Having just been “socially recruited” I need to declare at the outset that my position in regard to LinkedIn is extremely positive. I no longer need convincing. Not of the myriad of anodyne, sales-infested discussion groups, where everyone is talking and no-one is listening, but in respect of its use as a connecting tool, on both sides of the supply line.
There is a caveat. Of course, otherwise it wouldn’t be a blog post. Not with LinkedIn per se, but in regard to ourselves.
Under a decade ago, when we finally decided that we wanted to change job – usually too late, as these realisations often are – we thought about updating our CV. We scrabbled around looking for the last one, thought about how we might position ourselves differently this time, and double checked the spelling of one of the few bits of Latin we ever bothered with, Curriculum Vitae. We dusted down our self-impression, bought a new outfit or two, painted our nightmares as dreams, and readied ourselves to be commoditised, judged, ignored and rejected. All part of the accepted fun of job seeking.
We (in the broadest, all inclusive sense) answered advertisements looking for “excellent communicators at all levels, team players with a strong leadership style, influencers, innovators and self-starters with a track record of achievement”, avidly claiming to be all of these things – when what they wanted was a reliable and trustworthy middle manager prepared to deal with the usual limited opportunities – feeling apprehensive about our claims because “we” were a reliable and trustworthy middle manager prepared to deal with the usual limited opportunity. We just knew that if we secured a chance to show ourselves, the reality would reveal itself on both sides and we could set aside how we came to be there.
Fortunately it was occasional – and for the most part, when we excitedly squeezed through the cracks of a chance, we locked it all away – emotional scars included – until next time. We had sailed around the Cape of Good Hope in a bathtub and made it to dry land, one up on Vasco de Gama. We laughed about the experience, for all its flaws, but were happy with the eventual outcome. For the rest of the time we just….got on with it.
Through LinkedIn we now live with our personal brand taped to our foreheads, a 24/7 CV. You cannot afford not to be on it. There are training courses in using it, photographers for your profile pic, SEO advisors and consultants for maximising your appearance in search results, abundant subtle hints, tricks and tips all in video blogs, and a host of technical tools designed to find, analyse and process you. In fact, you appeared in 347 searches today. It may have beneficially changed the experience of both recruiters and of ourselves as employees (and recruiters are employees too), but I would like to ask – is it also fundamentally changing us human beings, if we are not careful?
Do you recognise any of these “LinkedOut” conditions?
- We are always on, always there – so we have to think about it all the time, tinker, tweak, update. We are forever getting ready to go out. And so we don’t and can’t keep up, because sometimes we just want to put a sweatshirt on, and stay in. [Hopefully you don’t put a sweatshirt on to go out].
- We are changing our beliefs about ourselves, writing ourselves a new sanitised identity and starting to believe it. In doing so, we set a trap for ourselves and fall right in. So we start to behave like our new self.
- We feel compelled to use the language of “business” – paradoxically bland, over-complicated and empty – because that’s what we think the searches reveal. We don’t assume that they may be looking for our real self, beneath the guff. And so in using business-speak here, we use it ever more beyond. It becomes our natural patter. We become optimised, synergised, rightsized. LinkedIn – it’s a paradigm shift, right?
- We find being honest about ourselves in formal settings more difficult, and more frightening. We are scared of the consequences of being open. The searches may dry up. No one will connect with us, or endorse us. In painting ourself as ourself, we suddenly don’t look like everyone else anymore – we are naked, exposed. So we get dressed again. As they say in the Incredibles – “when everyone is super – no-one will be”.
- We find ourselves constantly appealing to everyone and no-one – a benign depiction that covers all bases, is all things to all people just in case – like Sisyphus perpetually responding to the same blanket cliché-stuffed job advertisement as everyone else. And so we exist in the general, and not the particular. The general is a lonely place.
If you recognise any of the above, take a look again at your LinkedIn profile. Is it really you? Would your Mum recognise you? Is it how you would really want to be seen and known – and the impression you would want to give to those who may want to know you? If not, re-write it. Honestly and openly. It’s not about it being perfect, it’s just about it being you.
Because if you’re not interested in you, who else will be?