Snoring Our Way to Success: A LinkedIn Review

I’m a LinkedIn misfit. When I signed on eons ago it seemed a professional necessity. More recently I’ve gravitated to Facebook for the density of interesting posts. On Facebook people are snarky. They reveal their wit. They’re outspoken, often intelligent, and unafraid of judgment.

To move between LinkedIn and Facebook is like late-night channel surfing, caught between a bad 1950s black-and-white b-roll on manufacturing and a poorly dubbed, but visually rich Almodóvar film. It’s a schizoid experience.

LinkedIn is starched, stern, and predictable. It has little need for creativity, providing neat pigeonholes into which we try to insert ourselves. The only exception to this exists among the creative professions – designers, writers and artists. They’re expected to be interesting, and often are. But heaven help the bureaucrat or corporate manager who tries to inject irony or humor into a post. It won’t wash.

The fact is that LinkedIn is boring. I can imagine readers screwing their faces up in grimaces, pulling their butts tightly at the prospect of humor directed at the serious business of business. Imagine readers glancing to one another to check on whether it’s okay to laugh.

The sheer number of people participating in LinkedIn suggest a collective agreement that it’s a valuable career tool, while also ignoring its lack of readability. If job searching and networking isn’t painful enough, the site prods us to maintain a current and upbeat presence, which is something like eating a stack of soda crackers without water. Every day.

On LinkedIn folks try to be interesting, but within the limited wiggle room of a straight jacket. Most posts recycle ideas picked up in management self-help books, business magazines, and training seminars. Sure. More business strategy, more ways to enhance sales, grow your organization, groom talent, and avoid these mistakes. No revolutions will take root there. The thoughtful ideas aren’t for readers, but for the posters, who are showcasing their talents.

I suspect that most people on LinkedIn are more interesting than their profiles suggest. If we join, we become searchable and indistinguishable, which isn’t the same as being discovered for our uniqueness. If we don’t conform we are search-engine outcasts, unfound by that imaginary recruiter or customer who wants us.

How paradoxical: I won’t be found if I don’t conform, but if I carve away the off-angles of my work history, I lose my distinct profile. I may be recruited to be the person I present rather than the one  I am. I acknowledge that I may be a misfit, and definitely a crackpot — facts that won’t appear in any profile along with the fact that I’m a hard worker and very reliable.

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