9 Ways Midlife Career Changers Can Be (More) Tech-Savvy
Wired Magazine co-founder and technology commentator Kevin Kelly has a message that some midlife career changers might not want to hear.
In the future, "Every career will be a technology career," Kelly shares in this YouTube video, part of a Kaplan University series with American thought leaders.
Kelly's message: If you're not staying current with the latest technology that affects your field, you're doing yourself a disservice. That's especially true if you're in your 40s, 50s or older. There's already a greater chance that a potential employer will assume you're not as tech-savvy as someone younger, so why feed into the stereotype?
One way to combat possible age-related bias is to show an employer that you're up to speed on social networks, mobile apps and texting by incorporating them in your job search. Once you've demonstrated your mastery of basic tech skills, you can shift the focus back to your comfort zone -- showcasing the experience and skills that would make you an asset to the company.
If you're looking for employment, here are several suggestions for putting your best tech foot forward:
1. Start with email.
Use a well-known service and a professional-sounding address that includes your full name. Or use an address that includes your own domain name (such as firstname.lastname@example.org); this shows you understand the significance of owning the rights to your own name online. Set up your email account so outgoing messages include a signature containing your contact information and links to accounts you have on social networks, which employers can use to look up more information on you.
2. Get online.
A longtime friend recent recently mentioned that he was thinking of closing up his home-based consulting business and working for someone else. "Guess I need to learn how to use LinkedIn," he said. Absolutely. If you're job hunting and considering joining a social network for the first time, LinkedIn is the place to start. Recruiters look on LinkedIn first when they've got jobs to fill, and if you're not there, they'll never find you. Basic accounts are free. Fill out your profile with keywords and skills specific to the job you're after so your information pops up when recruiters search on those terms. Add a photograph. Ask former colleagues or supervisors to write recommendations. More recruiters are starting to use Facebook and Twitter to fill jobs, too, so set up accounts there if you haven't already.
3. Go mobile, and learn how to text.
Technology analyst Forrester Research predicts that by 2016 there will be 1 billion mobile phones in the world, with 35 percent of the devices used for work. If you're still toting around a standard cellphone, swap it out for a smartphone such as Apple's iPhone 4S so you can send and receive SMS messages -- text messages -- which have become as common as email at companies of all sizes. In case you're gun-shy when it comes to smartphones, check out the iPhone: It's super easy to use.
4. Use apps.
Armed with a smartphone and accounts on LinkedIn and Facebook, you can use mobile and other apps to search for jobs -- another way to show a potential employer you're in the know. Find mobile apps that cost little or nothing to create a resume on the fly, practice interview questions, hunt for jobs on multiple job boards, or find someone in your area for a networking lunch. Use Facebook apps such as BranchOut and BeKnown to build a network of business contacts that's invisible to your wider circle of Facebook friends, or try the Glassdoor.com app to read what people have written about interviewing with specific companies.
5. Consider an interactive resume.
Adding graphics or interactive elements to your resume lets a hiring manager know you're comfortable thinking outside the box. Get help creating graphics-based resumes from online tools such Visualize.me, Re.vu and Kinzaa. You also can build and share video resumes on sites such as GetHired.com, Jobyra, Kareer.me and Purzue.com. You don't need an interactive resume for all jobs, but it can be helpful for tech-related and creative positions.
6. Start a blog.
Creating a blog on a subject related to your profession is a good way to demonstrate that you're following the latest industry developments. Maintaining a blog also can be helpful when making a midlife transition, as career changers in an annual blogging challenge that I host have discovered. You'll show that you're adept with content management systems (CMS), another name for blogging software such as WordPress, MovableType, Blogger and Tumblr. Who knows -- if you're hired, you could end up writing for the company blog.
7. Offer to do a Skype or video interview.
If you have a computer, webcam, internet access and a Skype account, or an iPhone with Facetime, you have what you need for the next best thing to a face-to-face meeting -- a video interview. Bonus points: If you're interviewing for a job that involves telecommuting, you'll show a potential boss you already have the computer setup necessary to tune in for video chats the company holds with home-based workers.
[Related: How to Skype]
8. Follow job chats on Twitter.
Here's another great way to show a potential employer you're tech-savvy: Share in a cover letter that you heard about the job opening on Twitter. One way to use Twitter to uncover job openings is to tune into one of the weekly job chats on the social network. Chats happen in real time, with members using a hashtag associated with a particular discussion to ask a question and follow what others are saying. Popular job chats include #jobhuntchat (Mondays at 10 p.m. Eastern), #careerchat (Tuesdays at 1 p.m. Eastern) and #HireFriday or #HFChat (Fridays at noon Eastern).
[Related: 5 Secrets to Using Twitter for Job Hunting]
9. Take a class.
If you prefer to have someone walk you through Twitter, Skype or blogging software, sign up for a class. Community colleges and university-based lifelong learning institutes have taken the lead in helping midlife and older career changers get training to switch jobs or industries. Check what community colleges near you offer, or search an Osher LifeLong Learning Institute National Resource Center interactive map to find lifelong learning classes. In some cities, adult education centers and libraries offer classes on using smartphones and smartphone apps. You also can pick up tips by watching instructional videos on YouTube channels from CNET, the tech website, and The Wall Street Journal's "Digits," the newspaper's tech column. Use the search feature embedded in each channel to look for videos on specific subjects.
Read more: 4 Facebook Apps for Job Hunters
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