I’ve always struggled with identity and feeling like I belonged somewhere, so using tools like LinkedIn in the “correct” way (i.e., trial and error, in my case) – is crucial to my overall career happiness.
Happiness, to me, is partly genetics and partly environment – since we can’t alter our genetics, let’s focus instead on our environment. Also, generic disclaimer here: what worked for me may not work for you, simply because tools like LinkedIn and job hunting in general rely on humans, and if there’s one consistency about humans, it’s that we’re so changeable.
My career path closely resembles that of an overstimulated rabbit in the wilderness, and using my trial and error strategy, it’s had its pain points and positive notes. Starting in Washington, DC as a naïve, nearsighted recent graduate, I had one goal: get a job. Preferably one that paid well enough so I wouldn’t struggle too hard, and preferably one in consulting. It didn’t really matter what, because with my bilingualism and liberal arts degrees, I felt like I could do anything.
So I ended up doing admin work – sometimes bilingually. I found my new corporate calling via Indeed.com, researched their background on LinkedIn, and did more thorough research via their website. I fell in love with the corporate lure of a steady ladder to climb, pencil skirts, and self-important people.
Just as soon as it all started, the honeymoon was over (see: previous notes on environment and trial and error). Turns out I wasn’t the best fit for the corporate lifestyle – the ladder always seemed to move after I put one foot on the lower rung, pencil skirts are actually really uncomfortable, and self-important people care about themselves, but rarely genuinely care about others. A few lessons arose:
- There’s a stigma that only those that are actively looking for a career change are on LinkedIn. This is true if all of a sudden, you start to dust off your LinkedIn profile one day and post each day for weeks on end. People will wonder and assume. It’s best to ramp up your activity gradually – first on the weekends, then move into tactful weekday posting.
- LinkedIn is a really good source for getting the elevator pitch of a company. Companies show themselves off, the same as people do.
- Just like online dating or house hunting, you have to be able to read through the cracks before finding yourself in a place that you don’t belong. Look for a work/life balance through a “close-knit” team, observe a few people working and others playing ping-pong in a “fun, start-up environment”, and look at the circumference of those undereye bags for those teams that “work hard and play hard”. If I had read through the cracks (and wasn’t so desperate for something besides an unpaid internship), I would have missed this first career step.
However, with each “lesson learned” comes some benefit, right? To me, it was the people – five years later, I’m still good friends with two of the friends I made while in the corporate quandary.
Fast forward to career step #2: this position was found right around the same time as the feature of single-click applications to jobs on LinkedIn. Just one click, and the application was pre-filled with your LinkedIn credentials. So easy, right? The answer is: very easy. I could do up to 40 applications in a day at my job with this feature (side note: Applying to jobs while you’re at your current job is very uncouth. Don’t do it. People will notice, and people will talk).
By pure happenstance, I loved this job. I say pure happenstance because I did what every desperate job seeker does: focus on volume and quantity of applications, versus the quality of the fit. This job was exactly what I needed; even now I can look back and see the tangible benefits – the confidence won, friendships earned, connections cherished. I didn’t search as hard as the first company, and it was pure luck that it worked – for a little while at least. Pretty soon, I felt that now-familiar urge that happens when I need more room to grow, to stretch, and to learn. I was convinced that I had to go about it the right way this time, the proper way. This was about the same time that LinkedIn rolled out its new feature of flipping a switch (or a radio button in this case), and telling recruiters that you’re available for new opportunities – all without being dreadfully obvious in your LinkedIn activity.
I used this button, and utilized LinkedIn premium to gather information; attend (previously Lynda; now LinkedIn Learning) training sessions, host coffee hours with strangers-turned-acquaintances, and learn more about the big, wide world of opportunities out there. I had a list of requirements for this new job, and enough confidence to believe I was worthy of such requirements. Even more lessons came of this search:
- Believe in yourself, and others will, too. Having more than 2 years of working experience is a weird balance, as you’re right on the cusp of being a manager, and you know enough to articulate what’s tolerable, what’s preferable, and what’s impossible.
- Utilize and keep on top of your LinkedIn network, connections, and the content flying about. It’s one thing to read content, another to comment, and yet another to actually create content. Jobs are out there, but your network is key to parsing through those that can be a good fit, and those that are probably not the best fit.
- Tactfulness while job-searching includes scheduling interviews after the day is done, or claiming an appointment during the day. Tactfulness while job-changing includes not burning bridges (looking at you, exit interview) while you’re on your way out. There’s a right way and a wrong way to leave to greener pastures, and you owe everyone – including yourself – to do things the right way.
- As new LinkedIn features come out, take the risk and try them – you never know which ones may work in your favor!
As you can see, LinkedIn is a great tool – but it’s not the only one out there, and it’s not the best. It’s only as good and as useful as you make it, but when given the power, it can really alleviate the pressure of finding a good fit – which is just as important in a job as it is in a pencil skirt!