For any professional, having a well-crafted LinkedIn profile is a must. Done right, it can help you cultivate new connections, raise your profile in your industry, and land you your next gig.
Case in point: 77% of recruiters say they use LinkedIn to search for job candidates, according to Jobvite’s 2018 Recruiter Nation Survey. That’s in line with a recent poll from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), which found that 84% of companies recruit through social media.
No matter your age, you have to figure out how to make your LinkedIn page more visible and grow your sphere. But workers over 50 face another challenge: How do you beef up your LinkedIn profile without making yourself look outdated or overqualified?
Like the workplace, LinkedIn may not be the friendliest place for older job seekers. Indeed, some recruiters and hiring managers make snap judgments based on age. To put it frankly: Age discrimination exists on social media, too.
To leverage LinkedIn more effectively, while steering clear of ageism, adopt this approach.
Make yourself search bait
The first thing people see when they view your profile is your headline, yet many professionals write ones that don’t demonstrate their area of expertise or contain the right keywords to help recruiters find them easily, says Sandra Long, author of LinkedIn for Personal Branding: The Ultimate Guide.
“You have 120 characters, so you want to use this space to position yourself carefully,” Long says.
Think about what recruiters would be searching for when they’re looking for someone with your skills and qualifications, and then tailor your headline accordingly, incorporating key words, says Long.
For example, instead of simply saying that you’re a “financial analyst” you might write “financial analyst specializing in audit, risk, and compliance.”
You also want to weave keywords into your summary, says Brenda Bernstein, author of How to Write a KILLER LinkedIn Profile. You can do that by listing your “specialties” at the bottom of the summary section, she says.
Tell a compelling story
Unlike with a resume, your LinkedIn summary should be written in the first person, says Hannah Morgan, author of The Infographic Resume: How to Create a Visual Portfolio that Showcases Your Skills and Lands the Job. “LinkedIn is a lot less formal,” she says. “You want people who are reading it to feel like they’re actually talking to you.”
Long agrees: “Think of the summary as more of an ‘introduction’ than a career overview,” she says. However, you don’t want to indicate your age by leading with, “I have 30-plus years of experience” or something similar.
Instead, use the summary to highlight big career wins or fresh skills to show that you’re current in your field.
Stick to recent history
How far back should your experience section go? Generally, you want to list jobs from only the last 10 to 15 years—anything deeper in your past and you risk your age hurting your shot at a job.
Plus, says Bernstein, “your first few jobs out of college may not be relevant anymore.” One exception: If you worked at a well-known company a while ago, like IBM or Apple, including that job on LinkedIn could still make you more attractive to recruiters.
Similarly, you don’t need to say when you graduated from college.
Embrace your current look
If you’re afraid to show your age, the thought of having a current photo on your profile might make you squeamish. But, “not having a photo, or having a photo that was taken 20 years ago, is worse than having a photo that makes you look old,” says Morgan.
To look your best, Long recommends hiring a professional photographer. “It’s worth the investment,” she says.
Grow your circle
“The larger your network, the more easily people will find you,” says Bernstein, who recommends having at least 500 connections on LinkedIn. “If you’ve been in the workforce for a while, you should have that many professional relationships.”
In addition to re-connecting with former colleagues, you can also reach out to alumni, vendors, or clients you’ve worked with in the past, and family or friends. And, of course, when you meet new people at industry conferences or events, send them a LinkedIn request later that day (while you’re still fresh in their mind).
In some cases, it may even make sense to accept connection requests from strangers. “When you get a request from someone you don’t know, don’t automatically dismiss them,” says Bernstein.
“Look at who they are and assess whether they would be a valuable connection. Do they work at a company you’re interested in? Are they an influencer in your field? Do you have any mutual connections?”
Be a not-so-secret sharer
Posting status updates can help improve your visibility, but you don’t want to come off as a self-promoter. So what should you be sharing?
Morgan recommends that one-third of your posts be industry news, one-third be related to your company, and one-third things that you’re doing in your career (for example, “Excited to announce I’ll be moderating a panel at this year’s SXSW Conference”).
Also, post on a regular basis. “Aim to like, comment, or share at least one article daily,” Morgan says.
If you can write well, you might also consider creating and sharing your own content through LinkedIn’s self-publishing platform. “It’s a great way to showcase your knowledge,” while adding credibility to your name, says Morgan.
The content doesn’t have to be groundbreaking—it could be as simple as something that you learned at a recent seminar, Morgan says.
Pay it forward
LinkedIn lets you endorse a person’s skills, but if you want to go a step further and create goodwill, you can offer to write someone a recommendation. “It’s probably the highest form of compliment that you can give someone,” says Morgan.
But, “don’t just recommend direct reports,” Morgan adds. Writing recommendations for former peers or bosses can help you cement relationships, and then ask for a recommendation in return.
Pro tip: LinkedIn recently introduced a Kudos feature, which lets you share your appreciation for people in your network. You can choose from 10 categories, like “amazing mentor,” or “team player.”
Your post will appear in your LinkedIn feed, and the person you praised will receive a notification letting them know you gave them a shout-out.
Stay under the radar (when necessary)
If you’re hunting for a new job but don’t want your employer to know, LinkedIn has a tool that will help you fly under the radar. You can let recruiters know that you’re searching by using the “Open Candidates” feature, which only lets recruiters outside of your company know that you’re looking for new opportunities.
The feature even has settings that let you show recruiters where you are in your job search (for example, actively applying, casually looking), when you would like a new job ( as soon as possible, one to three months), and job titles that you’re interested in.