Two things I read this week prompted me to pen this post – the first was reading about Winnie’s potential redundancy on her Quietly Saving blog, the second about the slagging off social media gave Linkedin when it was announced Microsoft was buying them. “Linkedin is Facebook for ugly people”, was one tweet that made me smile. Sathnam Sanghera writing in The Times had a pithy quote ready too: “Facebook makes you hate people you know, Twitter makes you like people you don’t know and LinkedIn makes you hate yourself”, he quipped.
Obviously I wish Winnie well, not the least because she’ll probably be using LinkedIn over the next few weeks! I’ve been through the mill of something similar to redundancy, although If I’m honest, I was bulleted at my work. At the same time, however, I was totally guilty of putting the gun in my employer’s hands and pleading with them to shoot me (and pay me the insurance). All the same, I was suddenly no longer employed, even if I was telling myself, “So what, I’m retired!”
Ah, if only life were so simple as to let me retire in peace. For me, after a length of time (about two months) I came to the realisation that the retirement life wasn’t sitting all that comfortably with me and I started thinking about returning to work. This meant, amongst other things, that I needed to use the services of LinkedIn.
Previously, when I’d been employed, I felt LinkedIn was exactly the same as what many people think – it’s just a Facebook for business. It was a potential distraction for nosey people and idle boasters who’d clearly not much to do with their time. But, like Facebook, you kind of had to keep an eye on it because there was some good stuff out there – I might have totally missed a great night out at an old work reunion if I hadn’t had a LinkedIn account, for example. Like Facebook, I was half-interested in what the service offered and could take it or leave it.
Once unemployed, however, LinkedIn became something that I felt I had to get along with, like it or not. Everyone I spoke to told me so. When I chatted to headhunters, it was inevitably the first question out of their mouths. “Have you updated your Linkedin profile?” Several offered to beef up or fine tune my paltry entry; one told me to change my picture (the cheeky bastard); some told me it was essential that I post something on the “wall” every day, if only to remind everyone I was still alive – a recipe that can only ensure that you become one of the drones posting business cliches or articles you hope may make you sound intelligent to people who barely know you. Like it ever could. Worse, however, you suddenly find out that people you do know are actually doing this and – even more depressing – the worst offenders tend to be those looking for work! Especially self-employed “consultants”, a job direction that I thought I might be taking on myself at some point.
Pretty quickly I found I was dreading clicking into my LinkedIn account. I felt like it was judging me when I saw how well almost everyone else was doing in actively networking, “linking” up with new and old friends, acquaintances and companies with gay abandon. Meanwhile I felt I was lurking quietly at the back of the room, slating the process while kind of wishing I was more a part of it.
What was it with me? Was I too old for this kind of facile activity? Did I resent the position I found myself in and therefore resented LinkedIn as part of an uneasy process? Why did I feel a bitter bile rise in my throat as I read yet another “Be all you can be”, posting from some schmuck I barely knew? Was I one of the management dinosaurs that I used to see at work where some senior people could barely use e-mail and were terrified of the unknown (e.g.Twitter)? Why couldn’t I recognise this thing as the asset in the job hunt that everyone told me it was?
I don’t have the answer, to be honest, but I stopped using it. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter – they’re not real life, are they, and you can so easily get by without any of them. Job hunting, on the other hand, really is real life, and one thing I have found to be true (or at least I think to be true) is that if you want to find a job then you really, really have to look for one. Ten minutes on LinkedIn won’t cut it. Neither will a ten minute call to an old colleague count as your networking for the day. Penning one “speculative” letter a day to a prospective employer won’t enhance your prospects either.
So what will? I think that all you can do is find a strategy that sits comfortably with you and work it: spend pretty much all day on Linkedin if it suits you, or all day phoning colleagues, or all day writing and sending speculative letters. Or all day using a mixture of every job hunting tool you can find. That way, I bet you won’t be out of work for long.