“Going on LinkedIn is like joining the Scouts. You have to dress yourself up in a strange uniform, conform to a lot of outdated rules and obey some very dubious older group leaders. It’s stifling, conservative and frankly absurd, but when you look back, you’ve got to admit it was sometimes fun and you got a lot of opportunities you wouldn’t have otherwise had.”
“Fun?” said Deborah incredulously.
Deborah was refusing to work for one of her language schools until they paid her for the lessons she had already taught, and this meant that she was angry, looking for work, broke and with time on her hands.
Speakeasy wasn’t altogether surprised when she turned up in the small room they called their office, though he was surprised that she wanted him to continue her induction into the world of social media.
“Do you get work through LinkedIn? Is it worth me opening an account and setting up a profile?” she asked.
“Well, you might.”
“Not directly. That’s the spooky thing about LinkedIn. It looks like everyone’s selling and nobody’s buying, but you can never be sure. Some big companies lurk there and approach LinkedIn members directly without advertising jobs in the traditional manner. You never know who’s lurking there, so you have to keep on playing the game in the hope you’ll end up working for Google, or somebody.
“Very clever,” said Deborah.
“It is a bit cultish,” admitted Speakeasy. “But so is the world of corporate work in general. So, in answer to your question: no, you don’t get work there if you’re freelance, because you’re not looking for a job directly. It gets you noticed. Like most large, conservative organisations LinkedIn is quaintly blind to the nose on its own face. It’s full of freelancers, yet magnificently assumes everyone’s looking for a full-time job.”
“There aren’t any full-time jobs for English teachers.”
“There are a few. But you’re right. You’re young enough to change direction, Deborah. It’s hard to make a living teaching English. Have you ever thought of doing anything else?”
“No, I love teaching. And I don’t have any German qualifications to be an employee in Germany. I’d have to take a really menial job, sorting the rubbish, or serving at Starbucks, or something. I’ve got a first class degree and a CELTA.”
Speakeasy sighed, then smiled and said.
“Then that’s grand. Let’s set you up a LinkedIn profile, then.”
“LinkedIn is, of course, the professional networking forum, so you won’t find kittens and babies there. There’s still a lot of inspirational stuff, though. Look, grab a pen, let’s make a LinkedIn list and work out how to do it best.
As a working title we can call it:
Seven Things Successful People Find on LinkedIn.
1. The first thing you’ll find on LinkedIn is a quiz. Every time you click on your profile it will prompt you to elaborate further on whatever you have already written. Do you have any patents? Do you have any volunteer experience? What organisations do you support? What’s your favourite colour? Where did you go to school? Did you join any clubs or activities when you were at university? What colour panties are you wearing? It just never ends. I wouldn’t recommend an overlong profile, so let’s assume they’re just collecting information to sell.
2. The next thing you will find are job opportunities which bear absolutely no relation to the answers you have given, or to any of the key words you put in. As you see I have described myself as an “English Language Professional” offering “in-company seminars, technical English and executive coaching” and I have clearly stated I am self-employed and not looking for a full-time position, yet – when you open my timeline (home) – the “jobs you may be interested in” are i) Social Media Manager, ii) Scrum Master/Kaubau Coach and iii) Sales Rep Trainee Pharma, CEE/ . Okay we matched the coach/coaching there, but I think it was just coincidence. These jobs are all in the country I’m living in, so maybe that’s a plus point to LinkedIn.
3. This one’s important. LinkedIn users are busy and proactive (and perhaps they can’t read very well) and they need numerical lists to keep them organized. An above-average proportion of the texts posted on LinkedIn are numerical lists (like this one) telling them what to do (this one doesn’t do that). Thus we have Five Ways to Humanize Your Workplace; 12 Habits of Exceptionally Likeable People; 12 Habits of Exceptional Leaders; 10 truths we forget too easily; 4 Signs a Relationship is Failing; The 3 Decisions That Will Change Your Financial Life; 12 Things You Won’t Hear Successful People Talk About at Work.
4. Talking of which, just so we feel involved, there are masses of references to Successful People (see above), including the eminently necessary, How Successful People Stay Calm.
5. Then we come to the “Stories you can’t miss today on LinkedIn”, which are not the ones my contacts have shared, or posted, or liked. This section features articles written by so-called INfluencers. And while my contacts describe themselves as “English Language Professional” or “Author and Researcher”, these INfluencers are not only incredibly Successful People, but in multiple fields.”
(“Look at this one,” laughed Deborah. “He’s an Author, Data Scientist, Professor, Humanitarian, Interventionist, Philanthopist.”
She was definitely cheering up.
“And look at the title of his article: Ask Yourself “How Long Have I Got?” “
“Quite so,” said Speakeasy.)
6. “INfluencers are allowed to be inspirational and share their inner kittens, thus we have titles like Calm Down, You’re Doing Just Fine; I Spent 10 Days in Complete Silence. Here’s What I Learnt; Nuture the “Thing” That Makes You Feel Energized and Talented.
7. Finally there are a lot of posts about LinkedIn itself (as this post is). Thus we have 5 Reasons LinkedIn is Critical for Virtually All Professionals”.
(“Such a pity he didn’t write Successful People there, because that would have ticked FOUR boxes! Look, the writer’s a Director of Digital Media, Professor, Pastor.”
“And see here, as an extra bonus: The Do’s and Don’ts for Taking the Perfect LinkedIn Profile Picture.”
“You could be an Influencer, James. You could write 10 Ways Successful People Use Punctuation Correctly on LinkedIn.”
“This one claims he keeps his business flourishing by using LinkedIn for five minutes a week. FIVE minutes?? Nobody dares to be honest on LinkedIn. He was the kid at school who was up all night revising for exams and then said he hadn’t done anything.”
“Yeah, I knew him.”)
“Wow,” said Deborah, laughing and full of admiration, when Speakeasy had finished reeling off his list. “You know your shit!”
“Yes, I’ve certainly earned my Teacher, Leader, Interpreter badges.”