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Update Your Job Search Image With a Strong Online Presence

By Michelle Dumas

Sadly, age discrimination in the workplace exists. If you are a member of the over-50 workforce and have suddenly found yourself in the job market--whether by choice or not--high unemployment rates combined with concerns of age-related hiring bias may have you a bit worried.

The truth is that there are many unfair stereotypes about the older worker. Particularly prevalent and crucial in an increasingly "wired" world, are beliefs that older workers are not technically savvy and are often set in their ways, resisting change.

For better or for worse, if you are conducting a thorough job search, technology and the Internet have become completely unavoidable. Gone are the days of local want ads and hard-copy, paper resumes. While these may play a part in your job search, they will likely be a very small part. Instead, the modern job seeker needs to maintain his resume in multiple electronic formats--and more importantly, must know how and when to use them. He should be aware of all the major job boards and understand how to optimize the settings for his search. Social and business networking sites are growing in popularity every day and have become an essential part of a thorough job search. Blogging...YouTube...Twitter...Facebook...LinkedIn... The possibilities and opportunities seem endless and can be confusing to even the most technically savvy individuals.

While even younger job seekers may be confused by all of the new technologies available for a job search and do their best to avoid them, it is in the older workers best interest to spend the time necessary to become familiar with and adopt the technologies that will enhance their online presence. Taking the time to build your Internet identity and use technology to your advantage in your job search will serve as a direct counter to unfair stereotypes and will serve as solid proof that you are adaptable and embrace positive change and new technologies.

If you've ever surfed the web, if you've ever responded to an article, written a review to a book you've read, or written a comment on a forum or message board; if you have a Facebook or Twitter account; if you use professional networking sites such as LinkedIn; if you blog; if you've uploaded your resume to an online database - if you do any of these things, then you've already established an online presence. It can't be helped; unless you're living Internet free, you're out there somewhere. So why not use it to your advantage? In a bloated job market, establishing a strong online presence can be just the thing that gives you the edge and lands you--the over-50 candidate--the job over the younger job seeker.

Create a Keyword-Rich Resume
Long gone are the days when hand and mail delivery of a resume was standard practice; nowadays many employers will not accept an application unless it's sent electronically. Why? Well there are several reasons; with one of the most important for the job seeker being automated applicant tracking systems. Employers use automated systems to database submissions, search them using keywords, and develop a short list of candidates for open positions. This means using the right keywords is imperative.

Spend some time really thinking about and brainstorming a list of keywords and keyword phrases that recruiters might use when searching for a candidate for the type of position you are seeking. Make sure that these keywords are included in your resume. While it is acceptable to create a separate keyword section for your resume, the current trend is to use the keywords in context within the body and main text of your resume.

Maintain Your Resume in Various Electronic Formats
Rather than printing and mailing your resume, you will often be asked to email it or submit it using a web-based process. In order to do this, you must maintain your resume in at least three formats.

Microsoft Word is the current business standard and the most frequently requested format by many recruiters. However, like all word-processed documents there are disadvantages to sending your resume in this format that you must be aware of. The most relevant of these are that MS Word (.doc) and other word-processed file formats are not universally compatible across all systems and may not retain their design and formatting when viewed on another system. For this reason, you should also maintain your resume in Adobe PDF format which is essentially a "snapshot" of your document that will retain its formatting across systems. When you run into a problem with your Word resume sent as an attachment to email, try sending the PDF version instead. The third version you will need is the plain ASCII text version (.txt) in which all of the formatting has been removed and non-compatible elements have been replaced with ASCII characters. You will need this version when you want to send your resume in the body of an email (rather than as an attachment) and when asked to "copy and paste" your resume into a web form that is then submitted directly into an applicant tracking system.

It is important to note that the actual content is the same in all these various electronic formats. The difference is just the actual file format (.doc vs. .pdf vs. .txt).

Create a Personal Career Portfolio Web Site
Since you cannot be online and avoid becoming searchable; you want to make yourself as positively searchable as possible. Creating a personal website is one way to do this. What should your personal website look like or be about? Well, beyond keeping it professional and related to your career focus, that is up to you. Everyone has a niche; find yours and build your website around it. It doesn't have to be fancy; the best websites are easily navigated and offer simple, understandable content. Using the right keywords helps people find it and updating it regularly keeps it fresh and interesting.

Blogging is an inexpensive (often free) and relatively easy way to create an online presence/personal website and you don't have to be the world's best writer to be successful at it. Just remember; never write anything you wouldn't want the world and all your potential employers to read.

While you wouldn't necessarily want to simply copy the content of your resume to your online career portfolio website, you might consider supplementing your resume with multimedia elements. Do you have charts, graphs, white papers, or articles to complement the content of your resume? Use them. Perhaps you could use audio or video, or maybe upload a PowerPoint presentation. Don't be afraid to be creative. You should also consider making the three versions of your resume (.doc, .pdf., and .txt) downloadable from your site.

Star in Your own YouTube Video
Why not? YouTube is an excellent way to get your name, personality, experience, opinion, sense of humor, etc. out there for potential employers to see. It's free and it's massive; so, if you're looking for work, it's ideal for giving that little bit extra to really catch the employer's eye and gain an edge over your competitors. Again, make sure your YouTube video topic is on-brand and professional. But, as an older worker, you do need to be careful. If you are concerned about bias, this is probably not the time to be showing off a video of yourself. Instead, a professionally focused video that simply includes your voice as a narrarator is probably a better choice.

Create Attractive Social Networking Profiles
One of the biggest mistakes a job seeker can make is thinking that they can or should separate personal networking from professional. The truth is, 1) you can't really separate the two and 2) even if you could, you shouldn't.

Your personal networking profile should be as much a reflection of what you want to present to potential employers as your professional one is. In the same manner, your professional profile should include a bit of the personal. The two should mesh; so that any employer seeking information on you will find something they will like seeing--a person who not only has the desired skills and experience, but one who, as an individual, fits well with their company.

At the very least, as a professional, you should have a LinkedIn account and keyword-rich LinkedIn profile. Through LinkedIn, you can search for jobs, you can easily make personal "inside" connections in relation to job opportunities, you can promote your personal brand and qualifications, you can be found and pursued for job opportunities, and you can form relationships that are critical to your career success and progression.

The idea of establishing an online presence may seem frightening; but the truth remains that, if you're surfing the web, you've probably already got one. So why not make it work to your advantage? By managing and maximizing the way the online world sees you, you can establish an online identity as a dynamic, flexible, technically savvy commodity any employer would love to have.