I just updated my LinkedIn profile and I am filled with a mix of apathy and mild disgust.
I focused on adding just what is needed to look like I give a damn and nothing more. I update my profile a few times a year and never expect anything out of it.
So why do I bother?
I do it to be able to stay connected with some real flesh and blood friends who seem to live and breathe by LinkedIn updates. It's often how I get in touch with them to end up getting together to catch up in a meaningful way...in person or via Skype/FaceTime.
Why connect with people you don't care about or want to work with?
I don't get what the appeal is. I get requests to connect with people who I have nothing to do with, don't want to spend time with or get to know, let alone work with. I could understand it if someone were desperately looking for a job, but I suspect most of these random requests to connect have nothing to do with that. Am I just weird in scratching my head on this one?
Here's the problem with "expanding your professional network" with an online profile: Everyone sees the same message...and it's not even what you're really about.
Social media, especially professional networks such as LinkedIn, sets parameters on how we can and should define ourselves to others and how we can reach out to others. Unlike tailoring a résumé for a specific opportunity or introducing ourselves in the most suitable way in a given situation, social media requires us to provide a broader description of ourselves. But what about the fact that we want to communicate with different audiences? How can we tailor our message in this new reality of online connections? Can others get their heads around the fact that we can juggle multiple pursuits?
Offering a single description has significant drawbacks:
- If you share too much, you're irrelevant to everyone: Specifying more than one area of focus or professional pursuit can be read as being unfocused or unclear about what you are really after. I mean really. If you do more than one thing, can you really have your priorities in order? Do you really know what you like? What your strengths are? That's why résumé writers tell you to include only relevant background when applying for a position. Not possible here folks.
- If you have to select only one industry, you miss opportunities: You can only select one industry if you're using LinkedIn. If you participate in more than one industry, which one do you choose? Do people participating in the industry(ies) you did not select then perceive that you are not serious or interested in working in their given field? Of course they do.
- If you share your personal interests, you're not really saying who you are: Being "authentic" about your interests means you can only include what you would share with anyone because some interests just don't "fit" in some circles. So, it's likely that the safest, blandest stuff will make it in, but it's not who you are or who you want to be.
I have struggled with the points above more than I like to admit. I participate in four very different industries (tech, writing, finance and health & wellness). Which one do I go with as a primary industry when they are equally important to me? What about my personal likes and dislikes? What if they are at odds with what people in various industries might value?
Cramming our professional selves into a single template is ridiculous.
How can we offer a fuller description of ourselves through a primary online vehicle that expects us to be one-dimensional professionals? The reality of the 21st century is that a growing proportion of the workforce has wide-ranging interests and a variety of skills and abilities. A platform such as LinkedIn makes multiple pursuits appear as a character flaw or weakness as opposed to a strength. It encourages us to define only one facet of our professional selves, rewarding those who don't explore professional pursuits outside a narrow definition with a richer-looking online profile.
Personally, I would prefer to work with people who can only make their LinkedIn profile look like a big hot mess of skills, abilities and experience with a side of weird and wacky hobbies and interests...but that's just me.
What do you think of LinkedIn? Do you love it? Do you hate it? Do you even bother using it?