It’s Thursday afternoon at the Senior Planet Exploration Center in New York City. In the computer lab in the back of the Center, members are Googling themselves.
They’re students in a new ten-week course called “Work!”, which was designed to help them gain the skills and knowledge to search for jobs and succeed in the workforce in the digital age.
The trainer, Mikey Berg, shows them how to put their names into “incognito” mode of the search engine Google. That way, he says, they’re more likely to see the same results as anyone else who might search for them — such as recruiters.
It’s important, Mikey explains to the students, because a 2017 CareerBuilder survey found that in addition to Googling prospective employees, 70% of employers also scour social media pages such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn before saying those two beautiful words: “You’re Hired.”
“It’s important to be social media savvy in today’s job market because it helps you present yourself to employers as knowledgeable and skillful with technology,” Mikey says. “People can make assumptions about older people not being up to date. It also gives you a chance to present the ‘full picture’ of yourself if an employer looks for you online, which is something that’s expected in today’s world.”
“Back in the day, you had a resume, you walked in the door, you had face-to-face contact,” says Arthur Fornari, a Senior Planet Team Leader and a student in Work!, which was made possible with the support of Macquarie Group Foundation, a longtime OATS partner.
“You also had a network of people who knew you and connected you to job opportunities. Today, there’s no face-to-face contact and that professional network has dwindled. Everything is done online. It’s all about social media.”
Kathleen, 74, who used to be a VP in sales, marketing and communications, says she registered for the class partly because she was stumped by the terminology. “I kept seeing the words ‘digital marketing’ and didn’t know what that meant,” she says. “The class mentally brought me up to date and gave me confidence.”
For example, she realized she needed to use Gmail instead of her EarthLink email account — which she used for 20 years — because Gmail is more professional. “Things like that catch the eye of the recruiter,” she says.
“Julia”, a class member who wished to not be identified, had two interviews, one of which yielded a job offer in the healthcare field as a result of the skills she got from the class. After being let go from her previous job because of her age, a larger issue the class also addresses, Julia says Senior Planet provided her with a backdrop of support at a time when she, like many members in the class, were ‘unretiring’ and “struggling to see themselves as employable.”
“I learned so much,” she says. “I fixed up my LinkedIn page, ended up doing a new resume, searched for jobs online, and applied to jobs. I also made new friends and got support to move forward.”
In addition to helping students navigate the maze of social media, the class also helps them “age-proof” their resumes, write a modern resume and cover letter using Google Docs templates, and use job search websites. The course — with the help of a free take-home Work! book — also offers tips on writing professional emails, emailing attachments, uploading files, and how to ace a video interview. This quarter, volunteers from Macquarie are visiting the class to help participants with resume building and cover letter writing. OATS Training Manager Elizabeth Pooran will also be taking class members’ headshots for their profile pictures on social media sites, such as LinkedIn.
For Kathleen, who suffered a heart attack four years ago and had been in a career slump ever since, the class was a game-changer.
“It awakened me,” Kathleen says. “This course inspired me to look for comparable work at my age. It was a kick in the a** to get out and do something.”
Senior Planet will be including “Work!” in its Spring Course offerings at the Senior Planet Exploration Center at 127 W. 25th Street in Chelsea. Learn more about it and other classes at its Course Information Fair on Thursday, March 28th from 10:30 am to 1:30 pm and Monday (watch for more details or call 646-590-0615) with registration in early April. Senior Planet members outside of New York City should check our location list for the nearest Senior Planet Exploration Center to inquire about a local “Work!” course.
Photo: trainer Mikey Berg with Senior Planet Member Bonnie MacKay.