LinkedIn anxiety and avoidance
March 24, 2018 5:58 AM   Subscribe

How do I build a LinkedIn profile from nothing in my brand new job, without looking like a total incompetent in my new field?

At 36 years of age, I've managed to get along quite well in my career to date without LinkedIn. I've signed up once or twice, only to be frightened off and deleted it, as the whole process felt a bit dodgy and intrusive. I've never been someone who likes putting myself 'out there', I've always been wary about my privacy, and the idea of having my place of employment and details online has never sat right with me.

I should add that I have an anxiety disorder, which is usually well-managed, and I'm someone who shies away from social media generally because it tends to feed and trigger the exact sorts of worries, obsessions and insecurities I'm prone to. So while I've often thought I should get on LinkedIn, I've always managed to put it off or delete any early attempts.

HOWEVER. I am a few months into a career change into a great business development role. It is well paid, with lots of autonomy, and not 'entry-level' by any means - it's a highly competitive team and I'm expected to know what I'm doing, and in theory I do have the skills and abilities, although I must admit I feel like a total imposter. And I am realising that EVERYONE uses LinkedIn - most of my peers and lots of my clients are what you might call super users with paid accounts - and I'm starting to feel I'd better get on there ASAP or risk losing business, losing face, and looking like a total amateur. I dread someone asking me if I'm on there, and having to say no!!

But I am massively procrastinating about how to actually *do* this. How do I build a profile from nothing? I've had a bunch of past email addresses I can no longer access, so I don't even know if I'll have that many contacts. I'm so worried there'll be a long period where I only have like 5 friends, and this will both damage my credibility in my new role (which is all about building relationships) and reveal me to my workmates as quite the opposite of the experienced, well-networked professional I made myself out to be.

Should I offer some kind of explanation to people I send friend requests to, so they don't think it's odd / suspicious that I have so few contacts - like "Hi! I am late to LinkedIn..."?

This is merely 1 of 1001 new job anxieties I'm having at the moment, and I know it's perhaps kind of trivial... but for some reason it's one that's really causing me a lot of worry and shame, and I feel like every day I put it off it's getting harder!

Please give me some sensible advice, I feel so silly asking this. Thank you!
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (10 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Is throwing money at this an option? You may be able to get a resume writer, or career counselor type person who can build the base profile, based off your resume, and help you add some contacts. Once that is done, it will largely build itself, you will get contact suggestions, and people will add you.
posted by kellyblah at 6:08 AM on March 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

I would fill in your profile as much as you can before you start adding people, LinkedIn makes it pretty straightforward to do. Follow the style of someone in your current job you respect in terms of level of detail. Most people don't add too much about their past work unless it's relevant. I've gotten the advice to personalize my little bio at the top by adding some details about myself that are not captured elsewhere, like "I love scuba-diving and competitive rollerskating when I'm not doing Y at work" (sorry quickly making that up).

Once you've got that, add some relevant skills.

Then start adding contacts. Do not mention anything about being late or whatever, people add me all the time and I don't think anything of it, you won't get stuck with 10 contacts if you start adding people once you have a good clear photo and job description. Add people who are recommended to you even if you don't really know them. Again, people do this to me all the time and I don't think about it too deeply, it's networking. You can search people who went to your alumni or who work in your city for extras, if you are friends with people on facebook or other social media you can usually feel comfortable adding them on LinkedIn too.

For people you feel comfortable with, give them the highest rating on some of their top skills, they will then be prompted to do the same for you. I don't think this matters very much though.

If you have good contacts you've worked with in the past, you can ask them for a recommendation and offer one - check out the recommendations on the profiles of people you respect for advice on this. Recommendations will be good going forward but if this is too much off the bat it can wait, but it's one of the most powerful ways people use LinkedIn for promotion.

Follow your company's page if they have one, and make sure you are listing your work via that company so that it connects your profile to it (hope that makes sense). Follow the pages of any people or groups you respect or that are relevant to your role. For my work there's a discussion page where a lot of people discuss and post things, it's actually helpful for staying current.

And that's it! You can mostly set it and forget it after that and get a feel for how to best use it if it will help you in your present role. I maintain mine so that people can find me and confirm my work history and contact me easily.
posted by lafemma at 6:26 AM on March 24, 2018

I’m on LinkedIn for an hour or two a day at work, and I’ve never noticed the number of contacts someone has. Adding someone is a lot more casual than on Facebook: it’s common practice in my field to add people after a single business meeting or a few emails back and forth. I tend to scroll through their profile out of curiosity but don’t think anything of it if they just list their work experience.

You’ll be fine, everyone is awkward at business-social networking. It’s a new space and few people are really comfortable with it.
posted by third word on a random page at 7:09 AM on March 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

Long time Linked In user here. In my industry (technology), it just isn't that big of a deal. The main use cases I see for it are #1 communicating with people that you don't know well enough to have email/phone contact info, #2 researching job candidates or prospects, and #3 creating an easy way for recruiters to find you. It also acts as a "permanent" point of contact for people when they change organizations and switch email and phone numbers. I can also tell you that many people are slack about fully populating their profiles or keeping them up to date. Finally, there are different philosophies about connecting with people. At one extreme, you can be very careful about invites and accepting invitations, just connecting with people you know in person and maybe have even worked with or have experience dealing with. At the other end, you can be a LION (Linked In Open Network) and connect with anyone who asks. No one cares about the size of your network.

