedIn Answers and Groups provide easy opportunities to let people know what you know about topics. You can also share slideshows and video on your LinkedIn profile.

Q: What are the best ways to use social networking for professional development?

A: There are many possible uses for social networking, but I advise clients to focus on three main points. Use social networking to: expand your network, learn information you might otherwise not know and demonstrate your expertise to a wide audience.

Expand your network – Think of social networking as a way to expand your contact lists exponentially and to encounter and interact with people you'd never otherwise "meet." Where else can you easily find people interested in and writing about the same topics as you? A quick search on LinkedIn likely results in many possible contacts. Reviewing and joining relevant groups on LinkedIn provides access to meet new people. Twitter makes it easy to find and follow people "like you," or you can rely on services such as to identify niche communities.

Learn new information – Social media provides amazing tools for anyone changing careers, because it allows you to learn what people in your target field or industry are talking about and offers platforms for sharing your expertise. In my book, I explain that Twitter, in particular, is useful because you can learn what industry leaders are saying without leaving home. It's possible to "attend" conferences by following the tweets of those who are actually there. Sometimes, Twitter followers can pick up every morsel of useful data, just by watching the conference's Twitter stream.

When seeking to make a change to a new field, or an encore career, social networks can offer an invaluable source of data, details and resources. Once users have a community of friends and followers, they can easily ask questions about any topic and expect someone to reply.

Demonstrate expertise – What better way to let people know what you know than via social media? LinkedIn Answers offers a great place to contribute expert advice and information. Owning and writing a blog is another wonderful way to get the word out about what you're doing and to leverage search engines to help people learn about you, your project or your work. Twitter is an amazing tool to easily show what you know by tweeting news and information, sharing tweets from others in your field and creating bits of pithy content (in 140 characters or less) to share with others.

Q: What are the downsides to using social media?

A: Some people spend a lot of time on social media without a goal in mind and may complain there is not enough return on their time investment. While you don't need an engineering degree to use social media, there are a lot of nonintuitive things to learn about it to help make using it more efficient and productive. Having a goal in mind and moving purposely toward that goal (with the right resources to help do it correctly) helps alleviate that feeling of falling down Alice's proverbial rabbit hole.

Q: Privacy and identity theft are big issues. Are there ways to limit such concerns while using social media?

A: The point of social media is to share information and resources. Avoid posting anything you don't want anyone else to know. Remember that anything you share online is public. It's important to avoid sharing details that would allow someone to impersonate you. Being smart online and remembering everything is public should help people maintain the integrity of your profile.

Q: Does a job seeker need to use all of the popular social media sites (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) or just focus on one? If just one, which one?

A: No need to overwhelm yourself! While a multifocused approach is ideal, starting slowly and working into the various profiles is best. I suggest starting with LinkedIn and then trying Twitter. In my book, I show readers how to get started with those and other tools, step by step.

Q: Is it a bad idea for an encore job seeker to post a photo if he or she is concerned about age discrimination?

A: I advise people to post their photos. If they don't, people will wonder why, as social media is visual, and people want to know you're a real person – with a face! Make sure to use a high-quality, professional photo that shows you in the best light. (For further insight on this topic, check out Salpeter’s piece about using photos. Click here.)