Who can blame you? On the surface it’s got a very stiff, corporate, too-cool-for-school ‘tood going on. You can smell the exclusivity and aftershave wafting from the screen. Everyone’s wanking on about KPIs, leadership, strategic management, and performance.
You could be forgiven for feeling like you’ve just walked into a pretentious, top-floor board room--fully equipped with oversized mahogany table, leather chairs, and a room full of suits--wearing nothing but bed hair, drool, and your comfy slippers. At this moment your give-a-flying-f*ck factor is pretty much set to zero. It would be so easy to toss in the idea right about now.
That said, should you put your toe in the water, or just keep on shuffling by? I’m here to tell you that you can and should use LinkedIn. Don’t be intimidated. This is your boardroom now, and you can choose to fill it with whomever you please. In fact, LinkedIn needs you. It needs you to add your flair and shake it up a bit. Dare I say, this virtual business-card swap con needs you to make this shit a whole lot more real.
But where to start?
I had a conversation with my girlfriend the other day. A talented and accomplished professional in her field, she created a LinkedIn profile, but still she was in a quandary of belonging. In our 40s we have earned the right to not give a shit about what everyone else is doing, and we shouldn’t give it up lightly. Our conversation went something like this:
Her: “Not sure if it is the right context for me as it seems a bit "corporate". But it's what all the kids are doing now.”
Me: “I think, as with anything, you make it work in the way YOU want it to. So with that said, it is the right context for you - but you need to create the context. There's nothing to stop you using it however you wish, and seeing where that takes you.”
And then my friend turned that self-doubt around:
Her: “As I'm thinking about it, it's a great way to project yourself into a field or job you want to be in. As I look at my profile it is about what I have done, but not necessarily what I want to do.”
LinkedIn is almost exclusively focused on work and business, with very little humour doing the rounds. For women in particular, it loses that sense of balance and authenticity that real people seek. The smoke and mirrors are all king in sales and marketing, but real people can see through that bullshit.
If we get caught up in that veneer for even a second, we start to question whether we belong. Those insecurities bubble up, and we wonder if we should be hanging with the cool kids. The question is not, “Do we belong here?”. The question is, “Who do we want to surround ourselves with?” Reframe how you think about your place in all of this. Be discerning in who you choose to hang around with at the virtual water cooler. You are in charge here. You decide which tribe you belong to. Seek the connections who inspire you. Identify those who appreciate what you bring to the table. Above all, seek out those who fit with your values.
How you use LinkedIn is entirely your choice. Do it your way. It’s the only way.