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How to Do LinkedIn (Without Being Completely Insufferable)

LinkedIn is like the digital version of a job fair or business dinner or networking event. If all of those things sound kinda awkward and uncomfortable to attend for you, you’re not alone. Unless you’re an amazingly-groomed young business professional, navigating LinkedIn might give you a little unease. And if you are an amazingly-groomed young business professional… please keep reading this, actually. This is kinda for you, too.


Sometimes it can be hard to talk about your accomplishments without openly bragging, which not only makes others feel bad, but also kind of makes you look like a douchebag. A douchebag who’s obsessed with money and success, which is the third-worst kind, in my opinion. (The worst are obsessed with being the smartest person in the room. The second worst really identify with Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker portrayal.)


Whether you’re openly bad at LinkedIn (as I am), or you think you’re fantastic at LinkedIn (you’re not, nobody is except for that one high-profile public speaker from Ireland), stay tuned for a few tips on how to straddle that fine line between impressive and humble.


-Voice your gratitude, but don’t humble-brag.

When you post about the super cool work you’re doing (as you should, it’s super cool), be sure to, above all else, express your gratitude. Gratitude for your co-workers, your bosses, your professor if it’s school-y, and just general life-grateful. If you come at it from a place of thankfulness rather than a place of “look how good I did,” others will respect your outlook AND be even happier for you. That includes professional others.


-Share posts from the company you work for.

This is a foolproof way to talk about yourself without making it seem egotistical. If they do a profile or announcement about you, you can throw on a quick “So happy to work for these people!” or “Thanks so much for this!” That way, you aren’t the only one talking about you. Talking about yourself is a difficult art to master.


-Pick a headshot that’s just your head.

For the love of colored blazers and pixie pants, PLEASE nothing distracting for your photo. Mostly just a nice picture of your face in front of a neutral background. No I’m-doing-my-favorite-activity senior pictures from high school. No sports. No horses. Sorority/fraternity composites are fine if you don’t have anything else. (Unless you, like me, didn’t get the memo to be modest with the stole and ended up showing way more chest and collarbone than the other gals in your house.)


-Congratulate other people on their successes…

Yes, you are a good friend for writing “That’s awesome, Dylan!” on your friend’s job announcement. (Unless their name isn’t Dylan. Or you know what? Even if it isn’t. Just to add a bit of chaos to this uncomfy pristine space.)


-Just not all of them.

If one of your kinda-sorta college friends has been working the front desk at the library for a year, there’s no need to congratulate them. Unless you’re good enough friends. Then use one of the automated responses ironically. They’ll probably think it’s funny.


-If you create content, find something concrete to talk about.

“Synergy.” “Empowerment.” “Optimization.” Buzzwords just make you blend in with everyone else and make everyone watching roll their eyes a little bit despite themselves. If you have an interesting, personal take influenced by an experience, go for it. Most likely, though, you’re in college, so you probably won’t (unless you’re like my former roommate who did a TED Talk when she was 14). This is all to say PLEASE just be authentic and not try to approximate what you think will be impressive.


-You don’t have to post ALL THE TIME.

The best way to let your accomplishments speak for themselves is to post them when they’re new, and don’t run them into the ground. And if you’re CONSTANTLY accomplishing things, you’ve got options to keep it brief. You can do one accomplishment dump post, which I don’t recommend unless you ask three people who aren’t your mom to read over it and they all agree you don’t sound cocky. Another option is to vary the types of posts you share about it— you can repost one thing from your company or another person and post a separate update on your own! The rest you can save for the memoir you’ll eventually write about how to succeed in your field as a woman/minority/low-income individual/parent/half-man-half-turkey.


-Use literally any other social media platform to stalk your work crush.

Remember, they get a notification that says you looked at their profile. So if you do it multiple times, they’ll see all those too. And as I type this, I’m recalling my past behavior and dying a little bit inside.


-Unless it’s directly related to your industry, LinkedIn is NOT the place to go on political rants.

This isn’t Facebook, and you’re not your great aunt. And this isn’t Twitter, and you aren’t a freshman in college who moved away from their hometown and JUST DISCOVERED this cool thing called feminism. You’re a professional big boy here. This is not the place to take a stance that is anything but fully-formed and fully relevant.


-At the end of the day, it actually doesn’t matter how you construct your profile as long as it makes you happy and helps you get jobs.

Actually, I’m completely kidding. Please don’t make me end this with sincerity. It matters. It does. Don’t go all in on LinkedIn. Use it to talk to experienced people who know more than you and ask questions. But please don’t go too hard here. You’re more than that.

Kait Wilbur is an aggressively optimistic individual obsessed with sitcoms, indie music, and pop culture in general. She hails from Manito, a rural wasteland in Illinois so small and devoid of life that she took up writing to amuse herself. Kait goes to Butler University to prepare for a career in advertising, but all she really wants to do is talk about TV for a living. You can find her at any given moment with her earbuds in pretending to do homework but actually looking at surrealist memes.
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