Monday, March 29, 2010

LinkedIn --A Useful Tool for Boomers who Want to Find Jobs

I'm sure you've heard about LinkedIn, the professional social network and maybe you've heard of a newer network called Naymz.

Both of these are professional networks that aim to connect their users with colleagues.

For this blog entry about job hunting, I am going to concentrate on LinkedIn. It seems to give the job hunter more free features and has more users than Naymz, but I wanted you to be aware of Naymz as well.

LinkedIn is a network Boomers can use for professional development, to bounce ideas off of people in their field, to catch up with colleagues who graduated with the same degree as the they have and to ask experts questions about marketing, advertising, best business practices, etc. So far so good. A lot of LinkedIn's features are free, but you have to purchase "advanced" features.

These networks are excellent sources of jobs, if you use them right. I came across a couple of good blog posts on this topic, but the ones I liked the best were called How to Change the World: Ten Ways to use Linked In to Find a Job by Guy Kawasaki and How to Use Linked In to Find a Job by Dave Taylor. I highly recommend you read the entire posts for tips on how to leverage Linked-In successfully.  

The first thing you have to do on any of these sites, is take the time to create your profile. A blog post by Dave Taylor suggests that the profile is important because it makes you more "findable" by your colleagues and potential employees. Be sure to include any nick names or pre-marriage names (if you've changed your name) in your profile to enhance your ability to be found. Also:

When you initiate communication with someone else, the first thing they'll do is go and check out your profile. Even if your profile isn't that great, the fact that you've spent the time trying to make it comprehensive will tell them that you're serious, that you respect their time and attention, and that you want to use LinkedIn to its fullest capacity.
Once you've created your profile putting your best foot forward, it's time for some serious networking.I have a confession to make. I'm good at writing, and not so good at networking. When I joined LinkedIn a couple of years ago, I was timid about asking people to join my network. That was my first mistake. If you want to find a job, you have to overcome any shyness you may have, even online. Connect with anyone you may have known in a professional capacity throughout your career. Then throw in people you may know who are "thought leaders" in your field. Make sure you've had a personal connection with them, however.  Maybe you've taken their classes or spoken to them at a few conferences. Don't forget clients and vendors.Also connect outside your career path. Remember that your cousin who may be in a totally different field from you knows people!

Join whatever groups are on LinkedIn that relate to your career, your special interests,your college, your frat or sorority, your grad school, even your church or synagogue.After you've joined groups, start commenting and contributing to them. Answer questions in the ask the expert section. Discuss interesting topics in your field; make your presence known.

In his post---aside from the standard advice about updating your status to let people know that you are job hunting--- Guy Kawasaki has some advice unique to job hunters who want to use LinkedIn.
Get LinkedIn recommendations from your colleagues. A strong recommendation from your manager highlights your strengths and shows that you were a valued employee. This is especially helpful if you were recently laid off.
Find out where people with your backgrounds are working. Find companies that employ people like you by doing an advanced search for people in your area who have your skills. For example, if you’re a web developer in Seattle, search profiles in your zip code using keywords with your skills (for example, JavaScript, XHTML, Ruby on Rails) to see which companies employ people like you.

LinkedIn also has ways for you to investigate where people at certain companies come from and go to, to help you widen your search for good places to work. And you can use the service to check to see if companies are still hiring. If you have a company in mind, you can even use LinkedIn to find people who are willing to walk your resume to the hiring manager, giving it a personal cache, Guy says.

The key to networking (or “schmoozing”), however, is filled with counter-intuitiveness. First, it’s not who you know—it’s who knows of you. Second, Great schmoozers are not thinking “What can this person do for me?” To the contrary, they are thinking, “What can I do for this person?” For more on schmoozing, read “The Art of Schmoozing.”
In his blog post, Dave Taylor gives detailed instructions about how to find the people that your colleagues know. He points out that once you find someone you want to get to know, you can "Get Introduced" on LinkedIn by asking people who ARE linked to him to "Introduce" you. Taylor points out that if you are new to LinkedIn you might not be able to use the "Get Introduced" button. In this case you can try to use "In-Mail", which is LinkedIn's internal email system.

