Ageism and the Social Media Job Search

Do those years of experience count for or against you?


I’m 59 years old with a full-time job in medical ultrasound imaging. I have 32 years of experience in the field. With hospital downsizing and Medicare cutbacks, the higher-paid employees costing the most will be looked at. Your book “Job Searching With Social Media For Dummies” is very helpful and I want to follow your suggestions. I have two questions. Should I state my true years of experience, or would that make recruiters shy away because of age? Would my LinkedIn profile indicate to my present employer that I’m unhappy in my current position?

Thank you for your time,
Ultrasound Bob

Dear Ultrasound Bob,

Good for you for seeing the writing on the wall. Not everyone has the guts to acknowledge the fact that their job is not going to last forever. When I was at Cisco in 2008, living in Las Vegas, even though I knew my job would go away, I didn’t do anything about it. So first, I want to applaud you and give you the chance to celebrate your own courage.

Many people I talk to have concerns about their age and years of experience, old and young. It used to be that more years of experience was a great thing to have. These days, experience can often mean being on a list of the first to go during layoffs. For recruiters, age can have many different subtexts — though by law, that shouldn’t be.

I think there is nothing wrong with downplaying those years of experience. They are simply not the asset they once were. In fact, you’ve beaten the national average for the length of a career by 6.4 times! The U.S. Department of Labor reports that the average time in a position is 2 years; at a company, 4 years; and in a career for about 5 years. In the course of your single career, most Americans would have had 6.4 different careers.

Why not just say you have over 15 years of experience? On your resume and LinkedIn work history, just go back 15 years. In your summary, there is no reason to specify the exact number of years of experience you have, and 15 years is long by today’s standards. But it’s not so long as to indicate that you would require a significantly higher salary than someone else. You do not have to put every single job you’ve ever had on your resume.

In your second question, you worry that by simply having a presence on LinkedIn, you might communicate that you are looking for work. Generally speaking, this isn’t how people see LinkedIn. Indeed, there are many users of LinkedIn who are very happy with their current jobs.

However, this perception may be different at your current job. I would do a quick search to see if other people at your current employer have profiles. If they do, then it’s probably OK for you to have one, too. If not, then maybe you should be careful.

One additional piece of advice: If you do end up setting up a LinkedIn profile and begin to build a large network (which you should), be sure to reset the privacy setting that broadcasts every single change you make to your profile. If an employer sees a sudden flurry of profile changes, this might lead them to conclude that you are looking for another job.