Lafemma gave really good advice up thread: fill out the complete profile (LI will helpfully lead you through this with a bunch of prompts and tell you what percentage complete you are). Upload a good head shot. Follow your own company and any important client companies you work with closely. Follow any professional organizations you are part of. Follow alumni associations for any colleges you went to. If you work in a particular vertical, you might look around for LI groups that are associated with that vertical. You can knock all of this out in less than two hours.

After that, you can add contacts as fast or slow as you want, depending on your philosophy of connecting with people. Be aware that LI puts some limits on how many invites you can have outstanding. I would suggest you just start with colleagues and people that you work with - people that you already have email/phone contact with. After that, the network will organically grow with new introductions - either people will find you and send an LI invitation, or you can find them and do the same. Good luck!
posted by kovacs at 7:52 AM on March 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

Good advice here so far, to which I'll add one more piece based on something you said in your question: LinkedIn connections do not necessarily have to be your friends - so don't worry about the anxiety over "do they like me enough to 'friend' me" or "will they remember me" as you're starting to build your network.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 8:26 AM on March 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

Don't worry, there are plenty of people who like myself, signed up, added a few people, and never looked again. At one point I thought I might care but it turns out that no, I really don't care to deal with it. I guarantee that literally anything you put on there will be better than what I have. ;)
posted by wierdo at 8:32 AM on March 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

If you are in a business development role in a company / industry filled with power users ... you may actually have a colleague part of whose job is to help you with your LinkedIn profile. You almost certainly have a colleague or two who will be happy to help you sometime during your lunch break or after quitting time.

Do fill out your school(s) and professional jobs. Get a reasonable professional-dress photo and upload it (doesn't need to be an expensive portrait sitting). Don't worry about being "late" -- no one cares. In my opinion, don't Link people you don't know at all, but don't worry about linking people you only met once: it's not seen as providing or seeking an in-depth endorsement or representation of a deep personal relationship. Don't worry about linking people you don't especially like or asking for links from people who you think don't like you; there's no implication of friendship.

The on-going business social networking aspects of LinkedIn are reasonably good but completely optional (unlike, say, Facebook, where they're the point) -- don't feel you have to read feeds, or respond to posts or post things of your own; the VAST MAJORITY of LinkedIn rarely do either.
posted by MattD at 10:19 AM on March 24, 2018

Finally, accept that people WILL use your LinkedIn profile as an invitation to contact you out of the blue. Be open to this: it's a feature, not a bug, and a decent proportion (say, vs. unsolicited PMs on any other social platforms) are going to be value added, and few will be actively bad. Also recognize that people who responsibly use the "cold call" feature of LinkedIn expect to be ignored if they aren't relevant to you, and people who are irresponsible are very quickly banned.
posted by MattD at 10:23 AM on March 24, 2018

I used to work for a company where about 50% of the employees were B2B sales guys. They seem to use LinkedIn as part of a relationship selling model. Basically, they'll add anyone they talk to on the phone, even just once, as a means of connecting further.

I've had a LinkedIn account for like ten years, and I don't think I've ever once looked at the number of followers someone has. Just like having hundreds of "friends" on Facebook doesn't necessarily mean you're Johnny Popular in real life, the number of connections you have on LinkedIn is meaningless. This isn't American Psycho where your colleagues all sit around at lunch and compare the embossing on your business cards.

The only thing I ever pay attention to on a connection's profile is where they went to college, and even that's just for the purpose of good-natured trash talk if they went to a rival school.

In my experience, people who "use" LinkedIn a lot are kind of insufferable, so don't feel bad for staying away. All you really need to do is follow your company, any professional associations you belong to, and maybe your alma mater's alumni association, then add a couple of your co-workers and accept any other connections who add you. There are two kinds of profile pictures: suit-and-tie business formal and on-top-of-a-mountain-in-Hawaii (aka I'm-rich-enough-that-I-don't-need-to-use-LinkedIn-so-eff-you).
posted by kevinbelt at 12:33 PM on March 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

Fortunately, you are overthinking this. That's good, not because it might seem like a critique, but because you don't have to do much to get going.

As a professional who connects with lots of people, I've vacillated between full profiles of all my jobs, duties, skills, education, etc. and just the names of the companies I've worked at and my college. Both work equally well.

Getting connected is as easy as using the in-built solution. I'd recommend using the phone app as it can't be adjusted other than saying "I'd like to add you to my network", so you don't need to feel bad about not being that personal.

Start with people you know, your co-workers (who of course you aren't linked into, you just met them!) and your friends, and your relatives, and that guy you play badminton with... You get the drill.

Before you know it, you'll have lots of "contacts". But here's the thing, very few people look at someone's profile to see how many contacts they have. LinkedIn is almost always used to get a little background of people you've already met. So don't give this much thought over just reminding yourself to connect when you meet new professionals, or see someone speak that you like, or read an article on Linked in that you found compelling (or a commenter that you found compelling).

Those who use linked in tend to vary from only accepting requests from people they have personally met to anyone that asks. I've found that most participants are in the "anyone who asks" bucket and are not discerning at all.

So, don't overthink something that almost no one else is putting that much thought into. Save your anxiety for when you have to ask a barista to remake your coffee because they used milk not soy...
posted by qwip at 4:22 PM on March 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

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