The message you send will determine whether or not the other person responds. It's like being at a party: if you go up to someone you find attractive and say something stupid, well, odds are you won't be successful in your attempt to connect. I strongly encourage you to be brief, polite, somehow weave in some overlap between their experience and your own ("Turns out we both went to Colorado Tech too. When did you graduate?"), and make it clear why you're contacting them. I'd also recommend something like "If you have the time, I'd like to suggest we meet for a cup of coffee too: I'm just getting into the job market here in the Springs and would like to hear more about your experiences too. I'm happy to buy!
Best of luck with your job searches, Boomers. I hope some of this helps. Here are some other resources with some great advice about using Linked-In to hunt for a job:

Friday, March 26, 2010

Boomer Technophiles should Teach Boomer Technophobes now

This blog entry is a little different from most of the ones I've done on these pages. In most cases, I've been trying to help people adopt new technologies that may seem unclear to them or find a great application they may have overlooked. However, I came across Laurie Orloff's recent blog post called Technophiles Should Teach Technophobes Now and felt moved to discuss it. Laurie writes about aging in place, and older people using technology. She is a firm believer that technology enhances people's lives, no matter what the age, and that older people who don't know how to use the Internet are missing out. She especially worries about social isolation. She sees some hope in these news items she recently saw:
Three tiny news items -- three small steps for senior computer literacy. In New York, Microsoft and Self-Help have announced a virtual senior center -- a way that home-bound seniors can share in the activities of a local senior center through video conferencing. In Tuscaloosa, a public library has partnered with Generations Online to offer training in use of computers -- the library has the computers and software already, but is running out of funding to pay the Senior Aides who do the training. And in Rockville, Maryland, the Jewish Council on Aging is seeing a growing number of seniors sign up for computer training, fearful of being left out of connecting with their peers.
So how does all that relate to Boomers? If you know how to use the computer well enough to read my blog, you know enough to teach someone else how to use the Internet and work a smart phone, if they are willing! Laurie is worried that seniors are missing out on the sense of community that comes when they are increasingly isolated. I am worried that if Boomers don't keep up, they will be the ones isolated when they reach old age.

Laurie says that only 66% of middle Boomers seem to be working full time, and she speculates that some of that job loss might be because they are unfamiliar with technology. Not knowing technology can hamper you from finding a job if the employer only advertises online. Everyone these days has to be able to write using a word processor and surf the Internet at a minimum. Many jobs--even hands on jobs like social work and nursing--require updating of materials on the computer.

While I think much of what Laurie has to say in her article is spot on, I would like to broaden her approach. For every Boomer out there who is a slave to their Blackberry and loves Facebook and Linked-In, there's another who hasn't a clue. I know there are those who claim they don't want to have a life online. If you know someone like this, encourage them to give it a try and don't give up. In 20 years, when boomers reach a stage when they can no longer drive well or climb the subway stairs, who do you think will be the happier people? Technophobes or Technophiles?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

"Tour Guide in Your Pocket?" Take a look at HearPlanet, Boomers

Boomers who travel often want to save some money and I just ran across a great little application for the iPhone that will help you do that. It's an app called HearPlanet that replaces travel guides, and it was recommended in a list of best iPhone apps by National Geographic Adventure Magazine. 

The other apps in this list are interesting, but National Geographic writer Steve Casimiro says this application is like "having a tour guide in your pocket." The app "tells you what attractions are nearby and then plays the Wikipedia description aloud."  There is a free version and one priced at $4.99. Even if you splurge for the $4.99 version, it could save boomers a lot of money buying guide books at the various sites they visit.

The beauty of HearPlanet is that it uses geolocation technology. You don't have to type in where you are.  You just press a button on the far left on the bottom of the Featured Places screen, and the application finds where you are and recommends places near you.

One reviewer in an AAA magazine said "The drive took us past Casa Grande, the site of ancient American Indian ruins. To learn about them, Janice searched HearPlanet  ($4.99), a talking guidebook that uses your location to find Wikipedia articles about nearby sights. It gave us an instant overview of Casa Grande."

I downloaded the free version of HearPlanet, and I found it was an amazing tool. Here's what the app came up with around my house.

I live in a residential area of New Jersey, but I found an entry for the nearby commuter airport.  The entry gave a detailed history of the airport and even mentioned that the airport gained notoriety when John F. Kennedy, Jr. took off from there on his ill-fated last flight.

