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Monday, August 23, 2010

Baby Boomer Execs: Are you afraid of LinkedIn & Social Media?

Most of the c-level and senior-level executives I work with are over 45 years old – Baby Boomers.

Most have not looked for a job in at least 5 years. Some haven’t been in a search for 10-20 years. Many have never needed a resume or other documents to get jobs over their 20+ year careers.

Now they’ve been laid off and suddenly thrust into a job search, or they’re taking a look to see what else is out there for them. They often still believe that all they have to do is update their resume, send it to a few recruiters, and sit back and wait for the offers to come in. That ain’t likely to happen these days. They need to get busy building a solid online footprint.

Many top-level executives over 45 have to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into the new digital world of job search. They’re holding on for dear life to the way they used to get a job.

This may be hard to believe, but when many of my clients first come to me, they have never even heard of LinkedIn. Most of those who have heard of it have a bare bones, unimpressive profile, and are doing next to nothing with it.

But LinkedIn, other social networks, and social media in general are beckoning them. They keep hearing they should “be transparent … put yourself out there … it’s okay.”

The other day I was talking with a VP of Sales in telecommunications who told me he knows about LinkedIn but is resistant to putting together his profile because he’s afraid of losing his privacy. He doesn’t like the idea of people he doesn’t know, knowing about him.

I hear this often with top-level executives and I sympathize that taking the initial plunge into social networking can be difficult. It can feel creepy to expose yourself to the world, so to speak. How much should you reveal? Will there be negative repercussions? Will it even do you any good?

In the “old days”, when you sent recruiters and/or hiring decision makers your resume, you chose who to take into confidence with your search and career history. You knew who was reading about you. But resumes from even a few years ago weren’t particularly revealing anyway. Today’s career marketing communications, whether presented “on paper” or digitally, are certainly more personal and revealing than before.

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  1. Disclaimer: I'm in the second boomer cohort (we were not subject to the draft because the war had concluded).

    1) There is (and will always be) a big difference between online social networks and real-world interpersonal networks.
    2) Anyone who has been in an industry for 20+ years is likely to have an extensive real-world interpersonal network (excludes introverts and those simply not paying attention, but they are not likely to be senior staff).
    3) Hiring for senior managment and senior individual contributors is still mostly by reference - it still matters very much who you know in the real world, and that has very little to do with online social networks.
    4) Most recruiting for senior staff is still done through recruiters because they provide the first levels of the interview process and can assess the skills of an experienced professional much better than a keyword search on an online resume database. It's not a matter of writing a better online resume or using better keywords, it's a matter of context and human understanding.

    I received interviews for my last few jobs through my interpersonal network - I still had to have a resume and I still needed to nail my interviews, but I walked into my interviews having bypassed searching for a job...the jobs came to find me.

    * Are there any quantitative studies identifying online hiring success by age group over time? * If not, then all of the "keep up with the online Joneses" positioning for social networking is just empty rhetoric preying on the fearful.

    In the current economic climate there simply are not enough jobs for all of the qualified candidates, so real-world interpersonal networks are not much help for anyone looking for a job, including senior staff - but I'll guess that online hiring doesn't have a significantly better/different hit rate, and for senior staff it's probably much lower than recruiter hiring.

    Tools like LinkedIn are helpful for tracking our real-world interpersonal network and starting new real-world relationships, but I would not count solely on my online footprint to get me a job. Because most senior staff is, well, senior, they currently don't expect that I have the online profile of a 30 year-old. In 20 years that will change, but by then any boomers still in the job market will have adequate online footprints.

  2. I have been checking job sites and been on social networks like Linked In for years now. But I am yet to find a job thru' the net. Linked In has been useful in keeping track of the movements of my real world contacts than as a job-landing tool.

  3. “Older Execs Afraid of Linkedin & Social Media”

    I think your headline should read “Experienced Execs Know Real Marketing ROI”.

    I have been in the business of Marketing and Advertising for almost forty years now. I have worked with computers since 1986. Fear of technology has never seemed to be in my vocabulary and change in markets is what we thrive on.

    Inter-personal relationships are wonderful and work great even before “Social Networking” came along. I have received many assignments and great client via referral system. I have never had a worthwhile position by going through the HR department. Only from interviews with the President or CEO. Like I said if they are destined for great success they hire people that can get them there and quickly.

    During tough economic times, standard procedure is to lay off experienced people in a panic to reduce labor costs. This is a great short time reprieve, but when the company ROI realty check comes in, they find cutting experienced help was NOT the way to go. Often, these young companies collapse under their own weight. It is like developing SEO for your site but never marketing it with traditional methods.

    This is true with companies that layoff seasoned HR people and hire 22-28 year old college grads to interview new-hires. What are their qualifications?

    Are there exception to the rule? Of course. Some companies get too involved in growth and over hire.

    The point I am making is that seasoned pros like myself in this recession find the people we network with in the same situation looking for work!! Previously we always had a sector of the economy that was thriving but this time ALL sectors have been hit hard.

    The concept of the new fad of “Social Networking” itself is only useful to specific services and products. For most executives to spend vast amounts of time Tweeting, Facebooking, attending networking meetings to make best friends and convert them to reps or clients simply does not add up. Time vs return will always drive the ineffective concept fads out of popularity.

    Many of the companies now surviving may have added Twitter, FaceBook, etc, but they did not drop the traditional marketing in favor of the these. Most will tell you they just don't get the numbers.

    Adobe just recently purchased Omniture for tracking Social Media Marketing results. Good luck on that: Lots of statistics will still have to be fudged to get favorable results even under the most monitored situations. We are not afraid of Social Networking we just put it in perspective.


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