This article is the first of our ‘Confessions of a LinkedIn amateur‘ series. Follow Debut’s own Content Creator Alex Ekong as he navigates the minefield of employability and personal branding on his way creating his very first LinkedIn profile.
It’s time that I came clean about something, Debut Insight readers. I… do not have a LinkedIn.
That’s right. I’ve been dispensing hot takes and advice on careers for almost 8 months now, all this time without the second most important careers tool ever conceived (wink wink, plug plug). I’m a fraud. You can’t handle the truth.
I wish I could say that this was some kind of renegade decision, that I’m worthy of all the adulation and respect that comes with being a punk contrarian badass. But, the truth is not so glamorous. It was probably half a coup against the establishment, half a glaring oversight.
Why didn’t you have LinkedIn before, Alex?
I’ll tell you, guys. I had two main hang-ups, one conscious and one unconscious.
My conscious reason for not having a LinkedIn account was this: the second you sign up to LinkedIn, so begins the death rattle of your carefree youth. Like Homebase or your mate’s wedding, it’s where your childhood goes to die. When I graduated, the thing I most wanted to do was stay young. And an astonishing 61% of LinkedIn’s users are aged between 30 and 64, which makes it the oldest social network since Facebook became exclusively for mums to share ancient memes with their cringing children. If Facebook is yer ma, LinkedIn is definitely yer da.
My unconscious reason was, well, I just didn’t think I needed it. My lifelong career goal has been to be a journalist, and yes, last time anyone checked 92% of journalists had a LinkedIn account. However, I was lucky enough to hear about this job through my real life networks. That being the case, I didn’t feel the need to put myself through the harrowing experience of networking online.
Yeah, yeah… but why do you need LinkedIn now?
Alas, I’ve reached an impasse. To move forward with my career, I need to connect with like-minded go-getters with similar goals without mixing them up in the close-knit circle of cool kids I keep on my other social networks.
I need a fresh space to share my writing. Facebook is a human zoo in a literal sense; animals prodding other animals they wouldn’t naturally associate with for the amusement of (presumably) some alien race watching from on high. Twitter is the echo-chamber I come to when I need people to fast-bowl memes at me to help distract me from all the societal decay going on. And I’m not photogenic enough for Snapchat or Instagram.
The more I thought about it, LinkedIn seemed to be the place to go if you care about work and you care about other people’s work. So, LinkedIn it is. Time to put aside childish things and dive headlong into the abyss of adulthood.
The plunge: doing the onboarding
Before I committed to LinkedIn for all time, I wanted to ask all its previous lovers for advice. Was there anything I needed to know before I settled down with it for good? I decided to ask some of my most trusted careers confidantes, starting close to home.
First, I asked Sonali Gidwani, who I’ve been working closely with as part of Debut’s Student Publisher Network. Still at the University of Warwick, I asked her why, as student and not a grandmother, she felt compelled to use it.
*”I’ve used it in the past to get speakers for events I’ve organised at my university. It’s it’s a good way to network and find opportunities,” she said. “I use my LinkedIn to put down all of my experiences in the workplace and in extracurriculars, so I can fit in everything that I may not be able to fit onto a one-page CV.”
“I’ve come to realise the power of LinkedIn as my ‘business’ social network,” Brenda Wong, Debut’s own social media wizard told me. “I feel it’s is a great place to show off the more clean, put-together version of myself”. I wondered if I had this version of myself in me; the Alex that wears suits and makes good decisions. If I was to find him anywhere, it would likely be on LinkedIn.
Feeling settled by their sage observations, the time had come to embark on the long journey to professionalism. Like the intrepid explorers of old, only much more sedentary, I navigated to the LinkedIn website. ‘To boldly go where no man has gone before.” If by ‘man’, of course, you mean literally just me.
Our first stop, the sign-up page. One look at it, and I already feel like LinkedIn is expecting me to be more than I am. This page telling me to ‘be great at what I do’ makes me feel like I’m not already great at what I do. I’ve never met you before, LinkedIn. You have no right.
I punch in my details and move on, already regretting my choice to go with Alexander over Alex. Too late to turn back now. My job title isn’t in the drop-down menu, so I punch in ‘CONTENT CREATOR’ with defiant strokes of the keyboard, before deleting the caps and deciding to dial back the intensity a bit. I’m a professional, after all.
I offer up my work email address and LinkedIn comes back with a bunch of suggested connections, imploring me to add them. The friendly faces of the Debut team greet me, along with some uni friends, even a few one time email contacts. I decide to skip this step for now. I don’t want them to see my masterpiece before it’s finished.
Lastly, LinkedIn offers me a choice of channels so I can get content that I’m interested in. Interest is a strong word for some of these, but if I’m going to go viral on this site, I’ll need to have a feel for what else is out there.
And just like that my LinkedIn was created. It was shapeless and formless, like a newborn, but it was all mine.
But as the banner graphic kindly reminded me, there was a lot more work to be done. Check back here soon as I try to get a picture-perfect headshot and some LinkedIn veterans teach me how to sell myself. No, not like that.