Does Your LinkedIn Profile Show Your Age?
You would think that Kathy and I, having spent the whole of our adult lives advertising everything from hamburgers to cars to computers, would have a super tight LinkedIn profile, right?
After all, LinkedIn is where we all go to market ourselves, whether it’s to find a new job, plump up our network, inject some thought leadership, or lift our brand.
Still, we’d rather be getting dental work. Because while we have successfully promoted some very big brands, we’re like a lot of women over 50. Working on our LinkedIn profile makes us feel saggy and tired.
Thankfully, after speaking with Katie Fogarty, who runs The Reboot Group, a communications consultancy that works with individuals and companies to tell better career and brand stories on LinkedIn, we’re feeling confident and re-energized. Chin up!
We interviewed Katie, rather bombarded her, about the best way for women over 50 to own their age and their story on LinkedIn.
GG50: In our experience, a lot of us dread working on our LinkedIn profile.
Katie: LinkedIn can feel very transactional. Like a chore. But when you realize you can use it as a relationship-building tool versus a huge promotional tool, that feels more comfortable.
I think that’s particularly true for women who are not used to banging their own drum. If they can shift their mindset around how they approach LinkedIn, they’re more likely to use it, and it feels less icky.
GG50: So from that angle, how do you approach somebody you want to connect with?
Katie: I would say, “Hi Susan, I’m reaching out to you because I admire the work. We’re both active in the 50-plus demographic. Here’s my ask.”
Be very clear. Make it easy for the person to understand what you need. I might close by saying, “If there’s any way I can be of help to you, please let me know. You know, my day job is helping people with their LinkedIn. I’m always more than happy to give a quick phone consultation if that would be of interest.” If I’m asking you for a favor, I’m offering something in return.
I wrote an article a couple of years ago where I interviewed five uber-connected women on LinkedIn and asked them about their receptivity to cold outreach. And they were all willing. As long as people were quick, clear, didn’t overstep, and kind of offered something in return.
But first, make sure your LinkedIn profile reflects you well.
GG50: How do we own our story on LinkedIn?
Katie: You need a mindset shift around your Profile. It’s not to give everyone an exhaustive career overview.
You’re sharing a particular perspective about your career and what it is that you offer. Effective LinkedIn Profiles make a case for the value that you’re giving the other person. It’s not a big career snapshot.
It’s important to remember that only you have your story. I review thousands and thousands of LinkedIn Profiles, I can tell you that a lot of them are cookie cutter.
You need to put details into your story that bring it to life. What are the things that are unique to your story? Interject those into your Profile so that it connects with the viewer. LinkedIn is a social network. Remember that there’s a human on the other end.
Use keywords to describe your work, but that also makes a value statement. Your work delivers an outcome. Not because of your career history, but because of what your career history allows you to deliver for them.
That is something all your language on LinkedIn needs to do. Then share that throughout your Profile, your Headline and your Summary, and in your Experience Section. You should also be including rich media and, social proof.
If you have articles you’ve written, if you’ve been a media expert, if you are a public speaker, LinkedIn allows you to showcase your work in 360.
GG50: What the best way to own our age on LinkedIn?
Katie: In your LinkedIn About Section make a case for your value that you bring to the table today. Don’t focus on your past work history. What business problem can you solve? What outcome does your work deliver? How can you help the employer generate revenue, win new clients, accelerate their impact? Make the language in this section forward-looking versus all about your past. What magic are you going to make once the reader hires you? Focus on the value you deliver — that’s how you get hired.
GG50: How far back should we go with the dates on the Experience Section?
Katie: Employers will focus on your most recent role or the work of the past 5–10 years, and you should too. If you’ve been lucky enough to have a long career, you can drop way-back roles from your Profile, particularly if you’ve pivoted or switched careers along the way.
GG50: What are some mistakes that make us look outdated?
Katie: 1. Pay attention to the non-verbal statements you’re making and how you talk about your career. Are you using a dated headshot? Make sure you’re not using one that features a 1980’s power suit.
Are you using a dated email? Email styles change as well; if you’re still using a Hotmail or an Earthlink or an AOL email, time for an update. Switch to a Gmail or an email with a domain name.
2. Are you highlighting outdated skills in the Skill Section? Tech skills change, computer language skills change, what’s considered to be a skill changes. I recently worked with a client who had a wonderful 40-year career as a senior ad sales leader. Her second skill on her LinkedIn profile was Microsoft Office. I diplomatically had to say, “That’s signaling the wrong thing. Microsoft Office is not really a skill at your level. Everyone knows how to use Microsoft Office now.”
3. Turn your Profile inside and out. Make sure that you’re eliminating things that could make you look dated. Ask somebody young in your life to review your Profile for you — a college student, a niece or nephew, or a young mentee. Get them to look over your profile and flag anything that might be signaling that you’re not quite current.
Many people of a certain generation (and I put myself in it that demo) do two spaces after a period when they’re typing. We were all trained to do that, but today’s younger, digital-native employees are only using one after a period. Because they’re all used to typing directly on a computer. This is a small thing, but it also shows that you’re from a different era.
Every aspect of your Profile should signal that you are relevant, current, and ready to hit the ground running.
GG50: What are some tips for making our Profile engaging and relevant?
- Be active weekly. Viewers can see your activity log. Only having one post from 9-months ago is not a good look.
- Use current images. Opt for a fresh, modern headshot. And use a cover image. Even a simple color background can add visual polish. We live in an age of visual communication — take the time to make your images shine.
- Add a “featured media” carousel that lets you link to your website, podcast, press, and content off of LinkedIn. LinkedIn is way more than a paper resume — take advantage of its digital nature to share content that supports your professional branding.
- Add courses and certificates profile section to showcase your ongoing education and professional development. LinkedIn and many other online digital classes have badges, so if you have taken a class either through LinkedIn or through some of their affiliate partners, the badge for that certificate is directly on your LinkedIn profile.
GG50: Talk about your own career shift with your podcast, A Certain Age, which encourages women to “Age Out Loud”?
Katie: I was ready for a creative pursuit of my own. The link, so to speak, to LinkedIn, is that because my day job is talking to people, mostly senior people, about their careers, I hear a lot of anxiety about being older. Over the years, I’ve learned that even the most powerful executives can feel uncertain about their value at different times.
I think everyone thinks there’s ageism in their industry probably because there is, and everyone thinks their industry is the most ageist.
I’ve had people say, “ I love what you’re doing, but I can’t give you a quote because I don’t want people to know I’m 50.”
I want to be part of changing the narrative around that. I am so excited to be 50 and having space in my life and career to shine an age-positive spotlight on midlife.
I launched A Certain Age to share the stories that people don’t always feel comfortable sharing. It makes you excited when you see what great things other people are doing. It’s not too late. You’re never too old, and there’s all this opportunity.
I feel very limitless at this stage. I’m not saying I’m leaping out of bed, full of sunshine and rainbows, every single day. But I feel deeply confident in myself.
Listen to our podcast about ageism and advertising with Katie on A Certain Age!