The only problem with the Free version seems to be that it continuously asks you to upgrade to the complete version which has interactive maps.

Reviewers of the upgraded version are sometimes frustrated by the lack of a signal in the places they are visiting, but that is problem with the AT&T network and not the program. Still it would be better if you could download some of the info ahead of time, just in case the signal couldn't be found.

The free version doesn't recommend restaurants or tell you the best places to stay, so I'm sure one of the more traditional travel guides will still be required. Still this is a great little application that could help you discover new places to go and see.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Boomers, go ahead and Skype

I just had a call from a friend of mine saying her adult child was spending six months abroad. I said, "You'll have to get Skype."   Her response: "Have you written about it?" Of course, I hadn't yet written about Skype, so here is a short blog post on how to use Skype.

For those who don't know, Skype is a way to make free phone calls over the internet. You download a program, install it, get a headset so you can be heard clearly, and start Skyping. It's a little bit more complicated than that, but not much. The person on the other end of the Skype call also needs the software and the headset.

The headset consists of a microphone and earphones, both of which are needed for a clear call.  Both of the parties to the call could use a camera on their computer. Many computers come with these included. If not, a cheap web cam will do, so you can make video calls.  You'll need to figure out which ports the camera and Skype headset will go into in your computer. That can be the hardest part of all, especially for a novice or someone who has trouble getting down on the floor to see where these items go. OK, boomers, you know who you are!

Here's how to get started. First, go to and download the program to your computer.

  Go ahead and save the file.
After the file downloads, you'll have a Skype icon on your desktop or it may be in downloads file. This is the setup execution file. Run it and follow the setup wizard.

Once Skype has been installed you can search for Skype users.

When you find a user, you can make Skype calls to that user.

After installation has been completed, you'll find a Skype icon on your desktop. Click it and this is an example of what you'll see. (The icons on the window will tell you if that person is online or not.)

One of the easiest things ways to make Skype work for both parties is to preselect a time you both will be online. You can do this by sending the other person an email  making arrangements to be online, or you can have a certain time each day or week that you'll be online and the other person knows it. Communications is really easy this way.

Skype offers a number of other ways to use its services. For a fee, you can call a land line phone in another country, for example. That way, you don't have to be at the computer at a set time.  The website has a whole list of countries that can be called for either a low set per minute fee or a subscription fee.There are a lot of other options too.

I hope I've answered your Skype questions. Please let me know.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Boomers on the move: iTranslate a "universal translator"

Here in the Northeast, it looks a little like spring, finally, after a very tough winter. That got me thinking that many boomers will be planning vacations in the next few months. Also, my kids are headed away on Spring Break. Is there anything on their iPhones that can help them?

In my search I found many iPhone apps that help travelers. One, however, that I found reminded me of Star Trek's Universal Translator. The Free app is called iTranslate by an Austrian developer called Sonico Mobile. To use iTranslate you have to be able to operate your phone and have access to the internet in the country you are visiting. So if you have an iPhone, you have to get an international plan with AT&T to use this app. And it won't work everywhere. AT&T doesn't have agreements with some carriers around the world.  Still, it's very cool, and I can think of a lot of uses for it.

Several years ago our family went to Italy. After touring a wonderful art glass factory in Murano, an island near Venice, we wandered the small island and found ourselves off of the main "tourist" roads and walking in a heavily residential area. We were lost, knew no Italian, and the people we encountered knew no English. They wanted to help us, but we couldn't make ourselves understood. Finally, we were able to make someone understand what we wanted, and we found our way back to the glass factory and the water taxi that waited there.

It would have been wonderful to type what we wanted to say into our phones and have the written words come out on the other side, in Italian. Of course, it wouldn't have made much of a story.

Using iTranslate, the first thing you have to do is select the languages you want to translate from and to. This is an easy process. You press the button that says a language, spin a wheel until you get to the language you want, and press Set Language. 

Another screen opens and you can type in the message you want translated.

You press the Translate button and there you have your answer. We could have used this in Italy.
Some reviewers of this program note that it isn't perfect, and I'm sure it isn't. The translations will sometimes be mechanical and clumsy. However, for occasional travel use, this translation program has a lot going for it, and could really be of some help to traveling boomers and even their children on Spring Break.