If you are 15 or 50, you will have a different way of seeking work, friendship, or even love online. But being "off-the-grid" is ever more a ticket to isolation.
SANTIAGO — Criticized by some, used by many, social networking sites have become a global phenomenon. Be it to find work, love or friends, or simply to share interests, we find today many networking platforms that help us reach these diverse goals. Yet there is one, basic objective that everyone shares: to be visible and recognized by others.
Finding work, as they say, is a full-time job. Whatever your age is, the networking sites have become a useful means to find professional opportunities. The challenge is to see — and understand — how organizations are communicating through these platforms.
For the baby boom generation — 48 to 65 years old — the priority is to find solid organizations, preferably hierarchical. They're the ones that can offer stability and status. The job market may be difficult these days, but such businesses do exist, and they look for professionals directly on their websites, or through headhunters.
Online networking has doubled (from 22 to 42%) among baby boomers, the 2013 poll Pew Internet and American Life Project shows. Age isn't a problem for this generation. It is important to understand that people aged 48 to 65 are attractive to the kind of company they want to work for. To be more visible, they need to be active on professional networking sites, and to display their generation's experiences and qualities. They need to show, for instance, that they are committed and persevering workers.
Find your voice
Their children, the X generation — 30 to 47 years old — are immersed in technology. Not because they were born in it, but for having lived the transition to the digital world. They can easily adapt to changing business structures, and seek balance between their career and personal (family and social) expectations.
Their problem, however, is a relative fear of online professional networking. They prefer targeted resumes. Their chance is the ability to show commitment to work and loyalty to a company in their online profiles. These are the major qualities businesses seek in the first place when looking for candidates that age. Adults from the X generation must also use all potential contacts on networking sites, either by creating their own network or simply by joining one.
A teenager wears a LinkedIn tattoo at the 2010 Bay to Breakers race in San Francisco. His father works for the company. Photo: A Name Like Shields Can Make You Defensive.
For the Y generation — people aged 19 to 29 — the digital age was their childhood. They already and readily take advantage of all the benefits of online interaction. Young adults love its utility and the extent of free expression they can find online. It's very common for them to state their likes and dislikes on social media.
The problem for this "digital" generation lies here. Some are just unable to channel their thoughts, giving companies a less-than-attractive impression of themselves. Their solution lies in the possibility to find a real voice online — by expressing themselves and writing on a specific theme, either in forums or on a personal blog.
Businesses seek such candidates. They see them as people who are able to bring new, innovative ideas, and who have enough personality to communicate them properly.
The "digital natives" are the ones that are even younger. They're the Z generation and are between 11 and 18 years old. Their first toy probably had something to do with technology. Few of them are already active in the labor market, but it is important to see how firms will try to reach them.
They represent a great opportunity for all businesses, even though they may prefer innovative, attractive companies — those that offer important challenges. Firms that do not may well be missing some young talents in the coming years.
All generations should be looked at, when it comes to social media. Yes, the Z, Y and X generations certainly have more contact with social networking sites than baby boomers. That doesn't mean 48 to 65-year-old workers should be overlooked. They currently occupy and will occupy senior corporate positions.
Networking online is a reality, and it is both up to candidates to forge different strategies to find work opportunities, and firms to understand their environment, so they can find the best talent.