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On this page: Joshua Waldman analyzes the struggles each generation is having with social media and job search.

Every Generation Struggles with Social Media

A very successful executive career placement specialist was telling me how hard it is for her Baby Boomer clients to adopt social media in their job search. But, in my experience, I’ve found that all generations experience very little reprieve when it comes to feeling comfortable with social media at first and then successfully using it for their job searching.

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In fact, from recent grads to the almost-retired, job seekers go through a similar 6-step emotional cycle:

  1. Total denial of the importance of social media.  Then...
  2. An acceptance that social is somewhat useful. Then...
  3. Realization of the complete and utter adoption of social by hiring professionals today, and a fear that they are missing out. Then...
  4. Frustration at the total lack of instruction on what to do about it. Then...
  5. Anger that their non-strategic and inconsistent use of social is not producing any of the promised results.  And finally...
  6. Determination to figure out social media and seek expert advice.

My father is 70+ years old. He was the one who initiated my interest in social media. Meanwhile, I’ve spoken with hundreds of recent grads, and entire audiences have expressed fear and trepidation around social media.

Here are some of the struggles each generation must face when using social media in their job search.

Gen Y Issues With Social Media

This generation may be tech-savvy, but they aren’t born social media experts either. From early on, they’ve texted and Facebooked their way through life. And in many ways, they are way more aware of the real-life consequences of online behavior. After all, what they said on Facebook might get them beaten up or ridiculed at school the next day.

And because their use of technology has been for play, by the time they face college graduation, they fear what those past rumpus messages might do to their employability.

Gen Yers must focus on two key areas when adopting social media:

Gen X Issues With Social Media

We didn’t get email until our senior year at college or shortly after. When we grew up, we were still mailing our thank-you notes to grandma, and hoping we didn’t die in nuclear holocaust.

I needed prodding from an ex-girlfriend even to look at Facebook because I had already invested my time in Friendster and didn’t want to fill out another dang profile.

Those of us lucky enough to have signed up for the right social networks label ourselves "early adopters" and glean over the 100 other social networks that failed miserably. We approach new technologies with small amounts of weariness. "Oh, another one." But often our curiosity gets the better of us and we fill out a new profile.

Gen Xers must focus on these areas when adopting social media

Baby Boomer Issues With Social Media

Since Boomers often look at the younger generations and assume social media is easy for them, they set themselves up for failure. "Oh, those kids text and play X-box. This stuff is easy for them. But I’m older and don’t get technology."

And with this thought, every learning curve becomes ten times more frustrating. This is what psychologists call a false schema, also known as a self-fulfilling prophesy.

The truth is, every generation has their hurdles when using social media,and there are many advantages to being a Boomer in the social media world.

First, you are uniquely qualified to recognize the impact social media has had in the world of hiring. You have seen the rise of many new technologies and you know the power they have in transforming our world. You saw color television emerge, you saw FM change from talk to music, and you saw computers shrink from the size of buildings to the size of fists.

Second, you are less likely to screw up with social media than other generations. You approach technologies cautiously because you’ve had computers that would break if you pushed the wrong button.

These are some areas of focus for baby boomers when using social media to find work.

Bottom Line

Overall, each generation must face their own unique hurdles when adopting social media. So never fall into the trap of thinking that "those other people have an advantage over me". With social media, the playing field is level, and those millions of Americans winning their jobs with it are the ones willing to go through the stages of adoption and take their time to educate themselves on something new.

About this author...

Joshua Waldman, author of Job Searching with Social Media For Dummies, is a recognized expert on Social Media Career Advancement.  Joshua Waldman is also a speaker and trainer specializing in helping people re-gain control of their careers in today’s economic and technology climate.Connect with Joshua on his website, and on social media through Twitter (@JoshuaWaldman), LinkedIn, Facebook, Google Plus, and his Career Enlightenment Channel on YouTube.