By Wendy Marx
COVID-19 has not been kind to Boomers.
Besides being physically more vulnerable to the disease, we have been taunted by virulent hashtags like #Boomermover and #grandmakiller.
Beyond those injustices, it is easy to feel irrelevant at 50+, especially now when so many of us are locked in our homes and digital communication predominates.
Born before computers ruled, we are digital come-latelys. Add to that the fact that some of our skills have become antiquated and the old ways of working no longer make sense.
As Fed Chair Jerome Powell said recently on "60 Minutes," "There’s a real risk that if people are out of work for long periods of time, that their skills atrophy a little bit. They lose contact with the workforce. This is something that shows up in the data — that longer and deeper recessions tend to leave behind damage to people’s careers."
Before we throw up our hands in frustration, let us look at the coronavirus pandemic from another perspective.
With our long job histories and accumulated knowledge, the pandemic actually gives Boomers a chance to shore up our personal brands by blazing a virtual trail. Here are some ways to do just that:
Social media usage and screen time has soared during the pandemic. Here are some ways to take advantage of that:
The pandemic offers an opportunity to network.
"With so many people working at home, the pandemic offers an unprecedented opportunity to reach people," Jacob Share, a career expert and founder of the job search blog JobMob, told me. "After all, people working from home are typically more accessible and likely to respond."
Do not immediately ask someone for help. That is a turnoff. Instead, Share advises that you engage with the person on social media or give them a virtual gift -- an article, for instance, that you thought they might find of value. Warm up the relationship first before asking for anything.
LinkedIn is a Baby Boomer mecca of opportunities. It is an excellent way to meet new people, add value, and even share your thought leadership.
Social media today makes networking easier. But do not take the lazy person’s approach. Daniel Alfon, in a guest post on JobMob, cautions against using default LinkedIn responses. If you’re like me, you ignore people who simply say happy birthday or congratulations (unless of course they are people you want to talk with).
Instead, Alfon suggests sending a personal note or even picking up the phone and congratulating someone; anything to distinguish your response and make it meaningful. You might also think about sending an old-fashioned letter.
With everything online now, it’s a snap to acquire knowledge and skills. Unfortunately, a lot of Boomers have been laggards in the skills department.
A recent Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies survey reported that only 36% of Boomers reported keeping their skills up to date. That does not have to be you.
Want to learn how to program, write engaging copy, get more traffic to your website, perfect your social media? The list goes on and on. Before taking a course willy-nilly, however, Share suggests checking with some of the contacts you warmed up and asking them what skills would be valuable to acquire.
And remember, you do not want to learn a skill and not be able to practice it. Simply learning a skill without practice is like reading a cook book and claiming you are a cook. One way to practice is to volunteer. Share suggests asking your network if they know of any charitable organizations that might need your services.
Do not expect this to be a once and done process. You need to commit for the long term.
Today, being visible and reachable is a key element many recruiters seek when they are looking for qualified job candidates. If you update your LinkedIn profile, and then ignore it for a few weeks (or months), you will be ignored, too.
Continue sharing content on LinkedIn. Build your social media followers. Interact with others in a positive and professional way (of course), to keep you and your expertise visible and clarify to recruiters that you will notice and respond if they reach out to you.
While it is easy during these stressful times to forget about your personal brand, don’t. This is an ideal time to burnish it so you will be in good stead when life returns to a semblance of normal. And you will be top of mind now, when it is so easy to be lost if you’re working at home and socially-distancing.
Wendy Marx is a personal branding and reinvention expert for baby boomers. For many years, she ran a PR and marketing firm where she turned virtual unknowns into industry icons through personal branding. Wendy is the author of Thriving at 50 Plus about finding more meaning and purpose in your life at 50 plus through rebranding and reinvention. Connect with Wendy on Linkedin and Twitter. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org, and visit ThrivingAt50plus.com.