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You're only as strong as your weakest LinkedIn profile

Tammy Swift, columnist

Imagine that you're a kid again.

You want to go hang out at the fun playground, where other kids are making each other laugh, adorable tots are toddling around everywhere, a couple of friends are engaged in a loud yet fascinating spat and someone just put a toupee on a cat.

But your parents want you to go to the other playground, which is populated by serious-minded young action planners who wear little blue suits, hand you their business cards and only want to talk about aligning synergies, leveraging, reaching out, drilling down and blue sky-thinking.

If that first playground is Facebook, that second one, obviously, is LinkedIn.

I've always had a love-hate relationship with this business-oriented social-network site. I know it's a powerful networking tool, used for everything from job hunting and professional development to recruiting candidates. It also gives you a great excuse to bandy about terms like "Nowcast" and "intrapreneur."

I am perfectly capable of maintaining a fully leveraged, activated and value-added profile that deftly reveals my core competencies, Next-Gen technology, bleeding-edge ideas as well as my impressive ability to move the needle, drink the Kool-Aid and build consensus.

Even so, I feel a bit like a LinkedIn wannabe. I do not have bank-appropriate hair. I'm not a great mixer or networker. I have never spoken at TEDx, although I am a lifetime member of the Ted Knight Fan Club. I am great at consensus-building — if it involves important goals such as where to get doughnuts.

In a lot of ways, I feel out of place on LinkedIn. It's like I'm a prickly pear cactus that somehow managed to spring up in a field of perfectly groomed Kentucky bluegrass.

My other issue with LinkedIn is that it's spammy. As you've probably guessed by now, I don't keep my profile as up-to-date as some young go-getters do. About a year or so ago, I sauntered over to my profile and updated a few things. I replaced a 15-year-old photo of myself with a shot of Angelina Jolie. I also included my college degree and added my exact job title at Prairie Public Broadcasting.

Almost immediately, the notifications began. "Congratulations on your new job!" wrote one contact. "Congrats! Good job!" wrote another. LinkedIn makes it incredibly easy to send automatic responses for promotions, new connections and the like, so all the other person had to do was click a button to congratulate me.

Ping! Ping! Ping, ping, ping, ping, PING! All of my connections — many from people I'd never met — were congratulating me for a job I'd held for two years.

Even the connections who knew me were confused. "Did you lose your job at The Forum?" one asked. "I had no idea you'd taken a new job at Prairie Public! But LinkedIn has spoken, so it HAS TO BE TRUE!"

I wish there was an easy way to respond and set the record straight. But there's not. So I just gave up and clicked back an automatic, "Thank you!"

After that experience, I decided to make it even more interesting. I wrote that I specialized in humor writing, content creation for all platforms ... and ostrich tattoos.

Nothing. I received two or three responses, but mostly my little LinkedIn in-joke laid a giant ostrich egg.

Perhaps my idea was a little too bleeding edge.

Readers can reach columnist Tammy Swift at tswiftsletten@gmail.com.

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